Leafy greens, every day
"Karen! I was just given a heap-load of kale by a slow food group I was photographing yesterday," my friend Jenny announced via Facebook.
"What the heck do I do with it?"
An especially gorgeous bunch of chard.
This was not the first time I've been asked this question, and I'm positive it won't be the last. For such unassuming produce, kale, chard, collards and other leafy greens sure do intimidate and mystify people, including, for many years, me. Now that's I've found so much inspiration, I can't get enough of them.
Here's the list of ideas my friends and I sent Jenny, who has since become a kale fiend in her own right:
- My personal favorite Sausage, Lentil and Greens Soup by PCC Cooks instructor Marie Donadio.
- Ina Garten's Ribollita.
- Simple kale with garlic and bacon.
- One friend chops up kale, adds it to onion that's been sauteed until soft, then seasons with salt, pepper, hot sauce and whatever vinegar is on hand. He also mixes it with lumpy mashed potatoes for an incredibly tasty side dish his family has dubbed Kale n' Taters.
- PCC Cooks instructor Becky Selengut offers a similarly delicious take.
- Another friend makes kale chips by tossing large pieces of kale with olive or peanut oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, then baking at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping the leaves halfway.
- Via one of my favorite vegan home cooks: I generally saute it with lots of garlic, usually in olive oil. Then I might add red pepper flakes (or nanami togarashi for extra deliciousness), tamari and balsamic or rice vinegar; salt and red wine vinegar; or salt and a splash or two of beer. Or I'll chop it up and add to a white-bean soup or stew. Or steam it, add just a bit of salt, and then layer mashed potatoes, greens, and a bunch of mushroom gravy. Or use it in a tofu frittata or strata.
- At the urging of friends on Twitter, I gave a kale-and-frozen-pineapple smoothie a whirl in my blender. While I don't think it's for everyone, it definitely left me energized and feeling bright.
A vibrant, energy-packed kale-and-frozen-pineapple smoothie. I've heard these also are great with frozen mango!
One easy way to get to know greens is to order them when you go out to eat. Pay attention to what the chef does to achieve textures and flavors you enjoy, then look up recipes to try those techniques for yourself at home.
Beyond tasting great, leafy greens are good for you in so many ways. They're chock full of nutrients, including vitamins K, A and C, manganese, folate (listen up, pregnant and soon-to-be pregnant ladies!) and calcium. They marry well with a variety of flavors and can pair with nearly any cuisine. A New Year's resolution I make each year is to enjoy leafy greens every day. So far this year, I've come pretty close.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy leafy greens?