Spring greens make wonderful salads, but winter greens including kale, collard, mustard, turnip greens, spinach and Swiss chard are great additions to hearty soups, casseroles and gratins.
These "super foods" add fiber; cancer-fighting antioxidants; vitamins A, C, and K; folic acid, and calcium to our diets. The dark leafy greens usually are inexpensive, and when they're paired with the right ingredients and cooked properly, not even the pickiest eater will protest.
Winter greens are plentiful at the supermarket, or you can find locally grown greens on Saturdays at the indoor Lexington Farmers Market at Victorian Square on Main Street.
Culinary dietitian Maggie Green, author of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, said tender greens, without huge tough leaves, don't require long cooking times.
"They can be cooked in a shorter period of time than many older recipes I read," she said. "I didn't grow up in a family that cooked a lot of greens, so maybe my conversion to eating them after a shorter cooking time was easy for me.
"I love to add chopped chard to any skillet bean dish, (I added chopped chard to black beans and sweet potatoes), bean soup or vegetable soup. I stir chopped greens in at the end of cooking, and cover and let cook for about 15 minutes."
Bags of chopped kale and collards are available at many grocery stores and make quick work of cooking greens.
"Fresh kale, such as the lacinato variety (which can be found in the organic section) can be finely chopped and used for a salad as well. No cooking," Green said. "I toss it with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, shredded Parmesan, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. It's a good stand-in for slaw when served with fish or instead of a tossed salad with homemade pizza or steak."
Green likes to add chopped chard or kale to a quick pasta sauce that she makes with chopped Italian sausage, diced tomato, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, sliced fresh mushrooms and black olives. She stirs in the greens at the end.
Here are descriptions of the various greens.
■ Kale has an earthy, slightly bitter, broccolilike flavor and is delicious sautéed with olive oil, steamed, added to soups or even eaten raw in salads.
■ Collard greens have a milder flavor than kale, and they're good sautéed briefly, steamed or braised.
■ Mustard greens are the most pungent of the cooking greens and add a peppery flavor to food. Curly mustard is distinctive for its frilly leaf edges. Mustard is commonly served as a cooked vegetable. Steamed or stir-fried, its soft dark leaves and sturdy white stalks are complemented with butter, pepper, salt or fresh lemon juice.
■ Spinach has a sweet earthy flavor and tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.
■ Turnip greens have an earthy peppery flavor and are delicious in salads and stews, or sautéed.
■ Swiss chard is another sweet earthy green. It's delicious in soups, sautéed or steamed.
Here are some tips for cooking the nutritious vegetable from the staff at Paula Deen's Test Kitchen.
■ Make sure greens are washed well.
■ Remove the stems if they're thick. You don't have to throw them away; you can cook them too, but they just take a bit longer.
■ Boil the greens for 3 to 5 minutes in salted water, just until tender.
■ Steam the greens for 2 to 3 minutes.
■ Sauté the greens by heating a little olive oil over medium heat. Add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 30 seconds, then add the greens. Sauté the greens until they're slightly wilted, then cover and cook (adding some water if needed) until tender.
Here's how to stem and cut winter greens from Cook's Illustrated.
Winter greens such as kale, Swiss chard and spinach can be stemmed and then roll-cut into thin julienne.
For tender greens, simply break off tough stems. For tougher greens, cut the center rib from between the leaf, and cut it off along with the stem.
Lay several leaves on top of one another and tightly roll them into a long cigar shape. Slice rolled leaves into thin strips and separate.
Sautéed collards with almonds and raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
11/4 pounds (about 2 bunches) collard greens, stalks removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add collard greens and raisins; cook, tossing occasionally, until collards are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds.
Makes 4 servings.
From Everyday Food Light
Spicy braised greens
2 pounds kale, collards, turnip greens or mustard greens, stemmed, washed and chopped (see note)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups water
Place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes, until greens are softened but are still a nice shade of green. Stir, replace cover, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.
Note: Choose any assertive greens for this recipe, but remember that they all will shrink significantly when cooked.
From The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook
Swiss chard gratin
3 bunches chard, washed and stemmed (save half the stems)
5 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 large onion, diced
Salt to taste
4 teaspoons flour
1 cup milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Bring large saucepan of salted water to boil. Thinly slice reserved chard stems, add them to water and cook for 2 minutes. Add leaves and continue cooking until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. Drain and allow to cool, then gently squeeze out excess liquid and coarsely chop.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and toss with bread crumbs, then spread them out on small baking sheet. Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
In medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat, then add onion. Sweat until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in chard and a couple pinches of salt. Cook for 3 minutes, then sprinkle flour over chard and stir well to coat. Add milk and nutmeg, and bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes as mixture thickens. The chard should be just moist but not overly wet, or else the gratin won't brown properly. Taste and season with salt.
Butter a baking dish and spread chard mixture evenly in dish. Dot with remaining butter and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve.
From The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Sauté of cauliflower and mustard greens with peanuts
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
3 cups cauliflower florets (1/2 small head)
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
8 cups firmly packed, coarsely chopped mustard greens, stems included, (1-pound bunch)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and water in a small bowl.
Heat oil in large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until very hot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add cauliflower and vegetable broth (or water) and bring to boil. Simmer, covered, until cauliflower is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add greens and simmer, covered, until greens are tender, an additional 5 minutes. (Do not overcook greens or they will lose their vibrant color.) Stir in peanut sauce and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with chopped peanuts.
Makes 2 servings.
From Eating Well
Winter greens, Asiago and anchovy pizza
1 cup sliced red onion (about 1 medium)
3 tablespoons raisins
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 canned anchovy fillets, minced
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
3 cups chopped turnip greens (about 5 ounces) (see note)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (10-ounce) Italian cheese-flavored thin pizza crust (such as Boboli)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add red onion, and cook for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add raisins, garlic and anchovies; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add spinach and greens; cover and cook for 4 minutes, or until spinach and greens wilt. Uncover and cook for 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in salt and red pepper. Cool slightly.
Place crust on baking sheet. Sprinkle crust evenly with mozzarella; top evenly with spinach mixture. Sprinkle asiago evenly over spinach mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.
Note: Use any combination of cool-weather greens, including collard greens, kale or mustard greens.
From Cooking Light