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THE GOODNESS OF GREENS

Green leafy vegetables, known as 'greens' are getting attention as nutritional super-stars. Most greens are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals so these leaves are great to heap onto your plate. They can be used in a variety of recipes and they taste great too. If you've never cooked them - or if you've found them tough to chew - take heart and follow these tips for cooking greens into delicious dishes.

Kale

Appearance - Ruffled, very thick, dark green leaves with very light green stems

Taste - Bold and almost bitter

Preparation - Turn leaves into tender, succulent greens by making:

Soup - Cut into thin ribbons and add to any soup.

Kale and Apple Soup is especially delicious:

Saute sliced kale with a chopped onion and apple; then add 2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth; puree in a blender if desired; top with a spoonful of low-fat plain yogurt.

Kale Chips - Wash and dry leaves with a towel; tear into bite-sized pieces; drizzle with a little vegetable oil and black pepper. Bake at 350 degree for 10-15 minutes until crispy.

Swiss Chard

Appearance - Dark green leaves with beautiful bright pink, yellow or white stems

Taste - Slightly tart and pungent, not as bold as kale

Preparation - Cut out the stems and cook separately. Slice the leaves into thin ribbons and cook as follow:

Whole grain pasta - Toss leaf ribbons into the pasta water during the last few minutes that the pasta cooks; then drain along with the pasta and serve according to your pasta recipe or just toss with olive oil and herbs.

Instead of a bed of rice - Fish or shrimp is delicious on Swiss chard ribbons sauteed in a little vegetable oil with garlic, and 2 tablespoons of water; cook until bright green and tender-crisp about 2-3 minutes.

Arugula and Escarole

Appearance - Arugula is bright green leaves shaped like oak leaves; escarole looks like a soft-ball-sized head of curly lettuce.

Taste - Both taste peppery; escarole has a more bitter bite

Preparation - Salads - Compliment the tanginess of the greens with sweet salad ingredients like orange slices, dried unsweetened cranberries or raisins. Crunchy nuts add contrast and just 1 teaspoon of a bold blue cheese or aged cheese make the greens taste sweeter.

Sandwiches - Add crunch and variety to low fat, sandwiches on whole grain bread; top with a sweet component like apple or pear slices.

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