Is it just me, or do you also find that leafy greens seem to be the hardest ingredients to incorporate into dishes in a large volume? You know you should eat a lot of them because it’s the powerhouse food category: full of phytochemicals, folate, vitamins C and K, carotenoids, lutein and magnesium. What can you do with them?
It took me what seemed like forever to figure out how to use kale in more ways than just sautéing them. And, when I started cooking with it I swear I hated the taste. Bitter, bland and did I mention bitter? I was determined to find a way to use it without cringing.
I kept sautéing kale with different amounts of garlic. Tried to undercook it then overcook it. To no avail. I just didn’t like sautéed. Then I got brave, it went in raw into salads and juices. Followed by as an extra ingredient in soups, and casseroles. Success! To my surprise I was able to make delicious meals without noticing the bitterness.
Now it seems like a meal is incomplete if it doesn’t have a little bit of greenness in it.
There are hundreds of varieties, but the most commonly available are: lettuce, cabbage, mustard greens, kale, spinach, beet greens, turnip greens, swiss chard, collards, bok choy, and watercress.
Here is how to use them:
1. Raw Salads- probably the easiest way to incorporate the full range of all leafy varieties. Just chop them up and toss them in. Mix as many as you’d like, or keep it simple by making one variety the star of the dish.
2. Wraps- greens that have harder large leaves are a great to use as the wrap for sandwiches, or cooked stuffed rolls. Cabbage, collard greens and swiss chard are ideal. Russian cabbage rolls are a prime example. Even though the traditional recipe uses a mix of meats as a filler, you can substitute with almost any whole grain like rice, millet, or legumes.
3. Soups and stews- just like salads, almost all leafy greens go well here. Just throw in whichever green you have on hand and you’re good to go. Green tops from root vegetables make perfect soup additions. Sauté them first, then add to the soup/stew mixture.
4. Casseroles and other baked dishes- adding most types of greens into a baked recipe is a perfect way to increase them in your diet. It’ll add color and depth to the flavors.
5. Sautéed side dish- in general, you can simply sauté your greens with some broth and garlic. Bitter greens will need more work to break down the bitter taste, which can typically be done by adding more acidic ingredients like lemons.
6. Stir fry- add some bok choy, spinach, or chards to add color and make stir fry dishes complete.
7. Liquid base- leafy greens like spinach actually have a lot of water. Mix spinach with tomatoes (another watery ingredient), after a minute or two of cooking on low heat there should be enough liquid in the pan so that you can use it as a base for quick cooking items like tofu, or eggs if you choose to eat them.
8. Juices and smoothies- anything goes in this category. If you juice, save the pulp. All that fiber can be used in other dishes: dough, soups and stews, dumpling filling, pancake mix, potato latkes filler, toping on pasta dishes, etc. Store in an airtight container and use it within a day or two.
9. Homemade bullion- forget store bought bullion cubes and powders that have mystery ingredients. Check out this recipe for homemade bullion.
10. Dried seasoning- turning extra greens into seasoning for later is a perfect way to preserve them. Check out the following link to make your own veggie powder.
And in the words of the brilliant Popeye the sailor man, “I'm strong to the finish, cause I eats me spinach.” Load up on your greens. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Just toss in those greens and see what happens!