Here are some suggestions for handling those healthful green leafy vegetables.
- As a general rule, the smaller the leaf, the younger and more tender the green.
- Young baby greens can be served raw in salads or sandwiches.
- Fresh parsley is more than just a garnish — it’s also a leafy dark green vegetable that’s chock full of nutrients. Try adding chopped parsley to salads or soups; double the amount you use in dishes such as potato salad; or finely chop a bunch of parsley, toss it with chopped fresh tomato, olive oil, vinegar, and cooked rice, bulgur, or white beans.
- Tender greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens need only brief cooking. Thoroughly wash the greens and trim off any tough stems. Do not dry the leaves. (Remove Swiss chard leaves from the stem and cook stems in a small amount of water for a few minutes before adding the leaves.) Place the cleaned greens in a large, heavy pot or skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until wilted. Drain and press out excess liquid.
- Mature greens such as kale, mustard, and collard greens should be braised. Wash well and trim tough stems, then add the clean greens to a large pot and cover with water or chicken or vegetable broth. Cook until tender. Cooking time will depend on the maturity of the greens. Drain, press out excess liquid, and chop.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add chopped fresh garlic and heat briefly. Add cooked greens and stir to coat with the flavored oil. You can also add crushed red pepper or chopped fresh ginger, onion, or shallot to the pan with the garlic. After they are sauteed, try tossing the cooked greens with vinegar (balsamic, red wine, rice, or another flavorful variety), pepper sauce, fresh lemon juice, reduced-sodium soy sauce, or chili paste. You can also spike the flavor with a few chopped, brine-cured olives, toasted pine nuts or sesame seeds, golden raisins, or a small amount of a low- or reduced-fat variety of cured meat such as low-fat kielbasa, turkey bacon, or smoked turkey. You can also make a glaze by cooking chopped garlic and ginger in olive oil and adding 1/3 cup orange juice. Cook until the juice is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, then add cooked greens and toss to coat.
- Chopped, cooked, and flavored greens can also be added to pasta, soups, or mashed potatoes.