Easy to be Green

Cooking greens, widely available, are too often overlooked

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2002

When thinking of greens, one tends first to envision pedestrian varieties of lettuce, like iceberg or Romaine. But a trip to area grocers can reacquaint cooks with lettuce's more hearty and exotic cousins, cooking greens like kale, turnip greens, and collards, that have all the crunch of iceberg and a far better tolerance of heat.

Linda Cohen, a chef at Rainbow foods, prepares greens daily for the store's lunch buffet, recently she gave an interview on cooking greens.

Empire: What are some varieties of leafy greens?

Cohen: The most common leafy green is of course lettuce. I like to experiment with some of the heartier greens that pack more flavor and can be served warm. It is easy to find red, green and rainbow chard, different varieties of kale, and spinach. With some searching, arugula, sorrel and mustard greens can be found. Flavors can be mild, sweet, bitter, lemony or tangy. Right now I really like arugula because it has a unique flavor that goes well with seafood or chicken and can also go with fruit.

Empire: Can you talk about the nutritional value of greens?

Cohen: With the summer season over it may seem a bit harder to fit those leafy greens into your diet. However it is important to keep them coming as they are vitamin-rich and will keep you going as the weather turns. Leafy greens vary in their nutritional make-up but usually contain high amounts of iron and calcium as well as vitamins A, E, C, and K. They are also a good source of insoluble fiber. I recommend buying organic greens whenever possible and suggest requesting them from your grocery store if they are not available. Organics may contain more vitamins and taste better.

Empire: Any tips on picking greens at the grocery store?

Cohen: When shopping for greens look for firm stalks, crisp leaves or fronds, full colors avoiding bunches with brown spots. It is not too late to get this season's Farmer's Own crops. These greens come from a co-op of independent organic farms in Washington and Oregon and, are the freshest greens I have tasted in Juneau. You can tell them apart from the rest by the "Farmer's Own" twist-tie they wear.

Linda Cohen is a chef at Rainbow foods.

Empire: Do you have general advice for preparing greens?

Cohen: Greens need to be washed at least twice as they often have bits of dirt imbedded in the leaves. The easiest way to prepare greens is to chop, clean and steam. Serving them warm with just a bit of salt and pepper.

The following recipes come from Cohen's as-yet-unpublished cookbook.

Arugula with roasted chicken and Yukon gold mashed potatoes

Serves 4

2 bunches arugula, washed and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon shallots, minced

1 whole roasting chicken (organic preferred)

1 tablespoon each, rosemary, thyme and oregano

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes

1 head whole peeled garlic

1 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse chicken and then coat with herbs, salt and pepper. Place in oven on a roasting rack and turn oven down to 350 degree. Continue to cook the chicken until its juices run clear when pierced with a skewer or its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. While the chicken cooks, wash and boil the potatoes in their skin with the garlic. When they are tender, drain and mash with butter and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place. When the chicken is done allow it rest while you prepare the arugula. In a hot skillet sauté the shallots and arugula in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the chicken and serve pieces on top of the greens with a healthy spoonful of potatoes.

Balsamic Dino kale or green kale

Serves 4

1 and12 cups balsamic vinegar

1 head Dino or green kale

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan, bring vinegar and garlic to a simmer and cook until it has reduced one half in volume. While it reduces, wash and cut kale into bite sized pieces.

Place kale in skillet with vinegar and cover for 5 minutes keeping on low heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve. This will also taste great with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Blueberry beets and greens

Serves 4

1 bunch beets with greens attached

1 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 cup raspberry or apple juice

1 tablespoon minced ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove beets from greens and reserve the greens (including the stalks). Wash the beets and place in a pot with water to boil. Simmer one hour or until tender. Strain. The beet skins should fall off with just a little bit of pressure. Dice peeled beets into medium sized chunks.

Wash and cut the greens into bite sized pieces. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and toss. The salad will still be warm, but can also be served cool.

White Peacock kale with dates and pistachios

Serves 4

1 bunch White Peacock kale (green kale or spinach also works in the recipe)

1 cup pitted and diced fresh dates

12 cup shelled and roasted pistachios

1 small onion thinly sliced

14 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and chop the kale into bite sized pieces. Heat the oil in a small pot with the onions. Let simmer until the onions are tender. Pour hot oil over kale and toss with dates, pistachios, salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

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