It seems to us that everyone cooks with spinach because it is easy to do. But other dark green leafy vegetables are some of the most healthful and delicious foods around. So why don’t we eat more of them? Brimming with nutrients, kale and mustard greens are cruciferous vegetables full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and indole-3-carbinol, a chemical believed to block the growth of some cancer cells. And Swiss chard has lots of calcium plus abundant amounts of beta-carotene.
Despite these health benefits, many people are put off by these unfamiliar greens. I find that once people know how to cook kale, mustard greens and Swiss chard, they discover them to be both tasty and easy to serve. Nevia No, the owner of Bodhitree Farm in Burlington County, New Jersey, sells these greens and others at farmers’ markets in New York City. Her vegetables are a favorite among Manhattan chefs… and she often can be found providing cooking demonstrations to show how easy it is to release the flavors of these greens.
Nevia No’s Easy Way to Prepare Greens
Wash the leaves well and shake lightly. Lay each leaf flat, and run a sharp knife down either side of the center vein. Lift out the center vein and stem, and discard them. Stacking several of the V-shaped leaves together, roll them into a long cigar, and cut crosswise into half-inch slices that unroll into ribbons.
Heat one to two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Sauté two or three sliced garlic cloves until golden, then remove to prevent them from burning. Add the damp greens to the pungently flavored oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring often. Add two to three tablespoons of broth or water to avoid burning.
Cook until the greens are tender or done to your taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Since these greens will shrink considerably during cooking, allow eight ounces of raw greens per serving.
How the Greens Stack Up
To select the freshest produce…choose greens with leaves that look firm and perky. Avoid bunches with limp, wilted or faded leaves. While all of these greens can be eaten raw, fresh greens are most flavorful when cooked for just a short time—about five to six minutes.
Flavor: Sweet with a nutty undertone.
Nutrition: Contains vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Ways to Cook: Sauté or steam, boil, braise with broth. Add to soups and stews. Add raw to salads.
For healthy bruschetta, sauté 1 cup steamed kale in olive oil with 3 finely chopped garlic cloves. Add 1 can rinsed cannellini beans, partially mashing them, and ⅛ tsp ground black pepper. Serve spooned onto toasted slices of whole-wheat Italian bread.
Flavor: White-stemmed is sweetest…red-stemmed is most earthy tasting.
Nutrition: Contains vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. High in sodium. Use caution if following a restricted sodium diet.
Ways to Cook: Sauté. Braise with broth, add to soups and stews.
For easy chunky soup, place 3 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups chopped chard, 1 can rinsed canned chickpeas, ½ cup each frozen corn and cut green beans, a small chopped red onion and chopped garlic in a deep pot. Simmer 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
Flavor: A peppery, radishlike bite.
Nutrition: Contains vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Ways to Cook: Sauté, steam, slow-cook southern style with preservative-free chicken or turkey sausage. Add raw to salads in thin shreds.
For Asian-style greens, sauté ½ cup chopped onion and 1 cup sliced carrots for 3 minutes. Add ½ cup chicken broth and 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and simmer until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Mix in 2 cups steamed mustard greens and 1 tsp roasted sesame oil.