Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Greens - Some like 'em hot, some like 'em cold

This is a great time of year for produce!  It is available fresh from local farms, at farmer's markets or in grocery stores.  There are so many different types of fruits and vegetables to choose from it can almost be overwhelming.  I have been making an effort to pick unfamiliar things when I see them in the store or at the farmer's markets.  

Last year I started buying Kale because I saw it on a list of "super foods." The leaves are thicker than your typical salad greens so it holds up to cooking very well.  I like the look of kale, the curly feathery leaves have a certain whimsy to them compared to other leafy vegetables.  It may be regional but I didn't grow up eating cooked greens.  The only leafy things that I was aware of were in a salad bowl.  After playing around with some techniques and reading several recipes I came up with a quick method that I like.

A Simple Method of Cooking Kale:  
1 bunch of kale
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Scant 1 Tb Olive Oil
Approx. 2 Tb Balsamic Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Wash the kale and remove the thick stem by cutting or ripping the leaves off.  
Tear the leaves into large bite sized pieces.  
Drizzle the olive oil in a large saute pan and warm to medium heat. 
Add the onion and allow to cook slowly becoming caramelized.
Add the vinegar to the onions and with tongs fold in the kale.  
Keep folding / stirring the kale with the onions until the leaves soften and turn a bright green.  This should take just a few minutes.  
Season with salt and pepper to taste.  
Avoid over cooking, the leaves turn dark and loose their texture.

This preparation makes a great side dish and is easy to adjust for other greens such as chard, beet or spinach.  If you are feeling like taking it up a notch you can toss on some bacon crumbles.

Makes about 4 servings

Recently I began hearing people talk about kale chips.  I was intrigued by the prospect because I am always on the look out for lower fat and calorie snacks.  At first I was envisioning something more like the bags of prepared taro, purple potato and squash chips and I was leery of all the work that must be involved to produce them at home.  Then I bought a bag of nacho flavored kale chips at Whole Foods but I didn't think they were all that great.  Finally a friend brought some homemade, plain, kale chips to a picnic and I loved them!  They were light, super crunchy, a little salty and completely snack-able.  I bought two bunches of kale on the way home and whipped some up myself.

Kale Chips:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Wash and dry (I pulled out the salad spinner for this one) the kale
Tear the leaves off the thick stem in "chip" sized pieces

Place the leaves into a large bowl and drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil (if you like, try a flavored olive oil, I use roasted garlic)
Sprinkle a small amount of salt over the leaves, the natural mineral flavor make them taste over salted more easily start with a lighter sprinkling
Use your hands to toss the leaves with the oil and salt.  If it seems like some of the leaves have no oil on them add a touch more.

Arrange in a single layer on a large sheet pan, you may need to make two batches for one large bunch.  Place in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, then give the pan a shake and rotate it in the oven to avoid hot spots, cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes then check for doneness.

The cooking time will vary by oven so keep an eye on them while they are cooking, the leaves naturally vary in thickness, some become very crispy and others to remain more chewy.  They are done when the edges of the leaves are crisped up but not too brown.

Once they are done remove them from the pan to stop the cooking.
I stored mine in a paper towel lined container to keep away any moisture and preserve their crispness.


I also recently began buying arugula.  It often appears in salad mixes but I had never picked it out to eat on its own.  Aside from the great peppery flavor it also packs a super nutrient punch.  I have been eating it solo with a little salad dressing or mixing it with other leafys like spinach.  It made a nice bed for some couscous the other day.  Last week I had a bunch in the fridge that was starting to wilt so I turned it into a fancy salad for company.

Fancy Arugula Salad:
4 - 6 cups of fresh arugula, washed and dried
2 Tbs, finely diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
approx. 2 oz. of soft goat cheese, crumbled
*Dressing of choice (I used equal parts blackberry balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic olive oil)

Toss the first three ingredients together in a large salad bowl.  Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad and toss again.  Once the salad is dressed to your liking, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the salad and serve immediately.  For extra fanciness serve each portion in its own bowl.

Makes about 5 servings

These are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning. If you have a favorite type of spring green, or a way to prepare them, let me know in the comments.  I would love to hear what other fresh and simple recipes people are cooking up!

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