I grew up in a family that ate a lot of salads. As a child in an Italian family, we ate salad as the last course. When we would complain, my grandmother would always say that you always have room for salad. I can still taste her salads, slightly salty, red wine vinegar & olive oil, and the fresh herbs: parsley and basil leaves mixed with the lettuce for added flavor. We ate Swiss chard, escarole and spinach. As an adult however, I forgot these traditions. Salad never left me, garlicky sauteed spinach with toasted pine nuts over pasta was a regular meal but that was the extent of my eating greens. Once when I was sick, a gracious friend from the south brought a roasted chicken with sauteed kale to nourish me. The kale was fabulous, new for me. I made it once or twice and then forgot.
When I read Dr. Tim’s post, Eat Your Greens, last month, it got me thinking about how I finally learned to cook with greens. For the past ten years, we have belong to a CSA (a program where you receive your veggies directly from a farmer and skip the middle man). Greens make up a huge portion of early spring and the late fall boxes. I was at a loss for what to do with the mountains of greens. Spinach was great for salads or sauteed, but I didn’t know what to do with the rest. My friend juices and drank her greens, but I wanted to cook with them. When the kids were babies, this was a commitment, because only Vijay and I would eat them. I would beg & plead and my little ones, who ate most everything would still turn up their noses. Because I had the greens, I had to use them, so I would dutifully cook them and put them on the little ones plates, Vijay and I eating the bulk of them. Imagine my surprise when my daughter started asking for bok choi! Sausage and Escarole Soup, my grandmother’s favorite also became one of their favs. I know we had turned a corner. I was grateful that I stuck to my guns and kept putting the greens on their plates. Ten years after we began our journey, I crave greens. If we go to long without them, I have to find a day to cook with greens.
For those with resistant kids (of any age), I can give you a few suggestions.
- Think about the size you are cutting your greens. If the pieces are too big, they are difficult for little mouths to chew and swallow.
- Start by adding just a handful to another recipe, stir fries are great for this. If you have mostly other veggies,a small handful of greens can be a gentle introduction to the flavor and texture.
- Bok Choi tends to be a good starter green because the base is textured like celery, so overall it is not too slimy. Also it has a very pleasant mild flavor.
- Don’t overcook your greens. Slimy greens are generally a turnoff.
Roasted Kale Chips are one of our favorites. We use them on BBQ nights in place of potato chips. This recipe has been kid tested on many neighborhood children and always met with success. I have never had anyone turn them down yet. As a matter of fact, the 12-year-old girl down the street has called me for the recipe and made them herself! Definitely a winner!
- 1 bunch kale
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Preheat oven to 300.
- Clean and remove large ribs from kale. Cut kale into 1 1/2 inch strips.
- Put kale in roasting pan or on a rimmed cookie sheet. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, black and red pepper.
- Place in oven and turn the kale every 15 minutes. At first it will wilt, this is ok, it will crisp up with more time.
- Remove from oven when all kale is crisp. This will take 40-60 minutes, dependent on the size of your bunch of kale.
From around the web, here are some other greens recipes that are Patel family favorites and on the soon to try list.
Curried Chickpea & Lentil Stew with Swiss Chard - This was what we had for last night’s dinner! You can make this soup veg, by using vegetable broth or water in place of chicken stock. I have made it all three ways and it is delicious!
Also from Tomato Mountain, Ham & Bok Choi Gratin. Bok Choi is a great green for the newbie as it has a pleasant texture and a mild taste.
Garlicky Greens Tacos - This was one of the first recipes I made using greens. When I make this, I skip the blanching of the swiss chard leaves. They are tender and don’t need to be boiled first. Wow, did I just change a recipe developed by Rick Bayless, one of my cooking heroes?! I have also made this with spinach and beet greens and a combination of all three!
Sauteed Beet Greens with Olive Oil - This is one of my all time favorites. Not only is it so good, when you look at the colors of the beet greens, you just know your body is getting all kinds of vitamins & minerals!
I hope this has given you a few ideas and the courage to try greens. What’s your favorite way to eat greens?