Feeling Green

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This time of year, dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, chard, and even mustard and turnip greens, fight for space among the root vegetables and pumpkins at the farmers' markets. While some people, particularly those who grew up in the South, feel immediately familiar with greens, a lot other folks aren't quite sure what to do with them.

Well, I'm happy to tell you there's a lot you can do with greens. I enjoy them raw in salads, sauteed with olive oil, and tossed into soups. How I prepare them just depends on what I'm in the mood for that day, the temperature outside, or what else is going on my dinner table.

What's great about greens is not only how versatile and tasty they are, but their health-boosting benefit. These are powerhouse foods! They're great sources of vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, folate (red blood cell production and nerve function), B6, lutein (vision) and lipoic acid (energy production). They are also recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties, ability to help with blood sugar regulation, and, in the case of kale in particular, their anti-cancer properties. 

Do you need any other reasons to add greens to your shopping list?

Always look for greens that is vivid green in color, and not yellowing or browning. Greens should be either in a chilled display or otherwise not wilting, and the stalks crisp and unblemished. Store unwashed (water will hasten spoilage), in a plastic bag with air squeezed out in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Use within 3 days. (If you have a large bunch of greens you can use right away, you can also blanch the leaves and freeze them.)

Now that you're ready to go green, here are a few of my best, simple recipes.

Sauteed Greens "Arab Style"

This recipe comes from just south of the California border in a tiny town near Ensenada, Mexico.There, a Moroccan guy owns the only restaurant, and many of his dishes are cooked in what the locals call "Arab style," which means they contain olive oil, raisins, garlic, and sometimes
pine nuts.

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 or 5 large cloves of garlic, cut into slivers

1 ½ pounds baby spinach leaves or young chard leaves, cut in
chiffonade (thinly sliced crosswise)

2 tablespoons raisins or currants

2 tablespoons pine nuts (walnuts or slivered almonds would
also work)

Warm the olive oil over medium low heat in a sauté pan, then add the garlic and cook until it softens, about 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Add in the raisins and nuts.

Raise the heat to medium, then add the spinach or chard to the pan a fistful at a time. As each fistful wilts, add the next one until all the spinach or chard is wilted. Serve.

Kale ( or Mustard or Turnip Greens) "Caesar" Salad

I grew up thinking of kale and mustard greens as cooked vegetables that no kid in his or her right mind would eat, but as an adult and a cook, I've developed a new appreciation for these greens. Here's just one way you might try preparing Cavolo nero, or black kale, without cooking it at all. It's sort of like a Caesar salad. You could give the same treatment to young, tender mustard or turnip greens as well.

¼ cup lemon juice

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup finely grated Parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

14 ounces Cavolo nero, center stalks removed, cut in chiffonade

In a blender or mini-food processor, combine the lemon juice, garlic and mustard. With
the machine still running, drip the oil in slowly, allowing the dressing to thicken. Mix in the Parmesan cheese. Toss the kale with the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste. If you eat eggs, you can chop or grate a hard boiled egg over the salad for a contrast in color and added protein.