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Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cooking with Greens

It's official: the CSA and farmers market season in Massachusetts is finally here! With New England's summer bounty finally making its way out of fertile plots and into the hands (and reusable bags) of northeastern residents, one question remains: what do I do with all these greens? Well, quite simply, many things! Sauteed or stir-fried, baked or raw, there are endless possibilities when it comes to consuming your greens. Below are some ideas about how to include more of these super-nutritious leafy vegetables in your diet.


Greens in the morning? Why not! I'm a big fan of sauteing hearty greens like kale or the more tender Swiss chard with fresh garlic or onions, some olive oil or butter, and a splash of a lemon juice or vinegar (white, cider, red wine, balsamic... they all work well depending on the flavor you are trying to achieve). Boost the flavor by adding some cumin seeds or powder and a sprinkle of red pepper flake for a touch of heat. Or fold in some Parmesan cheese as a final step in your sauteed creation. Serve it with some eggs and pan-fried potatoes (bake potato, sliced + garlic powder + paprika) and you have a complete meal. Ribbon-sliced spinach and chard make wonderful additions to any omelet or quiche; saute them first in order to draw out water, thereby preventing your egg dish from being soupy.


Raw greens, in a salad with freshly-picked radishes, salad turnips, and scallions, make for a light and local midday meal. Late spring and early summer are "the salad days," as they say, so enjoy those tender lettuces, spinach, and arugula with a light vinaigrette made from whisked olive oil, lemon juice, and finely-chopped garlic scapes (VERY limited season so get 'em now!) or scallions with salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. If lemons aren't your favorite, use balsamic or red wine vinegar instead; keep in mind that a basic vinaigrette calls for 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil (I add a little dab of Dijon mustard, too). Add roasted beets, apple or pear slices, nuts, seeds, and goat cheese to really bulk things up!


Stir frying your greens with fresh veggies is another quick and simple way to increase the nutrient content of your meals. Asian greens, such as bok choy, tatsoi, and mustard greens, mixed with thickly-sliced mushrooms, celery, peppers, julienne carrots and alliums, can be hit with some soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a light drizzle of sesame oil, making for a delicious supper (I finish with the sesame for flavor but initially use another cooking oil, such as olive or canola oil, for the actual stir-frying). Another favorite of mine: replace the sesame oil with red curry paste, basil (Thai if available), and red pepper flake for some southeast Asian flavor; a generous splash of coconut milk and a touch of lime juice take it to the next level.

Go Mediterranean style with your kale, Swiss chard, and spinach by sauteing these greens with garlic or onion, fresh herbs like marjoram, thyme, and basil, thinly-sliced fennel, and mushrooms with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. Tomatoes, whether fresh, sundried, or canned, and shaved Parmesan make excellent additions as well. Finely-chopped greens folded into tomato sauce is another way to feed even the pickiest of eaters a healthy dose of these nutrient-rich vegetables.


Kale chips can be a big hit even with picky eaters who tend to pass on greens. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F; wash, dry, and de-stem a bunch of kale (or Swiss chard) and cut or tear into large pieces. Drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and add the kale; toss so that the greens become lightly coated. Transfer greens to cookie sheets (single layer of kale or chard to ensure proper roasting) and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pieces are crisp. Feel free to try other seasonings like garlic or onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, vinegar, or sesame oil.

Why are greens so good for me?

Your diet should include all colors of the rainbow; eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked, every day is key to achieving optimal health. Leafy greens are extra special, though, as they are packed with many essential vitamins (A, C, K, folate) and minerals (calcium, potassium, iron), fiber (soluble and insoluble for cholesterol reduction and regularity), and antioxidants that help repair and prevent damage caused by free radicals that promote aging and chronic disease.


Images by Rebekah Carter (2011).

For additional advice on cooking greens or other vegetables, leave a comment on this post, contact Rebekah, or check out suggestions by Waltham Fields.


Homemade Taco Seasoning said...

I am not vegetarian but I also love preparing greens.

Best Cornbread said...

Thanks for sharing this one, been searching for new recipes.