You hear it from every health expert:
Eat more dark leafy greens.
But let’s face it, one more round of steamed broccoli isn’t going to convince you or your family. It’s time for a new approach to greens, one that uses bold flavors to accentuate these worthy vegetables’ robust tastes and textures.
“Cooking with greens is quite simple once you learn some basic techniques; they go with any kind of flavorings that you’re familiar with,” says Lenny Martinelli, owner of Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. “I’ve used more of an ethnic palate to really develop my use of greens.” An excellent example is Honey-Curried Kale with Caramelized Onions (page 42). “By using curry and soy sauce, you get this great-flavored side dish, but it’s vegetarian and you still get the full nutritional benefit of the greens,” says Martinelli. Elevate leafy greens to favorite-food status with these knockout taste combos.
Serves 8 / Fresh spinach adds lightness to this thin-crust pizza; arugula makes a nice substitute. Prep tip: The dough can be made ahead of time and stored, but for a quicker dinner, use ready-made flatbread, such as organic Rustic Crust.
Serves 6 / This intensely flavored side dish is good with rice or tofu. “I don’t like to cook kale too long because I feel it leaches more of the nutrients out,” says Martinelli. “The kale should still be vibrant and somewhat chewy.”
Serves 6-8 / Making gnocchi sounds complicated, but it’s actually fairly easy. They can be frozen for later use; just add a couple more minutes to the cooking time.
Serves 8 / Choose a selection of spring greens — rainbow chard, dinosaur kale, salad lettuces. The vinaigrette makes more than you’ll need and will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Use it as a marinade for grilled tofu, salmon, or chicken. Ingredient tip: Look for bottled sweet chile sauce in the Asian section of your market.
Serves 6 / Make this light, versatile spring or summer pasta dish with any mixture of greens. Prep tip: If you’re in a hurry, use low- or no-salt vegetable broth instead of making the fennel stock. Serving tips: Accompany with hunks of bread to soak up the delicious broth. Garnish with toasted or candied nuts.
Serves 8 / This quick dish gains a lot of flavor from piri piri, a simple Portuguese condiment that’s great on vegetables (or meats). Prep tip: Roast red pepper halves, cut side down, in a hot oven until blackened; or use bottled. Serving tip: For a heartier dish, sauté cubed potatoes before cooking the rabe; then combine all ingredients as directed.
Lenny Martinelli is chef and owner of Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. Senior Food Editor, Elisa Bosley, says it’s her favorite place to get pizza.