Winter Greens

It is true that winter can become dull after a while. And that tends to include the vegetable options available to you during the winter growing season. Farmer’s Markets tend to be overrun with heaps of dark, leafy greens, such as kale, collards, swiss chard, and mustard greens. A couple of weeks ago, I came across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, discussing this very topic: what to do with all those winter greens. (You may read the full article here, if you wish. Surprisingly, there are quite a number of different ways to incorporate these various greens into your winter menu.

You just need to experiment a bit, but many of the dishes you already have in your cooking repertoire could be altered slightly to include some winter greens. For instance, I enjoy cooking soups throughout the fall and winter for some of my family’s meals. Winter greens, when wilted into various soups, add a lovely taste dimension to the broth. In regards to the WSJ I mentioned above, I decided to try the recipe for “Parmesan Broth With Swiss Chard and White Beans.” It was delicious, and the best part of all, was that both my children ate an entire bowl! I must say the results were not only yummy, but very healthy, too. Soups are a wonderful meal by themselves, served with some crusty bread and cheese. Not only are soups easy to make, they’re also pretty quick, making them a perfect option for those of us strapped for time.

Another dish I like to make, incorporates lacinato, or dinosaur kale. Its leaves have a delicate texture, making it a suitable choice to be eaten raw in a salad. My neighbor once made this dish for a dinner she hosted, and since it was so delicious, I’ve been making it ever since. Presentation-wise, this salad looks great, making it a nice choice to serve if you are having guests over for dinner. It also keeps rather nicely in the fridge, so you can eat any leftovers you may have for lunch the following day.

1 bunch lacinato kale; rinsed and dried

1/4-1/3 c. dried cranberries (amt. to your liking)

1/4 c. chopped raw cashew nuts

salt, freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Once the kale is cleaned and dried, remove the thick stalks with a knife. Slice the leaves into 1 ” strips length-wise, and then chop the strips into thin pieces, or however wide you prefer to eat them in your salad. Toss the cut leaves, cranberries, and nuts into a large salad bowl. Add the salt and pepper to your liking. Make a balsamic vinaigrette by adding 1/8 c. balsamic vinegar with a small spoon of Dijon mustard. Mix the mustard into the vinegar with a whisk and add 1 tsp. sugar. Slowly drizzle some olive oil into your liquid mix, constantly whisking until you have incorporated about 1/3 c. of oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.

Orzo pasta is another lovely base to mix winter greens into, as well as any other vegetables you may have floating around in your fridge. I needed to make a starch-based dish for dinner one night. Luckily I had a bag of orzo, some left-over collard greens and three mushrooms. I thinly sliced the collard greens and finely chopped the mushrooms; melted about 2 Tbl. of butter in a large saucepan and added the cut veggies. After adding some salt and freshly ground pepper, I covered the pan and allowed the greens and shrooms to cook for about 4-5 minutes. (You could always add onion and garlic, but it tasted fine without it.) I then poured about 2 cups of boiling water to the pan, added 1 cup of orzo, and gave it a nice stir. Allowing the pan to simmer nicely on medium heat, the dish is ready once the pasta is cooked; about 8 minutes. After adjusting the seasonings to my liking, I was good to go! Honestly, this is a nice dish served entirely by itself, and because of the added vegetables, you won’t feel too guilty if you don’t make a salad with dinner.