KAREN TEMPEL’S THE SCOOP: Learning about leafy greens

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:39 p.m.
Boston lettuce is a variety of butterhead lettuce, so named for the soft, almost creamy texture of its leaves. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Boston lettuce is a variety of butterhead lettuce, so named for the soft, almost creamy texture of its leaves. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Vitamin rich and flavorful, hearty, leafy greens are underappreciated. To see what you may have been missing, I gathered information on a number of varieties to compare their flavors.

Kale

Often thought of as a garnishing green. Sturdy kale tastes cabbagey with a touch of sweetness like a big brussels sprout. Discard thick stems and braise until tender. Also good in soups and stews. Often used to garnish banquet platters.

Collards

Synonymous with Southern cooking, collards have a sweet yet pungent flavor that makes them a perfect match with beans or pork. Discard thick stems and boil or braise until tender.

Dandelion (Lion’s Tooth)

The bane of gardeners most everywhere, the dandelion is actually a pretty tasty weed with a grassy and acidic flavor. Slightly peppery, it is best when picked young and tender. Use in a variety of salads or braise the leaves from older, tougher plants.

Broccoli Rabe

An Italian favorite. Although it resembles broccoli, this green is more closely related to the turnip with a mustardy bitterness. Discard the last inch or two of the stalks, it is best blanched before use to remove bitterness and can be sauteed or braised.

Chard

Often called Swiss chard. This green looks a bit like rhubarb but is actually related to the beet. The crisp stalks come in a rainbow of colors (white, yellow and red) but the flavor is consistent – bitter with a hint of citrus. Chard is tender and best cooked quickly.

Spinach

Whether baby, curly or flat, all three spinach varieties display a “nice mineral taste.” Because of its relatively tender texture, spinach is best used raw in salads or quickly sauteed.

Mustard

This green whose seeds are ground to make the popular condiment is pungent and peppery. The leaves are bright green and frilly around the edges. Discard thick stems and braise until tender.

Turnip

These greens rival collard for top spot in some Southern kitchens with their buttery taste and metallic aftertaste. Look for younger greens which are much sweeter and more tender than older leaves. Discard thick stems and boil or braise until tender.

Karen Tempel, an aspiring chef since she could reach the countertops, has been delighting friends and family with tempting treats for most of her life. She is the owner of Everyday Gourmet, a custom caterer in the Aiken area. Visit her website at www.LetKarenCook.com or email her at Karen@LetKarenCook.com.

Rice with swiss chard, peas and toasted almonds

3 cups water

1 cup long grain, white rice

1 small bunch Swiss chard

4 tablespoons butter, divided use

2 large garlic cloves, minced

5 ounces frozen peas

1/4 cup slivered almonds

salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt. Add the rice, stirring once, then boil gently, uncovered, until tender, about 14 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and leave to drain in a strainer for 5 minutes.

Wash chard carefully to remove any dirt. Cut out and discard the tough stems and cut the leaves into 1/2” wide strips. Shake off excess water.

In a large skillet, melt half the of the butter over medium-high heat; add the chard leaves, and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, add minced garlic, and cook until chard leaves are tender, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile toast almonds on a baking sheet at 350 for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant.

Add rice, peas, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to mix. Add remaining butter, remove from heat, cover, and let rice stand until butter melts, about 2 minutes. Toss again lightly.

Serves 4

Greens Trivia

• Before cooking with kale, collards, turnips, and chard, swish the greens in a large, water-filled bowl, draining the bowl , then repeating this rinse until the leaves are dirt-free.

• Kale is the nutrition powerhouse. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A C, and K, has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable, and also supplies folate and potassium.

• Kale’s ruffle-edged leaves may range in color from cream to purple to black depending on the variety.

• Iceberg lettuce is mostly water. But it’s the country’s most popular leafy green and each of us eats about 17 pounds of iceberg a year. While tops in consumption, it’s low on the list for its health benefits.

From webmd.com

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