Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Guide To Greenery

Once a side dish served almost exclusively with southern dishes and soul food, greens are finally gaining the respect they deserve.

Great tasting, nutrient rich greens are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to prepare.  Here's a guide to the greens you can find almost year round in the produce section of your supermarket.

Beet Greens:  These ar the green tops of the root vegetable.  They may be sold attached to full sized or baby beets, or in bunches by themselves.  Like their close relative, Swiss chard, beet greens have lots of flavor and a pleasing, sturdy texture.

Broccoli Rabe:  This green-also called broccoli de rabe, brocoletto, Chinese flowering cabbage, rapini and rappi- resembles thin brocolli stalks with small clusters of buds.  A very popular part of many Italian recipes, broccoli rabe has a shap, slightly bitter flavor.  Despite the name, though, broccoli rabe is not closely related to broccoli.

Collard Greens:  Also called collards, collard greens have long been associated with Southern cuisine in which they are often cooked with salt pork or smoked ham hocks.  Collard greens have large, smooth leaves that are easily cleaned and have a mild, pleasant flavor.  Recent studies show some of the nutrients in collard greens may play a role in preventing some kinds of cancer.

Curly Endive:  The darker green outer leaves of curly endive have a stronger flavor than the paler inner leaves.  These tender inner leaves are frequently served raw in salads, while the tougher outer leaves typically are cooked before serving.

Dandelion Greens:  Whether wild or cultivated, these greens are related to the common lawn weed, which is a member of the sunflower family.  Dandelion greens sold in grocery stores have been bred to be more tender than the ones gowing wild on your lawn.  The leaves (which should be pale green with saw toothed edges ) are picked before the yellow flower develops, and they have a subtly bitter taste, similar to chicory.

Escarole:  A relative of curly endive, the two are different in texture yet similar in taste, and interchangeable in recipes.  Both are considered salad greens as well as cooking greens.  Use the milder inner leaves for salads; cook the outer leaves.

Kale:  Kale is a sturdy green nutritional powerhouse.  It has a bold cabbage like flavor and coarse textured leaves that hold their texture and don't shrink up as much as other greens.  Kale's thoroughly touch, inedible stems should be discarded before cooking.

Mustard Greens:  Another cabbage family member, mustards have an intense flavor-as you may expect from the place which we get mustard seed.  There are red and green varities; both have a peppery bite.  If the greens are too pungent for your taste, you can tame them by blanching them in salted water before cooking.  Young, tender leaves are sometimes served raw in salads.

Spinach:  Spinach may be American's favorite green.  Most spinach sold fits one of two categories; robust, deeply wrinkled leaves served either cooked or raw, and  "salad spinach"-also called smooth leaf or flat leaf spinach-which has small, smooth delicate leaves and narrow stems.  Both are packed with nutrients and share the same versatile, mild flavor.

Swiss Chard:  Chard is a type of beet, although it has been cultivated for its leaves, not its roots.  There are many varities.  Red ( or ruby) chard is sometimes a bit more tender than white chard, but the two are interchangeable in most recipes.  Chard's leaves are slightly heavier than spinach leaves, but are frequently prepared in similar ways.

Turnip Greens:  The leafy tops from turnips are one of the sharpest-tasting greens, and like mustard greens they're generlly too assertive (and tough) for eating raw.  Most varieties grown for their tops don't develop full grown roots.  Note: Don't prepare turnip greens in aluminum cookware, as a chemical reaction will affect their flavor and appearance.

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