Monday, January 11, 2010

Spinach, Kale & Swiss Chard

Eating our robust green nutrition superstars, kale, swiss chard and spinach, will help you enhance your plate, palate and body. These three luscious greens are an extraordinary additive to almost any dish. They enhance not only the look of your main course but also accentuate their flavors. Eaten regularly, these three leafy green vegetables can increase your vitamin and mineral intake helping you to live a healthier life.

When it comes to greens, the darker the better usually. Leafy greens also contain, fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals, which help prevent lung cancer and other forms of cancer. Green foods in general tend to be good for your eyes, build strong bones and teeth, and can boost your ability to fight colds.

With so many different types of leafy greens it’s difficult to just eat spinach. Though I love it and can eat it any day of the week, I also like adding kale and Swiss chard to the mix. My first introduction to Swiss chard was one that I will never forget. The brightly colored stems were so strange and wonderful. I couldn’t believe that a leafy green vegetable could be so beautiful. When you get the cooking bug you start to realize that you eat, drink and sleep food. Every waking thought you are concocting recipes and thinking about ingredients. Therefore, a word like beautiful green comes out of your mouth, because the cooking bug has bitten you. Once I was shown that there was more than just spinach, I couldn’t stop myself.

Make sure when you buy these greens that they are full of life, bright in color and lack any discoloration. While I was in Oklahoma in October on my Healthy Cooking Tour I was trying to buy Kale for one of my demonstrations and, to my dismay, all the Kale they had was lifeless with brown spots. Horrified, I called the manager over and told him that the store should be offering their customers better products. Without hesitation, he agreed and gave me a very large discount. The Kale wasn’t perfect but I needed it for my demonstration. With a little extra care and soaking in cold water for a substantial amount of time I was able to use it that night. In a dream world we would all have vibrant and beautiful produce but the reality is we have to make do. So expect and look for the best, but use what you got.

Kale, Swiss chard and Spinach

Kale: There are many types of Kale (elephant, purple, green), but for the most part these amazing greens are usually dark emerald green with a grayish tint. Kale is a member of the cabbage family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and collard greens. It is loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin and is also a great anti-inflammatory. At first glance it may look inedible but after careful observation and a few taste tests you may find the flavor to be unique and delightful.

Swiss Chard: Also known as Silver beet, Perpetual Spinach, Crab Beet and Mangold, this is also a delicious green. Chard is very bitter and can be used in sautéed dishes or in salads if it’s young enough. Swiss Chard stems are one of my most favorite parts about the plant. They look like they belong in a candy store with their brilliant array of colors ranging from red to yellow to white.

Spinach: Typical and familiar, spinach is one of the most popular dark greens around. I was amazed to learn that spinach actually contains more iron than a hamburger. Spinach is also loaded with vitamins A and K, foliate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium and vitamin B6. So as you can see, there are tons of reasons to eat this delicious vegetable. I personally like baby spinach versus big hearty spinach. It tends to have a milder taste and works best in salads.

Grocery shopping takes time and a little bit of knowledge. With simple techniques you will have the best possible food in your fridge.

Washing Tip- Washing Greens

If you are buying market greens, you should definitely wash them. The trick is to not bruise them while you wash them. Fill up a bowl with water but leave enough room for the greens. After they have soaked for about 4 to 5 minutes, I take it out and do it again. You are waiting for the dirt and grime to fall to the bottom of the bowl and then you can remove the leaves off the top. Make sure that you don’t pour the water out with the leaves in the bowl because you could put the dirt back into the leaves. For pre-washed spinach, you do not need to re-wash.

Cooking Tips-

Sautéed Kale:

Remove the stem of your Kale by leaving the Kale whole and slicing the stem out of the leaf. Next, roughly chop the Kale into equal size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Heat a large sauté pan and on medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add Kale to the sauté pan, move around with tongs, and add salt and pepper to taste (chef pinch of salt). You can also add lemon juice, garlic powder or fresh garlic, sautéed onions and many more extras.

Sautéed Swiss chard:

Remove the stem of your Swiss chard by leaving the chard whole and slicing the chard stem out of the leaf. For added crunch, you can small dice the stem and sauté before you cook the chard and then add it in. Next, wash thoroughly and roughly chop the chard into equal size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Heat a large sauté pan and on medium high heat add a little olive oil. From here, follow the instructions for Kale.

Sautéed Spinach:

Remove the stem of your spinach by pinching them with your fingers and leaving the leaves intact. Wash thoroughly. Place in a large bowl. Heat a large sauté pan and on medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Follow instructions for Kale or chard from here.