While greens are known as vitamin power-houses, the dilemma is how to incorporate them into everyday meals. A quick sauté in olive oil with minced garlic and sea salt is a simple preparation. However, the sturdy texture of braising greens will fare well in soups, stews and casseroles.
If you are new to using chard or kale, here are a few things to look for when shopping. As with any fresh ingredients, look for clean, unblemished produce. The leaves of both chard and kale should be firm and deeply colored for the variety. The stalks should appear moist and supple. The smaller leaves will tend to be more sweet and tender, making them ideal for a quick cook with little additional seasoning.
Since all greens tend to be bitter, the key is to balance the flavor with other elements in the dish. For example, try adding a few handfuls of chopped kale to a pot of cannellini beans with pancetta.
The creaminess of the beans, along with the sweet, saltiness of the pancetta mellows the pungent flavor of the kale. Not only is there an added savory depth to the beans, but also a boost in nutrition; think vitamin C and iron.
With the onset of spring, salads become more appealing than casseroles and stews. Kale and spinach make a delicious base for whole meal salads. Toss kale with dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and salty goat cheese. Drizzle with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, red-wine vinegar and Dijon mustard; perfect for a light supper served with crusty bread.
On grocery day, grab a bunch of Swiss chard, kale or spinach and experiment. They are interchangeable in most recipes. Just be sure to check on the cooking time.