Cooking greens 101
It has just turned summer here in Oz and my veggie garden is just bursting with green goodness.
All that hard work planting and weeding is starting to bear results and I’ve got mustard greens, 4 types of kale, bok choy, silverbeet of different colours, beet greens, mizuna, tatsoi, collards, spinach, cress, purslane and at least 6 varieties of heirloom lettuce.
Now of course that is nowhere near the over 1000 varieties of leafy greens that grow around the world, but it is certainly more variety than you will find in any supermarket. I feel pretty proud of myself and my green thumbs!
My family love their greens – even my two sons believe it or not. And I think the key is cooking them properly.
So many people cook their veg almost to death. And I mean literally a death. Overcooking your veg will deprive it of nearly all the health boosting anti-oxidant and phytochemical goodness that make plant foods so amazingly good for us.
I was floored this week when I read that people in Sydney, not far from where I live, are actually suffering from scurvy!! That’s a disease I only ever associated with the “days of yore”. We’ve all heard tales of sailors dying from scurvy – people surely don’t get that any more…. well apparently they do. According to the article this was partially due to the fact that people are cooking their vegetables for so long that they are almost nutritionally worthless (well that, and the fact that they don’t eat any fruit either!)
And this has been going undiagnosed by doctors, who I suppose just never expected to come across a case of scurvy. It scares me that so many people don’t make the connection between the foods they eat and the state of their health, often not even doctors.
As you, my dear readers, know, I am on a mission to help educate people about the amazing powers of plants to boost health and wellbeing, and these kinds of stories really make my head spin, but spur me on.
The veg-overcooking must end……
So this week a guide to cooking greens.
Don’t turn beautiful produce into sulfurous, squishy, slimy nutrient devoid mush.
Cook them properly and discover a world of delicious leafy green goodness instead. IT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
And I would even lay my money on it, that if you cook your greens properly, you are going to start to enjoy them.
So here it is.
CHOOSING YOUR GREENS
So let’s start at the very beginning. When you choose your greens look for ones that are crisp and vibrant in colour. You don’t want any yellowy limp leaves that are bruised or wilted.
Also make sure you buy plenty. Greens really wilt down to a much smaller amount than most of us imagine when we cook them. A cupful can turn into a tablespoonful with a bit of heat applied.
WASHING AND STORING
I like to use a salad spinner to wash my greens. I give them a quick soak in nice cold water (not for too long as you don’t want the vitamins to leach out) to remove any dirt and bugs and then give them a good spin in the salad spinner. If you don’t have a salad spinner you can pat them dry between clean tea towels after you wash them instead. (skip this if you are cooking them straight away, a little water isn’t going to matter then)
The best way I have found to store greens after they are washed and dried is to place them in a lidded storage container. Put some paper towel in the bottom of the container before you add the leaves and then place another piece of paper towel on the top before you put on the lid. Your greens should keep nice and fresh up to a week this way.
The hands down quickest and easiest way that I have learnt to cook greens I discovered in Michael Ruhlman’s awesome cooking manual Ruhlman’s Twenty (highly recommended) – called pan steaming.
It goes like this:
- Put a pan with a lid (the lid is important) on your stove over high heat. Let it get nice and hot – so hot that when you drop water onto the surface of the pan it forms little beads.
- Meanwhile put your chopped greens into a bowl with about 1/2 cup of water.
- When your pan is good and hot, throw the greens and the water into the pan and put the lid on immediately.
- You will hear the water steaming away violently in the pan – give the pan a good shake and then let the greens steam. It should not take more than a minute or so, so don’t walk away.
- After the minute or so is up. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium. You can now add salt and pepper, oil or any other seasonings that you would like to use.
- Serve them up while they are hot.
Now pan-steaming is pretty much the only way that I cook my greens now, but if you want to steam them the old-fashioned way heat a little water in a saucepan. Once it is boiling add your vegetables to a steamer, and place over the water. Again it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to steam your greens.
If this is how you like to cook them bring water to boil in a saucepan. Add you greens and keep an eye on them. You will know when your greens are ready when they turn a super bright green colour – get them out quick.
In a wok
- Add a little oil and some chopped garlic and maybe chilli flakes to a hot wok
- Pour in about t1/4- 1/3 cup of liquid (water, stock or wine) and add your greens on top
- Reduce the heat to medium and stir fry until the greens begin to wilt
Don’t cook them at all
Of course greens of all kinds make a delicious salad.
For more bitter greens like chard, or beet greens, choose baby leaves which are more tender and easy to digest raw
If you are using kale, give it a good massage before you put it in the salad bowl as this will soften the leaves and make them nicer to eat raw
Don’t forget a super tasty dressing, this will make all the difference.
So now you have got no excuse to over cook your greens, and equally once you start cooking them well you will have no excuse to not eat them because they will just be SO DELICIOUS!
Eating health is all about knowing what to eat, how to cook it and being prepared and organised. These are all the kinds of tips and tricks I am going to be teaching in my new online program. The Eating Clean and Green 21 Day Plant Based Boot Camp. Registration opens soon. I would be so happy to have you join us.
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