I always tease members when it comes to them using greens in their recipes. I’m going to put it straight to you; I don’t think most of you are adventurous enough. You like to play it safe. You use greens that everybody has heard of and that you’re used to working with. That, my friends, spells, “BORING!”
Whenever I demonstrate a recipe at a class that calls for Swiss chard, bokchoy, collard greens or even dandelion greens, someone always asks, “Can I use spinach instead?” Of course you can use the spinach! But that’s playing it safe. Why not just try making the recipe with the ingredients it calls for?
I know, it’s intimidating. You don’t know how to pick out certain greens, how to use them in recipes and how to cook them. Starting somewhere is a good place to start. My advice (and how I learned) is to apply whatever rule you are already applying to your other favorite greens. When shopping for greens, feel and smell. (I touch everything and smell everything!) What kind of texture does one variety have? Don’t be afraid of snapping one small piece of whatever is in your hand and taste it! Use your instinct. For example, when you pick up and feel Swiss chard, you’ll notice that is just a bit firmer then spinach. So, that means you have to cook it a little bit longer than you would spinach. Look at collard greens. They have big, thick leaves. This means that they, too, will require a longer cooking time. It’s like choosing pasta. The smaller noodles require less cooking time; the larger ones more.
The bottom line is, DON’T BE AFRAID OF TRYING AND MAKING MISTAKES. You are cooking for yourself and maybe your family, so if something goes wrong, it’s no big deal. This is how you learn and the next time you go to use a “different” green, you will know better about what to do or not to do with it.
Greens are great in soups; greens are great with eggs; greens are great in salad, and when it comes to salad, who says greens must always be raw? You can quickly blanch your greens (blanching means quickly boil then cool in iced water) and add them to the other greens and veggies in your salad. Now that’s what I call a real salad!
In Italy, I grew up eating dandelions. My parents still go out on the field, in the spring time, and pick them. When the dandelions are still little, they are not so bitter and they are much more tender than the “mature” ones. My mom always tosses dandelions with a little red wine vinegar, some good olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some garlic. It makes for an amazing salad!
Okay, this may be going a little too far, but I’m going there anyway! My mom used to save the water from the blanching and we used to drink it in the morning as a diuretic, purifier and cleanser remedy. Are you appalled and grossed out? Do you think my mom is pazza–Italian for crazy? Now what if I tell you that I saw this very same remedy the other day on the Dr. Oz show. Aha! She’s not so crazy! Who is running to the store for some dandelions now?
I like this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:
“WHAT IS A WEED? A PLANT WHOSE VIRTUES HAS NOT YET BEEN DISCOVERED.”
Get out there and discover! (Hey, I even posted a recipe for you to get started under my recipes. It’s called Dandelion Greens and Goat Cheese Frittata. Check it out.)