Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Healthy Not Boring 2 – Greens

From my Petaluma Post column.  You can find the first installment of this at http://blog.sonomacaterers.com/2012/01/healthy-not-boring.html

Last January I started to write on healthy eating, the holidays have come and gone and we are all feeling just a bit sluggish.  Too much candy and rich food, time to clean out the fridge and feel good about what you are eating again.

I am a huge fan of greens; most people’s first thought is of overcooked mush that grandma put on the table, or that same salad you have had a thousand times because you are supposed to.  These days the greens are young and tender, easy to toss into almost any dish.  Salads can have great variety with just a little thought, but you can also add greens to cooked dishes as another way to get them into your diet without getting bored.

For uncooked greens I love baby wild arugula.  It has a smaller firmer leaf than the classic and is not quite as peppery. With the thicker leaf it also has a bit more tooth in texture.  It always makes me feel like I am eating healthy.

Baby Wild Arugula Salad with Yam Croutons
1 medium yam, cut ¾” cubes, skin on
2 Tbl olive oil
Pinch cumin
Salt and pepper

8-10 oz of Baby wild arugula
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
4 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl honey
Salt and pepper

Toss the yam cubes with oil, salt, pepper and cumin, and place as a single layer on a baking dish or cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degree for 10 to 12 minutes, stir, bake another 10 to 12 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Although these are croutons, they are not crunchy; they have a firm skin and soft interior.

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and honey to make the dressing.  Put the arugula in a bowl with the yam croutons, and toss with the dressing.  For an extra touch try adding toasted pumpkin seeds or Chèvre.

Another great way to use greens is in pasta.  You can find beautiful baby chard in many stores.  Try just a simple garlic and olive oil pasta tossed with fresh baby chard.  It will wilt and melt in beautifully.  Serve with your favorite Italian dish, something like chicken cacciatore.

The Asian greens on the market are a great addition to look at also.  From baby bok choy to red tatsoi.  You can often find what is called Asian braising greens in the bulk greens section.  Try adding to a stir fry with some fresh garlic and light soy.  After sautéing finish with just a touch of Sesame oil for a pop of flavor.

Baby spinach is a main stay in our home.  My husband jokes about the day that I fed him spinach for all three meals.  I find it great to toss into a frittata or an omelet.  Makes a great salad for lunch or dinner, and wilts down for a great side dish to a heavier entrée.  Remember entire bowl of greens can wilt down to next to nothing.

Spinach and Mushroom Frittata
9” skillet
6 eggs
2 cups baby spinach
¼ cup shredded cheese - I like a parmesan or romano
½ cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 Tbl oil
Any added things you would like

Place the baby spinach in a glass bowl in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds;
this is a great trick to wilt unruly quantities so they fit into a skillet better.

Beat the eggs well, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Warm a skillet (use a skillet with a metal handle as it will be going in the oven later) with olive oil over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour the egg mixture into the pan, it should sizzle slightly.  Add in the remaining ingredients, including spinach, stirring to incorporate everything.

Place the entire pan in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until set and firm.  Remove and cut into wedges.  This is a great as a hot breakfast or lunch dish, and also serves great cold with a salad.

My most recent favorite spinach salad is served warm with fresh pear.  I was going for the idea of a Bistro salad from French cuisine that they serve with a poached egg on top.  I choose to add lightly sautéed chicken livers and crostinis.   You can enjoy without the chicken livers too.

Warm Spinach Salad
10 oz baby spinach
1 small red onion, julienned
1 medium firm ripe pear, I like Bartlett, julienne
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl honey
Salt and Pepper

Place the baby spinach in a large salad bowl.  Then sauté the red onion in one table spoon olive oil until tender and it begins to caramelize, then add the pear and sauté lightly.  Finally add remaining oil, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper to the sauté to make the dressing.  When pear is wilted, spoon pears and onions over the baby spinach, and use the remaining pan juices (dressing) as needed to dress the salad.

The next time you are at the market look a little closer at the greens, pick up something new and give it a try.

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