We all know we should eat more leafy greens, but if you find yourself in a dark green rut (we’re looking at you, kale!), there’s a world of ways to make greens delicious––cooked or raw.
Why greens? Nitrate-rich leafy greens are low in calories, carbohydrates, and saturated fat and can play a role in reducing your risk of heart disease. Research has also shown that diets rich in fruits and vegetables, including dark leafy greens, are associated with a lowered risk of cancers and other serious diseases.
Don’t forget about herbs! These nutritional powerhouses should definitely be part of your leafy greens portfolio. Basil, mint, and parsley contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids as well as a range of vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to cooking with greens, you’ll find that most commonly used greens are widely available, but look for others at farmers’ markets or specialty stores (or grow your own!). These five recipes will help you diversify your greens by showing off each at its best, with substitutions for just about any leafy option.
Lemony sorrel and white wine add a delicious tang to this up-styled leek and potato soup. If you can’t find sorrel, use spinach, nettle, or Swiss chard with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. The almond cream is optional, but it makes for a pretty presentation. Skip it if you have an allergy or low-powered blender.
These wraps are naturally gluten-free and can be extra crunchy, juicy, or savoury depending on your wrapper choice. If you use lettuce, choose a type with large, firm leaves that will hold the fillings well. Collard greens are sturdier and more nutritious, but you’ll want to remove the stems before rolling. Don’t let that fibre go to waste, though; dice the stems and use them for soup or stir-fries, or pickle them for salads.
Inspired by Peruvian arroz con pollo, this dish blends an entire bunch of cilantro and spinach into a pot of rice, tinting it green. It’s a full meal on its own, but you can leave out the chicken and it becomes a vegetarian side dish. If you use commercial broth that’s high in sodium, reduce the salt you add in the first step.
This combination of fish and walnuts is inspired by pasta dishes from Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Don’t be scared off by the anchovies. The preserved fish disappears into a rich, silken sauce infused with garlic and a hint of spice. Keeping the walnuts in large pieces adds a rich, nutty flavour and turns an economical dish into something a bit more luxurious.
A wonderful ingredient in soups, stews, curries, and fish dishes, amaranth is traditionally used to make a Bengali dish with mustard oil and pan-fried freshwater fish. Look for it at Southeast Asian grocers along with maple-scented fenugreek leaves.
Switch with: Swiss chard, kale, or spinach
This group of slightly bitter greens includes endive, frisée, escarole, and radicchio. In general, chicories are tender enough be added to any soup or stew just before serving, but tough enough to be blanched and sautéed with olive oil and garlic as a stand-alone side dish (or a replacement for rapini in alive’s Sautéed Rapini with Spaghetti, Garlic, Toasted Walnuts, and Anchovies recipe).
Switch with: rapini
These long-stemmed greens are often stir-fried or steamed in Asian cuisines. Gai lan is slightly hardier than choy sum.
Switch with: rapini, kale, mustard greens, or collard greens
These are essential for pot-licker (or “pot liquor”) greens in southern cooking, where the juices from slow-cooked barbecue or bacon are often used to season simmered greens, adding flavour to the greens and nutrition to the meal. Don’t throw out that leftover cooking liquid! It’s high in vitamins A, C, and K, plus iron, and you can drink it as a tonic.
Switch with: turnip greens, beet greens, or any other hardy green
The greens from this hardy wildflower work well in stir-fries, soups, and sautés and can be used similarly to kale, nettles, or sorrel. They’re full of vitamins, iron, and magnesium and can help with digestion.
Switch with: mustard greens or arugula
Also known as lacinato, dinosaur kale is a darker, flatter variety than curly kale. You can use it anywhere you’d use curly kale, rapini, or cooked spinach. It’s particularly good in smoothies because of its smoother edges and high chlorophyll content.
Switch with: collard or mustard greens
This is a key ingredient in Italian wedding soup and resembles a head of lettuce, though it’s more similar in texture to kale and collard greens.
Switch with: chicory, endives, or spinach and arugula
This dark veggie resembles lettuce, but can withstand gentle cooking. In a warm grain salad, it’s a crunchy counterpoint to a sweet element such as dried fruit or honey.
Switch with: radicchio with arugula or watercress
Resembling collards, but with a more peppery, mustard-like flavour, mustard greens have more vitamins A and K and copper when cooked (though less vitamins C and E) and are used in traditional Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese ferments and pickles. They’re also tasty in soups and spicy Sichuan ground meat stir-fries, as well as noodle dishes and soups.
Switch with: turnip or collard greens, kale, or arugula
This ubiquitous herb can ease digestion and is rich in vitamins B and C and beta carotene, with calcium, boron, and fluorine to help prevent osteoporosis. All the more reason to heap it generously into tabbouleh and other grain dishes.
Switch with: chervil or cilantro
Often grilled alone or with meat for a caramelized bittersweetness, radicchio looks a little like a small red cabbage.
Switch with: other chicories such as endive or escarole
Also known as broccoli rabe, rapini is heartier than some greens because of its mix of small, broccoli-like florets, thin stems, and leafy greens.
Switch with: kale or mature spinach
The star of soupe à l’oseille, a rustic French soup, sorrel is one of spring’s earliest greens. It’s an easy-to-grow perennial that historically provided much-needed vitamin C after a long winter, though its lemony bite softens when heated. Sorrel can occasionally be found frozen. Baby leaves of the red-veined variety are prettier and perfect for salads, but the leaves become tough and woody when mature, unlike French sorrel.
Switch with: spinach—with a little lemon juice
This lettuce is a cross between romaine and butterhead, with tightly closed, fleshy leaves and a slight sweetness with lots of juicy crunch.
Switch with: any lettuce
Interchangeable with bok choy, though a little smaller, tatsoi’s young leaves add an addictively bitter taste to raw salads.
Switch with: bok choy
There are plenty of reasons to fawn over heads of crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and impossibly sweet peaches. But, truth be told, the cream of the crop arrives on the market when summer’s bounty has come and gone. Once sweater weather arrives, and we edge ever closer to snowflake season, there is a bounty of cold-hardy power foods to get your fill of at their peak flavour and nutrition. And they’re ripe for all sorts of culinary creations in the kitchen. So, definitely < don’t > stop frequenting those farmers’ markets. Diversifying the kinds of fall vegetables and fruits we eat will let us net a wider variety of nutrients to help maintain health throughout cold and flu season. If you love carrots and apples for their comfort-food appeal, you’ll want to branch out and also grab hold of celery root, pears, chard, and other underappreciated seasonal goodies. With that in mind, here are the immune-supporting recipes to include in your rotation to help keep you on track for a healthy and delicious autumn.
School is back in session and with it, new demanding fall schedules that mean less time to focus on bringing nutritious meals to the table. Eating leftovers for dinner eases time spent in the kitchen. But it doesn’t have to mean eating Monday’s meal on Tuesday and again on Wednesday! Finding new ways to reinvent and reuse leftover ingredients to create simple and delicious meals is another perfect way to save time while still eating healthy. Less time, with less mess, means less stress! Leftover proteins can be turned into delicious soups and pasta dishes, while unused grains and starches can quickly be transformed into nourishing and satisfying stovetop or oven dishes. Looking ahead and planning meals for the week will allow you to purposefully prepare extra ingredients (think strategic leftovers!) that can easily extend into another nutritious meal.
This Asian-inspired stir-fry takes full advantage of the crunch Brussels sprouts achieve when they’re heated quickly. The sweet-and-sour sauce delivers a tangy edge, and tempeh offers plant-based protein and a blast of umami. If you want meat in the dish, you can replace tempeh with ground pork. Ready, set, go Stir-frying is a cooking method that thrives on speed. That means you want to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go into the pan. That also means no chopping on the fly.
Two fall stalwarts—rutabaga and Swiss chard—team up to bring seasonal flavour to these baked savoury cakes. A topping of velvety cashew cream adds a little extra spark. Rutabaga burgers, anyone? You can also prepare these cakes burger-style in a skillet. Simply form rutabaga and chard mixture into burger-sized patties and cook in greased skillet over medium-high, until golden brown on both sides.