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
Nothing screams sunny summer like a fired-up grill. As we like to say: where there’s smoke there’s a delicious meal in the works. What better excuse to give the oven a night off and get outdoors than to double down on the grill? Trouble is, it’s easy to fall into a burger and chick fillet rut when cooking al fresco. After one too many pieces of grilled chicken, you might be ready to fly the coop. So how do you break away from grilling fatigue? Try thinking out of the box when it comes to preparing a feast on the grill. When you have the urge to light a fire, what better way to expand your outdoor cooking repertoire than by turning to the plant kingdom? Certainly, meat shouldn’t get all the live-fire love. You can also count on grilling to imbue plant-based foods with tantalizing flame-licked flavour goodness. Plus, it’s a sure-fire way to up the nutritional ante of your summer menu. Ready to think outside the grill marks? These next-level grilling recipes won’t leave you pondering “where’s the beef?” Grill master Follow these tips for sizzling plant-based grilling success. Play the field Remember that a bounty of plant-based foods can benefit from spending time over fire. Everything from cherry tomatoes (skewered, of course) to tempeh and even watermelon and Tuscan kale leaves are contenders for grill time. Tofu, eggplant, and zucchini have never found a grill they didn’t love. Knife play Be sure to slice vegetables such as potatoes and bell peppers large enough so they don’t fall through the grill grates and so they’re easy enough to move around on the grate. Rub it down Prevent flare-ups, reduce sticking, and keep grill debris off your food for safe and tasty backyard cooking. Use a long-handled grill brush to clean your grill grates immediately after use while they’re still warm. For good measure, you should also brush your grill off again after preheating it for your next meal. Tool of the trade Long-handled tongs are ideal for moving around items such as tofu and vegetables on the grill without getting you too close to the fire. Hot stuff Preheat your grill for at least 10 minutes. That way, food will sizzle as soon as it hits the grates and it’s less likely to stick to very hot grill grates. If you can hold your hand about 5 in (13 cm) over the grill for two to four seconds, the fire is at a high heat (450 to 550 F/230 to 290 C). Oil slick To grease a hot grill grate, use a brush with heat-resistant silicone bristles or a wad of paper towel dipped in oil and rubbed on the grate using tongs. Never use cooking spray on a hot grill. Crowd control Leave room to spread your food out. Stuffing your grill grate with too much in the way of proteins and veggies makes it less likely everything will cook evenly. It also makes it more difficult to flip items and move them around if flare-ups occur. Seal shut The more you open your grill lid, the longer it will take to cook dinner. The grill can lose around 50 F (10 C) every time the lid is opened. Covered cooking is the best practice because it uses convective and direct heat to cook the food faster and more evenly.
Make no mistake, meaty grilled tofu, sweet flame-licked salsa, and chunks of crispy sweet potato make for a meal prepared in the great outdoors that puts the yum in plant-based eating. A master’s touch Perfect spuds: Crispy potatoes on the grill are a revelation. But it’s best to give them a head start on the stovetop, so the potatoes heat through before the exteriors grill to a burnt crisp. Flavourful tofu: Giving tofu a 90-degree turn on the grill halfway through cooking each side will produce a nice crosshatch pattern that makes you look like a grill master. Plus, those overlapping grill marks give tofu even better flavour.
Combine pizza and taco night by firing up the grill. Sweet flame-licked onions, melty cheese, fiery salsa, hearty beans, and crispy flatbread crust all marry well in a no-fuss pizza that comes together fast enough to work within the confines of the weekday time crunch. Set up a work area near the grill so you have all your toppings within easy reach and ready to go. You can also use large Middle Eastern-style pitas for your base. Using store-bought pizza dough? If you want to go more traditional and use pizza dough, you can certainly stick with the grill. Stretch or roll pizza dough (about 1 lb/450 g) to roughly 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick. It need not be perfectly round or square; it just has to be even thickness. Preheat grill to medium using indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one burner off; for a charcoal grill, shovel coals onto one side of the grill) and lightly oil grill grates. Brush one side of dough with oil, then place on grill in an area not directly over the heat, oil side down. Once dough is lightly charred and just barely set, about 1 to 2 minutes, use pizza peel or big, flat spatula to transfer it to a work surface, grilled side up. Apply toppings and return pizza to indirect heat. Close grill lid, and heat until edges of crust are crispy and cheese has melted, 5 to 7 minutes.
If a falafel and burger had a love child, this would be it. The result of this hybrid is a vibrantly coloured, complex-flavoured veggie burger you’ll flip over. You can also serve them between toasted hamburger buns with toppings such as sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, and arugula. Holding it together Many plant-based burgers are crumbly and weak, risking a patty that ends up between the grill grates instead of intact on your plate. Keep your burgers together by forming patties no larger than 1 in (2.5 cm) thick, which ensures a nice, even crust on the outside and a thoroughly warmed-through centre, then chilling the patties before grilling. You can also consider using a burger mould, which gives you denser, equally sized patties that cook evenly. Be sure your grill grates are well greased. Deep freeze You can freeze uncooked falafel burgers on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or plate and then transfer frozen patties to an airtight container. When ready, just thaw and cook as instructed. Falafel cooking options To bake: Arrange falafel on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with oil; bake at 375 F (190 C) for 25 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and heated through. To pan fry: Heat large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil (15 mL) for each 2 burgers in the pan, swirl to coat pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until underside is browned. Then flip carefully and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.