Greens: perfect food for gray winter days


 

Here at The Journal, we’ve been craving dark green leafy vegetables all week. We weren’t sure what that meant, so we called Anita Grinevics, a registered dietitian who has been the nutritionist at Sharon Hospital for the past two years.

"Hmm, that’s a funny craving," she said when we explained why we were calling. "It’s good, though. Usually at this time of year people crave bread and sweets."

Cravings are a mystery that science hasn’t yet unlocked, she explained. It has more to do with the brain, she suspects, than with your body crying out for particular nutrients. Dark, greeny leafies do, however, have plenty of nutrients.

They’re full of vitamin A (excellent for the eyes, skin and immune system), vitamin C (helps fight colds and cancer) and calcium (builds strong bones and teeth).

They also are believed to fight age-related macular degeneration, a syndrome that seems to be affecting the eyes of more and more senior citizens (Grinevics, by the way, is also a Board Certified Specialist in gerontological nutrition).

They have several nutrients that help fight a variety of cancers. And they provide the body with folate, also known as folic acid, which can fight birth defects, cancer and heart disease.

Best of all, dark greens are among the few vegetables that are abundant and snappy in winter. Choices include lettuce, of course, spinach, chard, collards, kale and beet, turnip and mustard greens.

"The darker they are, the more nutrients they have," Grinevics said.

Many shoppers and chefs will pass over the greens when they’re shopping because they’re not sure how to eat or cook them.

"You can have them raw or cooked," Grinevics said. "Some of them are bitter, though, so you might want to offset that with some lemon juice or olive oil. You’ll find a lot of the dark greens in salads. They can also be wilted or steamed and added to a wrap or added to soups, stews and stir fries."

If you chop them up and cook them at high heat in a little oil, they will get a nice crunchiness (add some garlic and onion, also super-nutritious vegetables, for more flavor and health benefits).

They can also be sautéed at low heat. One cooking trick: When you’re cooking a large bunch of greens, you can wilt them first by pouring hot water over them. That should reduce their mass by three or four times, and make them easier to handle.

Cooked greens are a fantastic way to add color, flavor and health benefits to pasta or to rice (there are some very good packaged brown rice pilafs available at the grocery store these days). If you want to add crunch, think Middle Eastern and add some pistachio or soy nuts and a handful of raisins.

Grinevics shared a favorite recipe for kale. It serves six as a side dish, and can be included in a vegan meal.

 


 

Garlicky kale with new potatoes


1 bunch of kale or collard greens; 12 small new potatoes (1 pound), scrubbed;

1 tablespoon olive oil;1 small onion, chopped; 3-cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup water; Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste; Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Remove stems and thick midribs from greens. Discard stems; midribs may be finely diced and used if desired. Rinse greens several times to make sure that all sand and grit are removed.

Steam or microwave potatoes in skins until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut in half.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic cloves and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add greens, cover, and steam until just tender, adding water as needed (steaming time varies greatly, so check frequently, but a good estimate is 10 to 15 minutes). Drain and transfer to colander. Remove and discard garlic cloves.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid.

In a serving bowl, combine chopped greens, potatoes and lemon juice; toss to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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