Turning Over a New Leaf
We know kale, chard and spinach are healthy, but what can we make with them? That’s the question Nava Atlas answers with her latest book, Wild About Greens.
By Susan Tomchin
I’m a farmer’s market addict. There I’ve said it. If I miss a Sunday at the downtown farmer’s market, I feel withdrawal pangs, and am forced to buy waxy cucumbers and pallid looking tomatoes from the neighborhood supermarket. The downside to my addiction, however, is an enthusiasm that sometimes outshines my knowledge about how to prepare the produce, especially when it comes to greens.
More times than I’m willing to admit, I’ve been lured by emerald-hued bunches of kale, chard, spinach and such, only to have them linger unused in my veggie bin, until they turn to mush and end up trashed.
That’s why I am thrilled with the new book from Nava Atlas, Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves (Sterling, $24.95). Atlas, the author of many well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, is an ideal guide to those of us who aren’t necessarily vegetarian, but are looking to expand both our understanding and consumption of greens as part of our regular repertoire of side and main dishes, soups, stews, and salads.
There are many nutritional reasons for adding greens to our diets, as Atlas points out. Did you know, for example, that kale, collard greens and spinach have significant—and highly absorbable—calcium content? This is an especially important piece of information to women trying to prevent osteoporosis and for vegans and those who don’t consume dairy calcium.
While their nutritional value may only partially convince us to “eat our greens,” Atlas’ creativity may finish the job. In the first part of the book she shows off greens in a starring role: simple sautés such as Mediterranean Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins and Spring Greens Sauté with Carrots, Mint & Chives; braised dishes such as Italian-Style Braised Chard with Tomatoes; and classic stir-fries such as Bok Choy & Snow Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms.
The second part of the book she devotes to hearty dishes in which greens add flavor, texture, color and nutrition to carbs such as grains, beans and pasta, as well as vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. This section features such delectable recipes as Quinoa with Kale, Sweet Potatoes & Pecans; Curried Sweet Potatoes with Chard & Chickpeas; Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower & Kale; and Roasted Eggplant Curry with Greens & Tomatoes.
In the third part of the book, she shows how greens can expand one’s salad repertoire. “Massaged” kale, raw kale that has been softened, but retains a satisfying crunch, for example, can be used as a backdrop in a variety of salads, among them Kale Salad with Dried Fruit & Nuts and Kale Salad with Asian Flavors. And of course there are an array of tender greens—watercress, baby arugula, baby bok choy, etc.—that pair beautifully with berries, vegetables and seeds (Spring Greens & Berries Salad and Mixed Greens Salad with Mustard Greens, Apples & Pecans). Her chapter on greens in soups and stews opens many delicious possibilities: Italian-Style Potato & Escarole Soup; Miso Chinese Vegetable Soup with Corn & Leafy Greens; and Curried Spinach & Chick Pea Soup. Her final chapter is devoted to using greens for smoothies and juices, an area that more and more of us are embracing.
In her introduction, Atlas writes: “I used to say that when we ran out of broccoli, it was time to go food shopping. Now that sentiment refers to all kinds of leafy greens. In my opinion, it’s a barren fridge that holds no kale, no collards, or spinach.” I suspect that once many of us begin preparing her recipes, we may begin to feel the same way.