Getting in the Greens

I was recently having a discussion with a friend about cruciferous vegetables and how good they are for you. Her questions for me was, “but how do I make them TASTE good?”  What an excellent question!  First, a short lesson on what they are…

Cruciferous vegetables are from the cabbage family. Health agencies recommend that we have several servings of these vegetables per week with good reason. They are considered super veggies because they are high in Vitamin C, soluble fiber, and nutrients with cancer-fighting properties. The American Institute for Cancer Research has found that various components in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in the breast, uterine lining, cervix, lung, colon, and liver. They are also linked to lowering rates of prostate cancer. (Super indeed!)

In case you were wondering which veggies fall under this awesome umbrella, here is a short list of familiar cruciferous vegetables:
Kale                                       Collards
Cabbage                               Brussels
Broccoli                                Cauliflower
Bok Choy                              Rapini
Turnip Root & Greens       Arugula
Mustard Seed & Greens    Tatsoi
Watercress                           Wasabi

So now you can be sure that these veggies are good for you, but what do you DO with them? Firstly, DO NOT over cook these vegetables. If you don’t like them, it’s probably because you’ve had them cooked to death. When cruciferous vegetables are overcooked, they can produce a strong sulfurous odor. Nasty. Not to mention, if you over cook the leafy greens, they will get extremely soggy and mushy.

This may surprise you to hear, because a lot of people instantly hear “kale” and think that it needs to stew like collard or mustard greens. Not the case. Kale will wilt as easily as spinach. The same goes for watercress, arugula, and tatsoi. Those are very light leaves that work best as fresh salads, or sandwich garnishes but are also beautiful wilted.

One of my favorite veggies on the cruciferous list is brussels sprouts. They can be a revelation on the grill. If you can’t spare the grill space, toss them in the oven on high heat with some olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes until they get nice and charred. When you take them out, sprinkle some bleu cheese over them. They definitely won’t be the brussels your mom used to make.

I don’t know about you, but I love shrimp on the grill. Here is a fresh and healthy way to get your greens in and love them too!

Grilled Shrimp Satay with Peaches and Bok Choy
Yields: 4 Servings

6 Tbsp smooth natural peanut butter, stirred to combine

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 to 3 tsp hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
9 Tbsp peach nectar, divided
3 peaches or nectarines, each cut into 6 wedges
16 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 heads of baby bok choy, halved lengthwise

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk first 5 ingredients and 5 tablespoons nectar until smooth; season sauce with pepper.

Arrange peaches, shrimp, and bok choy on grill. Brush with 4 tablespoons nectar; brush lightly with 1/4 cup sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until peaches are slightly charred, shrimp are just opaque in center, and bok choy halves are just tender, about 2 minutes per side for peaches and 3 minutes per side for shrimp and bok choy.

Mound shrimp, bok choy, and peaches on platter. Drizzle with some sauce. Serve with remaining sauce.

This is a recipe that will be sure to impress your next dinner guests who were maybe expecting a little more low key. The secret they don’t have to know is this didn’t take a lot of extra work!

Grilled Halibut with Tatsoi and Spicy Thai Chiles

Yield: 4 Servings

5 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Thai bird chiles with seeds or 1/2 large jalapeño chile with seeds, minced

1 small carrot, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

1 shallot, thinly sliced
3/4 pound tatsoi or baby spinach (about 12 cups packed)

Mix first 7 ingredients in medium glass bowl. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place carrot in medium bowl. Cover with ice water. Let stand 15 minutes, then drain well. Brush fish on all sides with 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; stir 1 minute. Add tatsoi; sprinkle with salt. Toss until tatsoi is wilted but still bright green, about 2 minutes; divide among 4 plates.

Place fish atop tatsoi. Sprinkle each fillet with carrot; drizzle each with 2 tablespoons sauce. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Are you in need of a super easy week night dinner that takes literally a half hour start to finish? Voila! Everyone will love it, even the babies.

Fettuccine with Turkey Sausage and Kale
Yields: 4 to 6 servings

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb hot turkey sausage, casings discarded and sausage crumbled
1/2 lb kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 lb dried egg fettuccine
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano (1/2 cup) plus additional for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausage, breaking up any lumps with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 5 minutes. Remove kale with a large sieve and drain. Return cooking water in pot to a boil, then cook pasta in boiling water, uncovered, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander.

While pasta cooks, add kale to sausage in skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in cheese and thin with additional cooking water if desired.

Serve immediately, with additional cheese on the side.

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One Response to Getting in the Greens

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