Food shoppers can't help but notice of late the proliferation of leafy greens turning up in produce stands, supermarkets and farmers markets.
Bunches of kale, spinach, arugula, chard, bok choy and more can be found in abundance.
During a recent walk through the produce section of a supermarket, one young woman was heard asking her friend, “But how do you cook this stuff?”
Nava Atlas has the answer with her new book “Wild About Greens” (Sterling Epicure, $29.95, hardcover).
It is a valuable resource for home cooks who want to learn some of the basic methods of preparing leafy greens in dozens of different ways.
“I think shoppers have come to realize how versatile they can be,” Atlas said in an interview from her Hudson Valley home in New York state.
She was inspired to compile the book when her husband, Harry Chaim Tabak, an accomplished gardener, planted too much Swiss chard in 2009.
“I really was not prepared to deal with all of it and rather than giving up the crop to the groundhogs and rabbits, I devised alternative ways of using it, including preparing, freezing and other methods,” Atlas says.
As a vegan and a huge fan of fresh greens, she embarked on the writing of the book with enthusiasm and gives instructions on the basic preparations for these leafy vegetables.
Atlas includes chapters with recipes for making dishes of greens with beans, grains, pasta and other vegetables.
She also explains how to incorporate greens into soups, stews and salads, dressings and dips.
“Your health and well-being will certainly be enhanced if you toss tender raw spinach, arugula and watercress into salads,” Atlas says. “And if Asian greens make it into your repertoire when you quickly wilt them into stir-fries, delicious fruit smoothies with added spinach, you will find out how addictive raw kale salads can be.”
Speaking of kale, it is one of her favourites for its versatility and sweet flavour that can meld with other vegetables.
“It is also amazing how a big batch of greens cook down to a smaller amount,” Atlas says. “A day doesn't go by that I don't incorporate greens into something like a dish of sauteed potatoes dressed up with garlic and olives.”
She even includes a section on grilling with greens such as broccoli rabe, baby bok choy, escarole and kale chips.
“Kale chips are such a big trend now, especially with kids,” Atlas says.
Here is her recipe for grilled kale chips:
Grilled Kale Chips
Cut washed and dried curly kale leaves into large bite-size pieces. Rub olive oil into the leaves until they are evenly coated.
Place them in a grill basket (even if you are using the electric grill, since this makes it easier to stir them). Cook the leaves until they are crisp and starting turn brown.
Use a small metal spatula to stir them frequently. Season the kale with nutritional yeast. When done, season with a little salt, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, Cajun or salt-free all-purpose seasoning.