20 September 2011

On the joys of not cooking "cooking greens"

Our garden gets too much sun for lettuce, but we have a LOT of cooking greens (mostly a variety of kale and chard).  Accordingly, we have gotten very creative at incorporating greens into just about anything - omelettes, casseroles, pasta dishes, stir frys, you name it.  And of course they are delicious wilted with olive oil and garlic, and drizzled with a little lemon from a friend's tree.  But I've gotten a lot of incredulous looks recently when I extol the virtues of eating our greens raw.  We don't buy lettuce anymore, we use the greens on sandwiches and in salads, something that I guess makes the kale-haters uncomfortable.

Everyone seems to have this idea that raw kale and chard are "bitter" and "hard to chew."  I stand here today (well sit here) to tell you that these are LIES and FALSEHOODS.  Raw greens are delicious (and super nutritious, but that's besides the point).  There are a couple of tricks that we have found that make kale and chard a delicious thing to eat raw.

1) Use an acidic salad dressing.  Most dressings have vinegar or lemon juice in them, but I know some people prefer a little drizzle of olive oil and nothing else.  But acid balances the bitterness of the greens.  If anything, we err on the side of ALL acid, and little to no oil.  In my opinion, lemon is kale's perfect compliment, and raw kale salad with a lot of lemon and a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper is just perfect.

2)  Put something sweet in there.  When I was in college, there was a little health food store (I know, health food in New Jersey?) down the street from campus that made this AMAZING raw kale salad that I have never quite been able to recreate.  It has lemon juice and olive oil (duh), pine nuts, and rice (yeah rice, it was awesome).  But the most important thing was it has dried cherries, or cranberries or something like that.  Those little pops of sweet were what made the salad and transformed the bitter kale into yumminess. I try to have Trader Joe's amazing dried cherries on hand or even better, fresh fruit, to make the greens salad more colorful and well balanced.

3) Chop the greens.  My dad is the king of the chopped salad, requesting almost every salad he orders to be chopped, even if it doesn't come that way on the menu.  Waiters hate him.  But I must say, I see his point of view.  When you chop everything up you get a little bit of everything in one bite.  And when you chop greens, the issue of them being "hard to chew" is moot.  They are small and crunchy and yummy.

So stop hating, raw-cooking-greens haters!  In fact, I think "cooking greens" is an unfair stereotype and should be abandoned.  Okay, that's a little much, I know, but I just wanted to share my love for raw greens.  Who needs lettuce?

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