Greens aren't just good for you, they're good, too

February 5, 2014 

Nutritionists tell us to eat more leafy green vegetables. There is little doubt that green vegetables are healthy and they can be quite delicious at the same time.

If your diet includes a healthy doses of spinach, collard greens or even cabbage, then you are ahead of the pack, but some green veggies are under appreciated or have earned a bad reputation that is undeserved.

Perhaps at the top of the list is kale. Kale can lower your cholesterol, lower the risk of cancer, detoxify your system, and it even has some anti-inflammatory benefits. It sounds as if this green ought to taste like cough syrup, but it is in fact delicious.

Brussels sprouts, bok choy and broccoli are also on the under-appreciated list. No matter the type of green vegetable you choose to cook, remember to buy the freshest you can get your hands on. The best place to shop for any vegetable is at your local farmers market. If that isn't an option, buy what you can get at the grocery, take it home, trim the ends and place in a shallow bowl of water. This will plump them up and revitalize them just a bit.

Central to the discussion of cooking healthy greens is whether to add a protein element. Old-time recipes always call for ham hocks, smoked ham or other pork products, but, while adding tons of flavor, it does little to keep the recipe healthy.

Other healthier options include using cubes of chicken or turkey from the deli or just reducing the amount of pork flavoring you use. Perhaps half strip of smoked bacon would be a good choice, or lean, smoked pork chops. Another option is to skip the pork completely and count on heavier seasoning, red pepper flakes come to mind, as a good choice. Dropping a whole egg into the broth to poach is another good idea.

Lastly you could choose an Asian option by using fresh herbs like Thai basil or cilantro, sliced jalapeno pep

pers, lime and a little soy or hot sauce.

SIMMERED KALE SOUP

1 bunch kale

2 cups chicken stock

2-3 chopped cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 egg per person

Sauté the garlic in the oil for 2 minutes, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the kale a handful at a time, stirring and wilting as you go. Simmer until tender, just 5 minutes or so, add the red pepper, vinegar and the egg. Simmer just until the egg is poached. Taste and re-season as necessary. This is quite good with Asian style noodles or a side steamed rice.

BEEF AND BROCCOLI

When prepared properly this dish is absolutely delicious and when paired with steamed jasmine rice it is close to divine.

1 pound thinly sliced sirloin

1 pound broccoli

2-3 chopped cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the marinade

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1-2 pinches black pepper

For the sauce

1/4 cup organic chicken stock

1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon best quality soy sauce

Combine the marinade ingredients, add the beef and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Next combine the ingredients for the sauce and whisk thoroughly. Simmer the broccoli in a little water until tender, 3-4 minutes. Using a wok or a good cast iron skillet, heat the oil until smoking, drain the beef and stir fry it very quickly until medium rare. Add the garlic and cook just 1 minute more. Add the sauce and the broccoli and simmer just a minute or two. Combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water, add to the sauce and simmer again until the sauce is thick. Serve with lots of steamed rice.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND PANCETTA

This is a very simple recipe, but it is deceivingly good.

1 pound Brussels sprouts

4-6 ounces cubed pancetta or black pepper bacon

Olive oil as necessary

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts, pancetta, olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl, pour into an over proof flat pan and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. When the sprouts are tender drizzle with the vinegar and olive oil, toss to coat and serve immediately.

BOK CHOY AND NOODLES

Chinese-style wheat noodles

8-10 bunches baby bok choy

4-6 Asian-style pork meatballs

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

2 cups chicken stock

1 pinch red pepper flakes

Cut the meatballs into quarters and brown in a little oil, add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, season with the pepper flakes. Add the noodles (use pre-packaged ramen style noodles if you like, but discard the flavor packets), cook until tender, just 2-3 minutes, and then strain from the stock. Cut the ends of the bok choy off so that the leaves are separated, add to the simmering stock and cook until tender. Add the noodles and serve immediately.

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