Know Your Greens
Some greens listed below are traditionally served raw in salads, but are also tasty when cooked. Likewise, many greens which are often cooked, can be tossed raw into salads. Experiment with the leafy goodness of these special greens.
Arugula or Rocket Salad: A tender, mustard-flavored green with a bitter flavor is a favorite salad ingredient in many European countries. Arugula resembles radish leaves in both appearance and taste. Arugula is sold in small bunches which should be fresh and bright green. To store, wrap the roots in damp toweling and place the bunch in plastic. Refrigerate and use within a day or two.
Beet greens: Look for crisp, green or reddish green leaves. They can be steamed or sauteed.
Belgian Endive: Also called witloof, is a member of the chicory family. Look for tightly furled heads of creamy white color. The leaves should be pale yellow at the tips and the center of the stem should "give" slightly. Its snappy taste is perfect for salads. Belgian endive can also be steamed, braised, sauteed or baked. Store in a paper bag and refrigerate in the vegetable drawer.
Collards: Wide-leafed greens with a cabbage-like flavor, are traditionally cooked slowly for several hours to yield very tender eating. But they can also be simmered in a seasoned broth for 20 to 30 minutes. Season collards with garlic, onion, chili peppers, ginger or curry. Try them topped with a cheese, curry or cream sauce.
Curly endive: This relative of the chicory family has a bunchy head with frilly leaves and is popular as a salad ingredient. The pale leaves from the center are mild, while the outer green leaves are slightly bitter. Look for fresh-looking, green heads. Use promptly.
Dandelion greens: Cultivated dandelion is similar in texture and flavor to curly endive with a tangy taste. Select fresh greens with thin stems. The small pale leaves can be used alone in salads; larger greens can be combined with other salad greens or cooked. Do not overcook, for long cooking doesn’t improve the flavor. Refrigerate in plastic and use within a few days.
Escarole: Sometimes marketed as Batavian endive, this popular salad ingredient is a broad-leafed cousin of curly endive. Look for crisp, green heads. Refrigerate in plastic and use promptly.
Flowering Cole (Flowering kale, Salad Savoy): Attractive ruffly-edged leaves of cream, violet and pink make attractive garnishes and salad ingredients. It can also be cooked, with a taste similar to mild cabbage.
Kale: Its ruffly leaves are greenish-blue to green with a mild cabbage flavor. Kale is as versatile as both spinach and cabbage. Try it steamed or blanched, then sauteed, cooked just until crisp tender. Add to soups, or combine with cheese for main dish pies or turnovers. Very tender, young leaves can be added to salads. Select fresh-looking kale and store refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag. Use within a few days, for kale develops a stronger and more pronounced bitter flavor when stored too long.
Lettuces: Iceberg, romaine, leaf and Butterhead (Boston and Bibb) varieties-each have their distinctive qualities in texture and taste. Create exciting salads with a combination of crisp and smooth varieties. Choose fresh-looking lettuce of good color and appearance for the variety. Keep refrigerated in plastic and use promptly for freshest performance.
Mache (also called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce): A tender, velvety green with either a mild or sweet, nutty flavor. The leaves can be either broad or narrow in shape, dark or medium green in color, round or spoon-shaped. Select fresh-looking bunches. Mache is very perishable, so use immediately.
Mustard Greens: These oval-shaped leaves with frilled or scalloped edges have a sharp, nippy taste. Young, tender leaves can be added to salads, providing a radishy “bite” along with its attractive appearance. They benefit from slow cooking which creates a mellow flavor; or blanch them and add to soups, creamy purees or sautes. Select small leaves for salads; any size for cooking since tenderness doesn’t depend on size when cooked.
Rapini (Broccoli de Rabe, Rapa or rape): A medium-sharp flavored green with edible stems and small bud cluster, a favorite in Italian cooking.
Spinach: Whether crinkly or flat, select fresh-looking green leaves. To prepare for eating raw or cooked, first wash the leaves well; then remove the stems. Fold each leaf lengthwise along the stem with its underside facing you and pull the stem down as close to the leaf tip as possible.
Spinach can be quickly cooked in just the water that clings to its leaves after rinsing. Cover and cook only a few minutes until wilted - do not overcook. Garnish buttered, cooked spinach with freshly grated cheese, toasted almonds or deviled eggs. Or add raw spinach to salads with sliced fresh mushrooms, crumbled egg and crisp bacon dressed with a mustard vinaigrette.
Swiss Chard: A delicate tasting vegetable with stalk-like stems and broad crisp leaves. The ribs can be either red or white, cooked like celery or asparagus. The flavor of either variety is the same - similar to beets, since chard is a relative of the beet family. The leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked as other greens.
Select chard with firm ribs and fresh, crisp green leaves. Keep refrigerated in perforated plastic bag and use within a few days.
Turnip greens: A sharp-flavored green which is traditionally cooked in a broth, flavored with a piece of salt pork or smoked ham hock for 30 to 60 minutes. Select fresh, crisp and green leaves.
Watercress: A member of the mustard family, this peppery green offers spicy flavor. Because of its attractive foliage, watercress is often used as a garnish, but is delicious tossed into salads, soups, stir-fries and sauces. Select fresh bunches with crisp, green leaves. Keep refrigerated in plastic and use within a few days.