While many people think of winter as produce’s “off” season, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even in the depths of February, you can find tasty veggies like tangy Brussels sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes and, my favorite, dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and spinach.
I love dark leafy greens: the varied shades—from deep jade to pale chartreuse—the rich, firm textures, the unforgettable flavors. They’re also packed with nutrients. Dark greens like chard and spinach are high in vitamins A and K, while kale has almost as much vitamin C as an orange! I love to cook with them, too, though sometimes it’s tricky to come up with ideas beyond your basic salad or braise. That’s why I was so excited to head down to New York a few months ago to interview chefs at Mario Batali’s Italian food mecca, Eataly. I got all sorts of tips about cooking and prepping greens from two veggie-savvy chefs, Kiah Lotus and Alicia Walter, featured in the March/April issue of EatingWell Magazine. Here are a few things I learned:
The best way to de-stem greens. “It’s simple,” says Alicia Walter. “Just hold the tough stem in one hand, grab the leaf with the other and pull.” The leaf should separate from the stem, no problem. Either discard the stems or chop them and cook them with your leaves.
The best way to keep greens fresh in the refrigerator. Moisture is the enemy of greens, so make sure you keep them dry. If you wash greens before you store them, wrap them in paper towels to absorb any extra water and place them in an airtight container. Or, as Kiah suggests, just store them in your salad spinner. “It’s airtight, and if there’s any residual moisture, it drips to the bottom, so it’s not in contact with the greens.”
How to cut bitterness in dark greens. Blanching is the best bet. “It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it,” says Alicia. Drop greens quickly into a large pot of boiling water and cook until they turn bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer greens to a bowl full of ice water to quickly stop the cooking.
When it comes to cooking dark leafy greens, simple preparations yield stunning results. Try one of these simple recipes for dark leafy greens tonight!
Salsa Braised Kale 
Braising kale in salsa and topping it with cheese makes a delightful side dish for your favorite Mexican meal. Different brands of salsa have varying amounts of sodium. Sometimes prepared fresh salsa is the lowest.
Parmesan Spinach Cakes 
If you like spinach-cheese pie, try these simple but elegant-looking little spinach cakes.
Chipotle Cheddar Chard 
The bright assorted colors of rainbow chard are especially lovely in this spicy, cheesy dish. Make a double batch and enjoy it as a quesadilla filling, as we did often in the Test Kitchen for lunch.
Kale Chips 
Not a fan of kale? These crispy baked kale chips will convert you! For the best result, don’t overcrowd the pans.
Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins 
Pine nuts and sweet golden raisins brighten up sauteed spinach.
What’s your favorite winter green? Tell us what you think below.