Nutrient-packed, dark leafy greens grow best in cooler weather – making them in season right now. Many people often shy away from dark greens such as arugula, collards, and kale because of their bitter reputation, but when you pair them with a sensible amount of flavorful ingredients like bacon, feta-cheese, garlic, walnuts or even a little butter (shhh, I said a “little”) its easy to balance their bitterness. Study the list below to learn about the various winter greens and determine which of them you might enjoy best. Try the Bold Winter Greens Salad located under the “recipe” tab.

ARUGULA

Taste: pleasantly pungent and peppery.                                                                                                                                                             Best in: Salads and sandwiches.  Also known as rocket (in England, rocket salad is used as a garnish on just about everything – even eggs!), rugula, and rucola, the leafy green is a staple of Italian fare and often found in musclun (young tender greens) salad mixes. I like to think of this green as a cross between lettuce and herb.

Substitutions: Watercress, endive, or young mustard greens.

BROCCOLI RABE

Taste: Broccoli rabe, a cooking green popular in Italian cuisine, resembles tiny clusters of broccoli florets amidst bunches of leaves which have a slight bitter flavor.                                                                                                                                       

Best in: The leaves are best cooked or sautéed to bring out the flavor (the stocks can often be too bitter to eat).           

Substitutions: Chinese broccoli, dandelion greens, or Swiss chard

COLLARDS

Taste: At no surprise, collards taste a bit like cabbage – since collards are a variety of cabbage.                                             

Best in: A variety of world cuisines. If you’re from the south, you’re probably making your greens with bacon or ham hocks; Italians simmer them in bowls of minestra.

Substitutions: Kale, mustard greens, or turnip greens.

ENDIVE

Taste: Prickly texture and slightly bitter taste.     

Best in: Salads or stirred into soups and bean dishes.                   

Substitutions: Escarole, mustard greens, arugula, or spinach.

ESCAROLE

Taste: Like its relative, Belgian endive, its slightly bitter.      

Best in: The young tender leaves are best in raw salads. Because escarole is more delicate than other hearty greens, it doesn’t require a long cooking time – great if you want dinner on the table in a hurry.

Substitutions: Mustard greens, arugula, or spinach

KALE

Taste: Earthy and cabbage like.                 

Best in: Kale’s sturdy leaves are excellent sautéed and added to casseroles like lasagna, for example. 

Substitutions: Collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, or spinach

MESCLUN

Taste: Mildly tangy              

Best in: A mixture of baby greens served raw as a salad.              

Substitutions: Arugula, romaine, and spinach

MUSTARD GREENS

Taste: Spicy and peppery; the smaller the leaves, the sharper and hotter the taste.         

Best in: Stir-frys or sautés. To tone down the mustard greens’ assertiveness, blanch the leaves in salted water before incorporating them in a recipe.        

Substitutions: Escarole, kale, Swiss chard, or spinach

SPINACH

Taste: Mildly bitter and earthy            

Best in: A wide variety of salad and entrées. Be sure to wash spinach thoroughly as dirt and sand tend to cling onto the leaves. 

Substitutions: Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, turnip greens, escarole, and arugula (for salads).

SWISS CHARD

Taste: Chard is in the same family as the beet, so you may detect some beet-like flavor in the ribs of the leaves. The leaves have a tendency to taste very intense, much like spinach.                 

Best in: Swiss chard’s hearty leaves are excellent when added to cooked dishes such as casseroles, stews, and lasagnas.

Substitutions: Beet greens or spinach

TURNIP GREENS

Taste: Cooked, turnip greens can be pleasantly pungent and bitter.

Best in: Braises, stews, and sautés.

Substitutions: Mustard greens, collards, kale, Swiss chard, or spinach

WATERCRESS

Taste: Peppery with a touch of mustard (its a member of the mustard family).

Best in: Salads and as a garnish

Substitutions: Arugula

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