Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Colorful Winter Vegetables

Yesterday I wrote that green vegetables are nutritional power-houses, particularly dark leafy greens like kale, collard and dandelion greens, chard, mustard and beet greens.

Calorie for calorie, they're a highly concentrated source of nutrition, rich in phytonutrients, vitamin K, minerals and even Omega-3's.

Yet for some, the slightly bitter, sometimes tough leafy greens are about as appetizing as old shoe.

I had a comment from a reader yesterday who said, "I've never had success making kale taste good, which is key when it comes to feeding it to your kids."

Children tend to be highly sensitive to the bitter flavor so it is challenging to get them to eat dark greens.

I remember sitting at the dinner table refusing to eat spinach, my mother hovering in the background threatening me with "You'll sit there till you eat it." So I sat there for hours.

What she didn't realize is that mixing bitter with slightly sweet makes the bitter flavor far more appetizing.

For instance, in the pic above, I've sauteed in olive oil a rasher of turkey bacon with a medley of winter vegetables:
  • brown onion and a clove of garlic
  • peeled and chopped butternut pumpkin
  • sliced red cabbage -- all slightly sweet veggies
  • and topped the dish with pieces of leafy kale.
The bitterness of the kale is not the stand-out flavor in this braised dish. The soft, smooth, sweet pumpkin dominates, and for kids this combo of texture and flavor is far more palatable.

So if you inner kid still cringes at the thought of a side of bitter greens, try combining greens with sweet, colorful, winter veggies.

Another tip for cooking kale into palatable bliss came from a friend on facebook: Judi grows her own green, red, white Russian and lacinto kale.

Her favorite way to prepare her kale is to saute a combination of leaves with caramelized onions (this link goes to my recipe for caramelized shallots but you can apply it to brown or white onions).

The natural sweetness of the onion, plus caramelizing it in brown sugar and butter, offsets the bitterness of the kale creating a sumptuous and rich veggie side.

Celery is a slightly bitter green most often thought of as a summer-salad item. Yet it's fabulous cooked since the process of heating it both breaks down the sinewy fibers and lessens the bitter flavor.

It's also a great alkaline vegetable as are the vegetables discussed above. If you have a predisposition to acidity, integrating more alkaline foods into your diet is a must for your health.

Braised Celery with Eggplant

1) Wash and chop up several sticks of organic celery.
2) Peel and chop a brown onion and a clove of garlic.
3) Chop an eggplant into bite-size pieces.
4) And either chop an organic red bell pepper or wash a handful of cherry tomatoes.
5) In a skillet saute the eggplant in olive oil over high until it browns slightly. Turn heat down and toss in all remaining ingredients, except tomatoes (if you're including them).
6) Add a chopped dried or fresh herb such as basil, sage, thyme or oregano.
7) Put lid on skillet and gently stew on low for about 10 mins; at the last minute, toss in cherry tomatoes.

To Serve:
Season to taste, drizzle with a grated dry cheese like Romano or Parmesan. You might enjoy this medley of veggies over a bowl of shell or spiral pasta topped with a couple of the meat balls I posted last month.

1 comment:

Sami said...

This looks absolutely yummy. And healthy to boot! Definitely would need this for my vitamin k requirements. But can I use coconut oil instead of olive oil, you think?