“Your mother was right. You should eat your greens.” -The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook
We know this. We know we should eat our greens. We have been told this since we could understand the mother tongue, and just as soon we developed the craft of subterfuge and learned the time-honoured methodology-passed on from high chair to high chair- of not eating them.
Hidden under knife and fork, spread around on the plate, tucked into a rolled-up napkin or accidentally thrown into the air or onto the floor, the fine art of avoiding the green things on our plate is a right of passage and a skill that many of us are reluctant to give up. Even though we know greens are good for us, we stick to our old habits and our old belief systems.
One of the major reasons for this misguided belief comes from a sad but likely probability; many of us were forced, at an early age, to eat unpalatable green stuff. Back during our impressionable cavity-prone years we were presented with a ruined pile of limp, exhausted soggy broccoli the colour of defeated and deflated army fatigues, canned peas whose only hope of culinary redemption was to be squished into a submissive and shameful blob of something called “mushy peas,” of asparagus boiled to death, and god forbid, the most horrific of all, a bitter green blob called “spinacheatititsgoodforyou”
How wonderful to be an adult and eschew green things altogether and/or carry on the tradition and force your offspring to feel your pain in a what does not destroy you makes you strong kind of way.
Of course, there is another option. Learn how to cook-or not cook- leafy greens and other vegetables well. Simple, basic recipes that do not ruin the integrity, destroy the nutrition or beauty of the harvest. Do his and discover how delicious leafy greens can be. We recently reviewed another greens-focused cookbook, which is a great little tome, but doesn’t into nearly as much detail about the somewhat mysterious and many named plants of the leafy greens world. Which brings us to said book, Susan Sampson’s new The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.
“To help you make the most of these tantalizing vines shoots and stalks, this detailed and comprehensive guide tells you everything you need to know about the types and varieties of leafy greens, from loose-leaf lettuce to kale, not to mention more exotic offerings such as African bitter leaf, Japanese mustard greens and Maritime fiddleheads”
This cookbook will be a real eye-opener to a lot of us who might be a little intimidated to tackle that strange-looking extra-terrestrial cabbage, or for those of us who haven’t got a clue about what to do with something right under our feet, for example, the ubiquitous and lowly dandelion green. There are 250 recipes in this book, dealing with 67 leafy greens and veggies. Sixty Seven! That’s a lot of green!
For each variety of green, Ms Sampson details a little of their history, both culinary and anthropological, other names by which it is known, varieties, health information, equivalents, substitutions, tasting notes and of course, recipes. Everything you always wanted to know about leafy greens but were afraid to ask.
Let’s continue with dandelion greens as our example, since I’ll bet it’s not something you buy everyday. Wow, what a colourful list of nicknames: Blowball, cankerwort doon-head, clock, face clock, Irish Daisy, milk witch, monk’s head, swine’s snout, pee-a-bed, puffball, telltime, witch’s gowan (is that where famed Canadian rocker Gowan got his name?). Hint: it is probably best not to use any of these names when trying to get picky eaters to try it.
Whether you opt for a bittersweet salad made from fresh dandelion leaves, like Dandelion Salad with Balsamic Pepper Strawberries or prefer to braise them for Dandelion Linguine with Chevre and Garlic, this book will ensure that you do the humble dent-de-lion justice.
Aren’t you glad your mother was right?
Dandelion Linguine with Chevre and Garlic*
12 oz linguine
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil
1 bunch dandelion greens (10-12 oz trimmed and coarsely chopped, about 5 cups)
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 cup vegetable stock
4 large cloves garlic, minced
6 0z chevre (goat cheese) broken into chunks
1) In a pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine over medium heat for about 15 minutes until al dente. Drain.
2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil until shimmery. Add dandelion greens and salt and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly wilted. Add stock. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until tender.
3) Remove from heat and stir in garlic. Add chevre and hot linguine. Toss with tongs to combine. Season to taste with pepper. Serve immediately.
* If you want to raise the eco/culinary profile of this dish, use Ontario garlic and chevre.