It is fascinating how traditional ways of composing meals have included what we now recognise as health-promoting elements. For example, the salad courses of France and the USA. And yoghurt included in every meal in parts of India. And in parts of Italy it is common to serve a green vegetable on its own as a pre-dinner course or snack.
The Italian greens course is so easy to bring together – simmer or toss some greens, dress, season, serve. It is a great practice – why not try it this month, for the whole month?
Eat Your Greens! An easy way to include greens each day
Choose your greens. They can be any leafy green such as spinach, swiss chard, lettuce (the ones that can be cooked), Asian greens, any cabbage – regular cabbage, savoy cabbage, wombok (napa cabbage), etc – cavalo nero, broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, zucchini and any type of bean. Uncommon greens can be used – Mustard greens, chilli leaves, leaves of beetroot. Amaranth leaves are a little tough but young ones can be used.
Chop your greens coarsely.
If using greens with stalks, remove them and set aside.
Put a saucepan of salted water on heat and bring to the boil. Add any stalks and cook for 2 minutes. Add the greens and simmer until tender but not overcooked. For harder vegetables, we want them to be cooked more than al dente – they need to be tender and giving, even very tender, but not to the point of being soggy and overcooked.
When cooked, strain the greens, and place onto some kitchen towels layered on a plate, to soak up any excess water. Give them a minute or so here and then place them in a bowl. Dress with some lemon juice or fine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (ratio 1:3), then season carefully with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lemon juice is a gentler option for these dishes, but other souring agents can be used. Try palm vinegar, umaboshi vinegar or some Asian vinegars (red sauce and black vinegar spring to mind). Sometimes a drop will be enough, depending on the acidity of the product. Other alternatives to vinegar include tamarind water or amchoor powder.
Other oils can be used, for example walnut oil or hazelnut oil are excellent alternatives in Summer.
Roasted garlic can be added to the greens (or simmer some garlic cloves with the greens). Serve the greens and optionally accompany with olives and buffalo mozzarella, or shaved mozzarella, parmesan or pecorino. Alternatively, sprinkle with some flaked nuts, crispy garlic, crispy curry leaves, crispy sage leaves, crispy ginger or crispy onions.
A small dish of these greens each day will rock your world!
recipe notes and alternatives
Replace the mozzarella with ricotta, feta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or even a dollop of marscapone.