Thursday, March 4, 2010

Easing into Leafy Greens + Three Recipes to Try

I realize I may be venturing into bloggy exile with this one as most of the comments I get come from posts about desserts. And fattening things. There are fattening things, here, too, though. Just scroll down a bit. :)

I'm a fairly new convert to sturdy leafy greens like chard, kale, and collards, and the thought of eating a cooked pile of "lettuce" used to give me the willies. Leafy greens, though, are serious nutritional powerhouses. Plus they're pretty. I think the rainbow Swiss chard I got in my CSA box a couple weeks ago was the most gorgeous vegetable I'd ever seen. Check out the colors!!


I was looking through my file of things I needed to post, and I realized I had three recipes using Swiss chard. A minute or two later I realized that all three of these recipes are pretty rich and contain cheese, eggs, pasta, and/or cream. A couple times a month I like to make something a little indulgent, and because our weekly CSA box provides us with copious amounts of vegetables, I try to sneak some into pretty much everything I make. I guess it helps to justify all the calories. And the girls end up eating more vegetables that way.

These recipes probably aren't things you'd make every day, but they'll gently ease a person into becoming comfortable with greens and perhaps give you ideas on how to incorporate more greens into your cooking. If you're a party pooper, you can always lighten them up, too, by holding back on the cheese and opting for lighter dairy products.


A few tidbits about using greens:

1. Most greens are pretty interchangeable in recipes. If a recipe calls for kale, and your grocery store doesn't have it, use a different type! Just avoid using salad greens like iceberg, Romaine, and butter lettuces. Spinach is OK if the greens are cooked into something, like the recipes in this post, but it will cook and wilt faster, so keep that in mind.

For most sturdy greens, the spines are removed and discarded, leaving the leaves to cook with. If you're using Swiss chard, you can certainly cook up the stems as well. They cook longer, so add them earlier in the recipe. I haven't tried cooking other types of stems, but they seem to be a lot tougher than chard.

3. Greens wilt pretty easily when not stored well. It would be best to wrap them in a wet paper towel and stick them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. To perk them up, just give them a bath in some ice, cold water.

4. Speaking of baths. . . Greens have recently been in the news for health reasons, and not the positive kind. Contamination and illness caused by eating greens is NOT from the greens themselves, but from the commercialized processes used to grow them (if they aren't organic). Rinsing with water is not enough to remove chemicals and bacterial contaminants. I use a vegetable/fruit rinse from Trader Joe's, but I'm sure most grocery stores should carry something similar. There are also recipes online for homemade vegetable rinses. Just google it. Or buy your greens from a local farmers market.

And now for the recipes . . .
Double-Dutch Mac and Cheese
Swiss Chard Lasagna
Asiago and Winter Greens Quiche

Food blogging is rough sometimes in the winter when there's no daylight after 5PM. That's when I resort to photos the day after in leftover containers. This stuff was so good -- I don't even care what it looked like!

Double-dutch Mac and Cheese with Chard
adapted from Bon Appetit May 2009

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups (packed) shredded aged Gouda cheese
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Edam or Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stems and center ribs removed (about 2 bunches)
12 ounces elbow macaroni
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, then flour; stir constantly 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups coarsely grated Gouda and 1 cup Edam. Stir until cheeses melt, about 2 minutes. Stir in cayenne and nutmeg. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Cook chard in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer chard to plate; cool. Reserve pot with water. Squeeze water from chard; chop finely. (This can be done a couple days in advance.)

Return water in pot to boil. Add macaroni; cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Stir macaroni into warm cheese sauce. Place half of macaroni in dish; smooth top. Top with 1 cup Edam cheese, then chard. Top with remaining macaroni mixture; spread evenly.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Place breadcrumbs in medium bowl. Drizzle butter over; toss. Add 1/2 cup finely grated Gouda and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over mac and cheese.

Bake mac and cheese until breadcrumbs are golden and edges are bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Nat's Notes:
1. I used the aged Gouda (whoa. . . so good), but substituted a less expensive Swiss for the Edam. The name "Double-Dutch" comes from the fact that Gouda and Edam are both Dutch cheeses.
2. I halved this recipe, and it turned out wonderful!
3. If you'd like to use the chard stems instead of discarding them, simply dice them up and add them to the onions in the beginning of the recipe.
4. To make fresh bread crumbs, stick a couple of slices of bread into a food processor or stir a tablespoon or so of water into some dry bread crumbs and let them sit for a few minutes.

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02 - February13

This was the first time I'd ever used asiago cheese by itself and not part of an Italian cheese blend. I LOVE it. It's like a blend of Parmesan and Swiss cheeses. This lasagna comes together really quickly and can easily be lightened up if you're worried about calories. I'm glad I used red chard for this because it gave the lasagna pretty pink streaks. :)

Swiss Chard Lasagna
from Food Network Magazine February 2010

6 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 bunch Swiss chard, finely chopped, leaves and stems separated
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
1 large egg
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
7 ounces asiago cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Soak the lasagna noodles in a bowl of hot water until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. (Don't put the noodles in the hot water until the chard is almost done cooking. Mine got really soft, so I drained the water, and then they stuck together after a few minutes.)

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chard stems and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted, about 3 more minutes.

Mix the ricotta, cream, egg, parmesan, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

Brush a 2-quart baking dish with oil and add 3 noodles in a single layer. Top with half of the ricotta mixture, chard and asiago. Repeat with the remaining noodles, ricotta mixture, chard and asiago. Cover with foil and bake until the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until bubbly and golden, about 5 more minutes.

Serves 4-6.

Nat's Notes:
1. I thought that the picture shown in the magazine portrayed a LOT more chard in the lasagna. You could easily put two bunches into this instead of one.

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02 - February12

I had a some asiago cheese leftover from the lasagna and a fresh bunch of Swiss chard in the fridge, so I played around with a quiche. This was definitely a triumph. My girls especially loved this, and Sophie kept calling it a "quiche cake".

Asiago and Winter Greens Quiche
by Natalie, with a little help from the big Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

3 T cooking oil
1 leek, rinsed and chopped into small pieces (1/4-inch)
1 bunch of Swiss chard, kale, or any other leafy green (about 1/2 lb), stems and leaves separated -- both chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 T)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
dash of pepper
1 T flour or cornstarch
1 cup shredded asiago cheese (about 5-6 oz)
dash of nutmeg
single pie crust, pre-baked

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large skillet, heat oil to medium-high heat. Add chopped leeks and stems to the skillet. Cooking, stirring frequently until vegetables begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add chopped leaves, chopped garlic and lemon juice. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, another 6-8 minutes. Remove vegetables from the heat and set aside to cool.

While they're cooling, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the shredded cheese and flour, mixing well to coat evenly. When the greens are slightly warm, add them to the egg mixture. Add the cheese to the egg mixture and stir until everything is thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The quiche is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Nat's Notes:
1. My pie crust didn't get too dark, but if yours does, cover the edges with some aluminum foil.
2. You could substitute any sharp-flavored cheese here, like Parmesan, manchego, feta, or even Swiss.
3. To prep a leek, cut off the darker green parts and use the rest as you would a green onion. Make sure to rinse them well -- leeks are known to be really gritty between layers.

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Originally posted HERE.


  1. I am litterally drooling. I already love my veggies, but mix in a bunch of cheese and I am in love! yum!

  2. OMG, I love the look of that lasagna and quiche!! My kids will eat any kind of veggie - I'm SO lucky in that respect (they might be hellions, but at least they eat their veggies!) - but I'm always happy to slip them in to make things extra yummy!

  3. That quiche looks fabulous! I've made quiche once, and it didn't turn out well, but here's hoping I can pull this one off!


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