I used to always cook my dark leafy greens like kale, broccoli rabe and mustard greens to death. I did that because I thought I had to, to get rid of their sharp, cruciferous and often bitter taste. That's probably why my husband met my "we're having kale for dinner tonight, honey" announcement with something less than enthusiasm. He always politely choked the stuff down, but I bet he would rather have been eating castor oil.
That's until I discovered a new technique for "massaging" bitter greens with a tangy dressing using your bare hands. Sound weird? It kind of is, but hear me out: By squeezing (or massaging) raw bitter greens you actually start to break down the cell walls, releasing enzymes that split apart the bitter-tasting compounds. And, you also work in the flavor of the dressing. (We like lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, olive oil and a splash of reduced-sodium soy sauce, but you can experiment with any dressing.) Who knew the solution to overcooking dark leafy greens to make them palatable was actually not cooking them at all? Here's the basic technique:
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1. Start with kale, mustard greens or even broccoli rabe. Remove the tough stems.
2. Wash the leaves (and your hands). Tear the leaves into small pieces and put them in a large bowl.
3. Pour your dressing in (enough to coat the leaves) and squeeze the leaves in the bowl together with the dressing until the leaves darken in color and the volume shrinks to about half, and you're done!
Here a pungent garlicky dressing is infused into kale by massaging the greens and the dressing together with your hands. Any type of kale will work in this kale salad recipe, just remember to remove the tough stems before you start.
2 bunches kale
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 minced anchovy fillet or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Strip leaves from the stems (discard stems). Wash and dry the leaves. Tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add Parmesan, oil, lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce, anchovy (if using), pepper and salt. With clean hands, firmly massage and crush the greens to work in the flavoring. Stop when the volume of greens is reduced by about half. The greens should look a little darker and somewhat shiny. Taste and adjust seasoning with more Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce and/or pepper, if desired.
Per serving: 185 calories; 15 g fat (3 g sat, 10 g mono); 6 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 321 mg sodium; 370 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: vitamin A 234% daily value, vitamin C 159% dv, calcium 18% dv.
What's your favorite way to cook (or not to cook!) dark leafy greens?
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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