Wild About Greens

Mothers who once championed the old dictum of “eat your veggies” now have a new refrain to the familiar song: “Eat your greens.” Having risen from the periphery of American grocery stores, once literally lining the deli cases as nothing more than colorful, long-lasting garnishes, kale has paved the way right back into the kitchen for all manner of leafy edibles. Finally, after decades of neglect, those oft-forgotten flowerless bouquets are finally welcome house guests, and there’s more than just romaine and spinach going into summer salad bowls. Still, the trend is only in its infancy, and after so many voluminous raw hodgepodges of discordant ingredients, what can really be done with these overgrown lawn clippings? And moreover, how can we prevent them from tasting as such?

Riding the crest of this wave is Nava Atlas, who brings us Wild About Greens exactly in our hour of need. Introducing a whole palate of varied greens to even the most inexperienced of cooks with a gentle, warm, and inviting tone, Nava will take your hand and guide you from the grocery store to the dinner table, and all spaces in between. Doling out equal parts reassurance and enlightening information, this book is definitely geared towards the greenest of beginners, but provides inspiring flavors to get anyone out of a produce rut. Such a depth and breath of different edible plants are covered, there’s likely to be something new for anyone to try. You may claim to be a kale expert, but how often do you cook with beet greens? What about watercress? Have you ever tried mizuna in your green smoothie?

In a comfortingly familiar cloak of tomatoes and herbs, the Italian Vegetable Ragout with Chard (page 126) would make an excellent introduction for those less enthusiastic about incorporating more greenery into their diets. Adding in the optional chickpeas turns this hearty side into a perfectly satisfying one-pot meal. Enlivened with a pinch of red pepper, the interplay between tomatoes that are both roasted and sweetly sundried is so flawlessly balanced, it’s hard to believe the whole dish came together in mere minutes.

Curry, another common, endlessly accommodating staple in my diet, gets new life with the simple addition of pungent mustard greens and tender spinach. Coconut Cauliflower Curry with Mustard Greens and Spinach (page 186) blends mild spices and coconut milk to create a rich, golden elixir of a stew. Safely falling into a child-friendly heat level, it’s an excellent meal to make for a family, and ramp up the hotter spices on individual servings, to taste. Mustard greens are a newer ingredient to me, and while I would rather eat grass clippings than a couple of its raw leaves, this creamy yet still light sauce can excuse a whole host of flavor flaws- Proof positive that it only takes the right cooking method to make even the most maligned greens easy to swallow.

The salad section is of course abundant with suggestions, and now that the heat of summer has come to stay for the season, those are very enticing pages to explore. Breaking out of my own personal food taboos, I fearlessly took Nava’s lead and combined fruits with savory vegetables (gasp!) and ate watercress raw for the first time, emboldened by the Sumptuous Spring Greens Salad (page 156). It seems silly to rave about a salad, but this one deserves all the praise. Much more thoughtful than just odds and ends tossed together, the combination of sweet yet tart green apples softens the bitter bite of radicchio and peppery flair from the radishes. Creamy avocado brings texture contrast to the party, a welcome reprieve from the crisp and crunch all around. It’s a kick-starter that makes one wonder, “why didn’t I try this before?” Simple even for a side, yes, but every bit as noteworthy as an elaborate main.

Thrilled to have any excuse to pull out my oft forgotten juicer, the section on beverages provides the confidence I frequently lack when it comes to combining greens with sweeter fruits. The Spinach and Lettuce Refresher (page 206) is, as promised, very refreshing indeed! An excellent beginner’s green juice, it’s mild, not at all bitter, and lightly sweet thanks to the addition of apples; no need to add the optional agave at all. Slightly tangy thanks to lemon juice, this beverage may just become the new lemonade around here.

The beauty of the recipes showcased in Wild About Greens is that they’re built to take on whatever you throw at them. Want to swap collards for kale? Go for it! Nava provides plenty of substitution advice, but the versatility of each preparation goes beyond that. It would take a concerted effort to ruin any of these recipes; go ahead and change the veggies, add beans, take away herbs, do your worst! Wild About Greens succeeds in removing the fear of failure from cooking with new ingredients, and can plant the seed for entirely new recipe ideas. It truly has never been easier to eat green.

It would be a downright shame not to spread these delicious ideas further afield, so I’m thrilled that the publisher has so kindly offered to share an additional copy for one lucky reader to win! If you’re looking to get more greens into your diet, tell me about your current favorite leafy ingredient, and how you like to prepare it. Links and recipes are encouraged but not necessary! The basic requirements, as per usual, are names and valid email addresses in the appropriate boxes. Please, only one comment per person, and be sure to speak up before Midnight EST on June 27th. I’ll contact the winner shortly thereafter, so keep an eye to your inbox.

UPDATE: The winner, chosen by the fair and just random number generator is…

The lucky commenter behind entry #7, 3littlebrds! Get ready to load up on the leafy greens, because you’re gonna want to put them to use right away!

92 thoughts on “Wild About Greens

  1. I guess I’m in kind of a green rut. My typical way to eat greens is either in a ginormous salad (I fill a huge salad bowl to the brim with organic baby spinach leaves, baby kale, & spring mix) OR in a green smoothie. I definitely need to be branching out more, but I’m always strapped for time so usually revert to these two quick & easy standbys.

    Looks like a fantastic book–love the title & the concept!

  2. Hi Hannah,

    I have been trying a variety of salads with fresh organic kale – massaging the leaves with a vinaigrette dressing and adding a combination of dried and fresh fruits, nuts, diced red pepper, cucumbers, red onion, garlic and tomatoes. I also prepare a side dish with julienned collard green leaves, garlic, shallots, shiitake mushrooms, dates in a broth seasoned with spices and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

  3. I’ve been trying to incorporate more greens in for a while now. I love adding gently sauteed kale to pasta dishes, baby spinach to smoothies and having a huge salad daily now that summer is here. I’d love to have more ideas from this book!

  4. Raw spinach with a tasty fresh vinagrette & a sprinkle of parm is the only veg my kids will happily eat. I would loooove to increase our greens repertoire!

  5. I MUST have this book – even if only for the Coconut Cauliflower Curry! Nava is a genius.

    I’ve been enjoying kale lately in the most simple way possible: sauteed in a drizzle of olive oil and with a pinch of sea salt.

  6. Favorite is kale in a green smoothie:
    1 mango
    3 mandarin oranges
    Thin slice fresh ginger(don’t put too much in it will be very spicy)
    1/2-1 tsp cinnamon

    Blend in a high power blender

  7. Definitely kale raw in a salad with avocado, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and grated carrot and beet. Yum!

  8. oh wow those salads looks absolutely delicious! I’ll eat my greens anyway i can get them! My fav though is the ol’ Chopped Salad Standby — so easy and delicious! yum! thanks for doing the giveaway!

  9. Kale in smoothies or a massaged salad are my two favorites right now. I just got a bunch of collard greens in my CSA share yesterday and am looking forward to experimenting with them.

  10. I Love greens, I planted a large selection in my garden this year. My favorite is swiss chard which I sauté and then stuff into a strudel with caramelized red onions, browned mushrooms, garlic, and chili flakes.

  11. I’m terribly boring, but I just love kale! Last night my boyfriend sauteed it and then tossed it with thinly sliced kohlrabi, lime juice, and pistachios, and it was phenomenal.

  12. You don’t like raw mustard greens?! Man, that is one of my favorite greens to just toss a bit in a salad. So spicy! Overall, spinach is my all time top green — I can just eat raw handfuls of it and I’ll throw it in just about anything. Lately, however, I’ve been eating lots of marinated, massaged raw kale.

  13. Beautiful pictures again Hannah! I love all greens and luckily live in a country,where there is a fantastic supply of them year around:)

  14. I absolutely love this book! Greens have never been a part of my life and I was wanting to welcome them but didn’t have a clue. Nava Atlas is a culinary genius!

  15. RIght now my favorite green is kale and I love it sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes! Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to win this book!

  16. Kale is my favorite and there are so many ways I like to use it. A massaged kale salad with apples and avocado, however, makes for a VERY happy Kristy!

  17. Spinach cooked the indian with: in a vegan Palak Paneer – with tofu instead of paneer. The spices and the creaminess of this dish are so delicious and I love to scoop little heaps of it with naan bread or roti.

  18. Hi Hannah! I love me some greens :) I’ve gone through 2 1 lb containers of baby spinach and baby arugula in the last 3 days! I love green smoothies, but my favorite way is just to have a big salad…baby arugula, chopped cucumber, red pepper, carrot, celery, raisins, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and Tomato-Curry Dressing…it’s heaven in a bowl!!

  19. Kale! It’s all about kale! I love to massage it, lightly dress it with tahini-lemon dressing, & toss with seasonal veggies. I also love a bright green juice. My favorite recipe was inspired by Kris Carr – generous handful of kale, another of romaine, 3-4 celery stalks, 1 cucumber, 1 pear, 1 lemon, & a 1 inch piece of ginger. I love Nava & am so excited for this new book! :)

  20. My personal favorite is kale, in so many ways! Raw in kale chips and smoothies… Cooked in honey “butter” or tossed with an Asian marinade and coconut chips… Yum!

    I’d love to win this book; like many, my biggest struggle is getting my kid to eat leafy green veggies. I’m hoping that this book would give me some new ways to present them for my picky teen.

  21. I grew up eating a lot of greens seasoned with pork. I am Southern, I am African American and that’s just the way it was for me. I started a plant based way of life only last year but I have “undone” a lot of wrong I had done to my health in just this short space of time.
    I still love greens, more so now than ever!! I now saute them with EVOO and season them with onions and garlic, etc! “I leave no green behind” and I love chard, cabbage, kale(so versatile} – I will not name them all but believe me, I eat them all(raw and cooked).
    My newest recipe is “Stuffed Collards”. I roll the leaves with black bean mixture of peppers and spices, and serve it up with baked sweet potato – it is fabulous!!!

  22. My favorite green of the moment is probably chard – love it as the green in a bowl with grains and protein, or as the green in a green shake.

  23. I am in love with raw kale salads this summer. I don’t remember the link but there is one delicious one that calls for kale, quinoa, white beans, and a generous dollop of hummus. Yummy.

  24. As tough as it is to choose, my favorite true leafy-licious green is escarole.
    My Grandmother taught me that the only way to eat it is sauteed in a pool of olive oil and as much garlic as I can find. Pair it with a hunk of bread or sit the fruity mess of perfectly wilted greens on top of some whole wheat penne. Not exactly healthy or low in fat but it is absolutely mouth watering.

  25. Summer is just kicking into gear here in Oregon, so I’m loving all the fresh green salads. I just go out to my garden at dinnertime, pick some lettuce leaves and mixed baby greens, give them a rinse, and Yum!

  26. My favorite green is Kale! I don’t have a specific favorite way to prepare, I just throw it into a lot of different things.

  27. I love beet greens because they are so tasty (and essentially a free, bonus veggie). I just saute them with garlic and a splash or two of soy sauce.

  28. Greens is about all I’ve gotten in my CSA box so far this year (okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration). My personal favorite is collard greens (and I’m not even a native southerner) and my quick-and-dirty prep method is to braise them with some onions and garlic in olive oil, adding some balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and vegetable broth. Simple and delicious.

  29. Beetroot greens, spinach, a bunch of cilantro, a bunch of mint, and a bunch of parsley or dill. Fry up some onions with fresh pepper and coriander seeds crushed together in a mortar and pestle, adding some whole cumin seeds and a little turmeric. Add a couple of cups of quinoa to lightly toast, add the greens until they wilt. Put in about three cups of water, juice from one or two lemons and salt (this can take a fair amount to match the bright lemony taste). If you are lucky and have some salted preserved lemons at home, dice and add some for an extra lemon kick – green olives don’t go astray either. Cover when the water boils and let sit on the lowest heat for about 25 minutes – a great greens ‘pilaf’ to have with marinated grilled tempeh and maybe some char grilled red peppers. Grilled haloumi is also an excellent partner with this dish. I’ll get around to writing this one up on my blog soon with photos!

  30. My favorite greens are bok choy, red lettuce leaf and arugula! I add sweet peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, sprouts, red onions, and marinate it with balsamic vinegar and top it with a big spoonful of hummus. Yummy!!

  31. My favorite leafy green is spinach. Lately, I’ve been blending it in the food processor with a green chili pepper and a bit of ginger. I then warm it up with some garam masala and cumin seeds. I serve this up with rice. It’s simple and delicious.

  32. Lots of fresh spinach over here right now, thanks to our CSA. I’ve had some luck getting my little boys to eat a bit if it’s briefly cooked in a little olive oil and a lot of garlic. Yum!

  33. Wild About Greens looks like a great cookbook! Pretty much everything I make has some kind of leafy green veg. Lately we’ve been making kale green smoothies for breakfast every morning—super yummy way to start the day!

  34. My favorite leafy green is definitely kale! I prefer kale because it is so incredibly healthy and is sturdy enough to withstand heat without getting too soggy. I love sautéing it and making a warm salad for dinner…lots of spices, add in some beans of some sort and definitely some red pepper flakes for spice. I usually just make it up as I go with whatever I have in the fridge, but I recently made this recipe for kale with chickpeas and curry and it was wonderful! Sometimes I use bok choy instead!

  35. I love spinach so much. I use it in pestos, sauces, and warm salads but I especially love to order palak chole at Indian restaurants.

  36. Yum! I’m a greens-loving kind of girl myself. That refresher in particular is calling to me…it’s hot and humid and I could use a little refreshing right now, lol!

  37. I love greens. Lately (while pregnant), I can’t get enough steamed kale. It’s so simple, but delicious!

  38. My favorite is kale! Usually I just cook until it lightly in oil and spices. Recently I’ve gotten my mom to eat kale chips and she loves them.

  39. For me it would have to be spinach or kale! I love to make green smoothies, just spinach, kale, berries and banana but I also love to make kale chips! So easy to make, and much better than potato chips :)

  40. I’ve been loving plain ole raw kale salads, massaged with a little lemon dressing and tahini. But green juice has also been shrinking my bank account!

  41. This book looks amazing. I am doing my first cleanse right now for Candida, so the last few weeks have been a fast and furious learning curve! It has been a challenge to re-learn my eating habits, but so far the results have been worth it.

    My favourite green is currently herbs from my little organic herb garden. I use them in absolutely everything, and I am very excited to freeze them and use them all winter.

  42. I usually steam kale with a little lemon juice. But I’m always looking for more creative ideas.

  43. My favorite vegetable dish is 小白菜 (baby bok choy) simply stir fried with sesame oil, garlic, salt ,white pepper and sometime a little heat from a chili is beautiful. Have a great weekend, BAM

  44. Hm… so hard to pick! I do have a huuuuge salad every day, and I think it has to take the cake – so romaine lettuce it is! So good, so simple!

  45. Oh, man, I can’t pick . . . it ‘s like asking which is your favorite child or animal friend. If forced, I would probably say kale since I think it is the one I always have in my fridge and use consistently, but I also love broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, beet greens, romaine lettuce, sprouts and so on! Would love a cookbook centering on greens!

  46. Oops! My favorite leafy green is currently pac choi…we’ve been using it in morning smoothies!

  47. Our CSA has been sending us oodles of Chinese cabbage, so right now our favorite is to use it in a stir-fry.

  48. I lov any kind of spinach salad, and I also love to make green smoothies with spinach or kale, and cucumber, celery, avocado, and water, and a little seaweed if I have it around.

  49. The CSA just started up and the greens are beautiful! I’ve been eating salad every single day and it is pretty glorious :) This looks like a beautiful book!

  50. I’ve been waiting for this book! I still have a hard time incorporating dark leafy greens into my meal plans without just sauteing and throwing them on a plate–though I did stuff my vegan grilled cheese with spinach the other day, delish! I love Nava’s cookbooks, and of course Susan’s photos are beautiful. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy…

    1. Hannah – I haven’t eaten greens for most of my life and had no real ideas for recipes. I LOVE this book. Try the polenta and spinach – I’ve made it a few times but without having the ingredients specified. Substitutions for the spinach and olives worked out great! ~ Renee Thompson

  51. I need this book! I always feel like I need to add more greens, especially dark ones like collards, kale, chard, I know they’re so good for me but I’m lacking in ways to prepare them and tend to find them really bitter! I try and have some kale every day but kind of have to cook them a lot or mix them really well into a stew or salad. However, there is a new amazing farm to table restaurant here in Houston and the chef performs miracles with vegetables, seriously! I’ve never had anyhting as delicious as his kale, or his kimchi, or his brussel sprouts (heavenly!) I would choose those greens over a dessert any day but I haven’t figured out how or don’t have the time to cook things the way he does.

  52. Kale is a favorite of mine, and I recently tried a new recipe with it. I made Kale with Grits Cakes from Alicia Simpson’s Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. Cooking the kale in vegetable stock with garlic and onions was a great idea and the perfect complement to the spicy grits cakes. I just served this kale dish to non-vegans at my grandma’s birthday party and everyone loved it. Some even had seconds!

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