Green Eats: A new leaf

Fresh, cooked or baked, greens are not only food for you but they're also delicious.

Green shakshuka (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Green shakshuka
(photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
I have a neighbor who makes a “green shake” every morning, using a seasonal mix of lettuces, Swiss chard, spinach, fresh herbs, bok choy and sometimes kale and mustard leaves that she finds in the Ibn Gvirol branch of the Nitzat Haduvdevan health-food stores in autumn and winter. Sometimes she blends them with fruit, other vegetables or yogurt. Sometimes she adds frozen wheat-grass juice. She swears by it.
I understand why. Rich in vitamins – particularly B vitamins – minerals, fiber and chlorophyll, green leaves are considered to enhance the digestive process, eliminate toxins such as heavy metals, help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, slow down macular degeneration and cataract development and deter a host of other natural effects of aging. Quite impressive for a bunch of green leaves.
But to drink them is another story. I must confess that when I tried a pure green shake or smoothie for the first time in New York it gave me the runs, and on every occasion that I attempted to imbibe wheatgrass juice, I felt like a cow in pasture (the Lord, I thought to myself, never intended that we should eat grass).
But green leaves themselves, fresh, cooked and baked, thoroughly please my palate. I love spinach (particularly the tered Turki – Turkish large-leafed spinach, in season now and available in open-air markets), delicate long-steamed bok choy, baby Swiss chard (mangold) leaves and fresh salad herbs like mustard cress (rashad) and the large-leafed arugula (rather than the smallleafed rocket). I love to stir-fry them, cook them with various kinds of lentils and beans, make them into patties and the like. Here are a few suggestions.
✔ 1 kg. spinach (preferably Turkish spinach) ✔ 2 garlic cloves, minced ✔ 1 medium onion, finely chopped ✔ 1⁄2 cup wheat germ or 70% whole-wheat flour or 100% whole-wheat flour ✔ 4 tsp. olive oil ✔ Salt and pepper to taste ✔ Nutmeg
Rinse the spinach and remove stems. Place the leaves in a pot without draining, cover and steam 4-6 minutes or until they begin to wilt. Drain thoroughly and shred the leaves between the fingers or lightly chop.
Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and form small patties. Add additional oil or flour if necessary. Place on a sheet of greased parchment paper and bake in a preheated 180ºC oven until the patties are lightly browned on top. Turn, sprinkle with a little nutmeg and continue baking till lightly browned and firm on top.
GREEN SHAKSHUKA Makes 4 servings
A great dish for a brunch, lunch or light dinner. Use any combination of greens you like.
✔ 2 cups packed rinsed spinach leaves ✔ 6 Swiss chard leaves, rinsed ✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 1 onion, thinly sliced ✔ 4 Tbsp. boiling water ✔ 1 ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella or crumbled feta cheese to taste✔ 4 eggs ✔ Salt and coarsely ground pepper
Dry the spinach leaves and chop them. Dry the Swiss chard leaves. Tear the green parts of the leaves into pieces and chop. Cut the stem widthwise into thin slices.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the sliced stems and quick-fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the onion and steam 5 minutes. Add the spinach and Swiss chard leaves, season with salt and pepper and steam 5 minutes. Add up to 4 Tbsp. boiling water to the frying pan if the greens are too dry, and cook another minute or two.
If using fresh mozzarella, crumble it on top, cover and cook over lowest possible heat until it melts. (If using feta, sprinkle it on top of the eggs you will cook.) Remove the cover and break the eggs, one at a time, into the pot. Cover and cook about 3 minutes or till the eggs are ready the way you like them. If using the feta, sprinkle it on top and around the eggs, cover for two minutes and serve.
Baby spinach leaves are available prewashed in supermarkets. If you can’t get them, try using Turkish spinach instead.
✔ 6 cups baby spinach leaves, stems trimmed before measuring ✔ 3 cups arugula leaves, stems trimmed before measuring ✔ 11⁄2 cups fresh basil leaves ✔ 1 medium head red cabbage, shredded ✔ 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced red onion 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan ✔ 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil ✔ 2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed ✔ 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ✔ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse the trimmed spinach, arugula and basil leaves and pat dry. Let dry thoroughly. Wrap in a kitchen towel, place in a plastic bag, and chill till just before serving.
Cut the red cabbage in half, remove the core and shred thinly with a sharp knife. (May be prepared several hours in advance. Place in a bowl, cover tightly or seal with plastic wrap and chill.)
Combine the chilled greens, red cabbage, red onion and toasted pine nuts in a salad bowl. Just before serving, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Gently toss and serve.
Variation: Add 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.