This time of year, chef Heinz Sowinski said, greens are the kitchen go-to.
He said the dark, leafy vegetables of winter are some of the most underrated ingredients available to home chefs. At La Maison on Telfair, where he is chef, he serves trout on a bed of spinach, and at New Year's, his menu included collards and wild boar.
Whatever the green, he offers this hint: "All of them like a little sugar. Try maple syrup, honey or a sweet vinegar."
At Manuel's Bread Café in North Augusta, chef Manuel Verney-Carron recommends a balsamic vinegar reduction, a touch of sweet to balance the natural bitterness of greens. The restaurant uses greens picked from Blue Clay Farm, which Mr. Verney-Carron owns.
He likes greens because they're easy to substitute and adapt.
"Cooking times change but most are interchangeable," he said. "You just have to taste and see."
Greens are excellent sources of vitamin A and vitamin C, said Jill McCoy, a registered dietitian who works at The Family Y in Augusta. She also is president of the Augusta District Dietetic Association.
"Lutein, a carotenoid that colors spinach, kale, collards and their cousins, may help to keep arteries from clogging," she said. "It may also protect eyes from macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness in the elderly."
Ms. McCoy figures that a lot of people don't eat fresh greens because they are unfamiliar with them. She tells folks that "some of the nutrient values of frozen cooked vegetables are actually higher than the fresh cooked or raw, so consumers can feel confident that they can still get great nutrition by eating frozen cooked vegetables when these same vegetables are out of season."
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Roasted kale makes for an easy and healthful snack or a garnish to other dishes, such as soups and risottos.
1 bunch of kale
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkling of sea salt
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Garlic powder (optional)
Set oven to 300 degrees.
Trim stems from the center of kale and chop leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Toss in extra-virgin olive oil and lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once halfway through, until kale is crisp. Watch carefully in the last few minutes. Sprinkle with salt, or if desired, cayenne pepper or garlic powder.
Makes 4 servings.
Chef Heinz Sowinski likes this simple preparation, which balances sweet, sour and heat.
1 large bunch of collard greens, washed and ribs removed, then cut into 3-inch strips
1½ quarts water
1 teaspoon of beef base
1 teaspoon of chicken base
1 ounce apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce such as Texas Pete (not Tabasco)
Place all ingredients into a soup pot. Bring to boil, lower heat and cover; simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add salt as necessary.
Makes 4-6 servings.
White Bean Soup with Roasted Vegetables
Chef Manuel Verney-Carron is fond of this recipe, which used a shortcut of canned beans and plenty of fresh vegetables. The recipe would also work well with spinach, added at the end of the 30-minute simmer.
3 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, cut into wedges
½ small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut lengthwise into ½-inch wedges
6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 15 ounce can of Great Northern white beans, drained
Set oven to 400 degrees. Brush baking sheet with thin coat of olive oil and arrange carrots, squash, tomatoes, onion and garlic on sheet. Drizzle with more oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast vegetables until tender, about 45 minutes.
Cut squash and carrots into half-inch pieces and set aside. Peel garlic cloves and puree in food processor with tomatoes and onion until almost smooth. Add vegetable puree to a large pot and add six cups of broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add carrots, beans, and squash to soup. Simmer another five to 10 minutes, adding more broth to thin soup as needed. Season again with salt and pepper and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Makes six servings.