Maybe it was simpler back a few decades when supermarkets carried only a few fresh vegetables – and stocked the frozen and canned aisles with insipid, overcooked, chopped or creamed green veggies.
Nowadays, if you shop at a farmer’s market or Asian market, or even a good supermarket, the variety of leafy greens can be a bit overwhelming.
The first section of the book includes a general guide on how to buy, store, and cook greens, with advice like:
My general rule is that a stem less than an eight of an inch thick can be pretty much treated the same as the leaves; cooking time will have to be adjusted upwards, but only slightly. With larger, but not enormous stems – say those between an eighth and a quarter of an inch- I usually strip the leaves, chop the stems, and begin cooking them first, adding the leaves only after the stems have begun to become tender. (p. 7)
Good advice is you are facing a pile of Swiss chard or beet greens.
There are no photographs, but there are handy drawings by Francesca Palazzola that can help guide you if you are buying at a stand without English signs. Each kind of green leafy vegetable is described, with variations, buying, nutritional information and cooking guide. Many are grouped together – if you bought Chinese broccoli or Bok Choi, check Chinese cabbage. Kale and Collards get separate listings, along with Sea Vegetables (seaweed).
The recipes also list plenty of variations. A Creamy Kale Soup (p. 53) with garlic, and marjoram, can be made with broccoli raab, collards, mustard, or turnip greens. A Sorrel and Potato Soup (p. 63) has a unique flavor, but Bittman suggests you can use arugula, cress, dandelion and plenty of other greens to make a similar – but very different tasting soup. There are wonderful side dishes like Spinach Tossed with Lima and Chiles (p. 128) – simple, yet capturing intense flavor. This isn’t a vegetarian book, so the Main Courses include recipes like Cornish Hens on a Bed of Savoy Cabbage (p. 159) and Fish Fillets en Papillote with Spinach (p. 169).
If you are struggling to add more dark, leafy greens to your diet, or just want to figure out what to substitute for what – Mark Bittman is an confident guide with Leafy Greens.