Verdura – The Italian Way with Greens

I’m getting reacquainted with an old cookbook favorite, Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style by Viana LaPlace, a great collection of simple, earthy recipes, published almost 20 years ago but still as appealing as ever.

Because I’ve been on a mission to increase the amount of leafy vegetables in my cooking and to make daily greens a serious habit in my life, getting inspired to cook all manner of vegetables seems to make sense, too.

I have to admit that up until now I never imagined my hunger for green things would get to this point. That is, I love to eat bowlfuls of nothing else but green leaves, raw or cooked. It’s surprising since my hunger cravings have always tended toward heaping piles of tangled spaghetti, crusty bread or anything else with a satisfying load of carbs.

I still do love those things, but found that the more I incorporate some kind of green, leafy vegetable into every meal, the more I want to eat them. I might add some baby spinach leaves to my whole grain English muffin and poached egg for breakfast; a small pile of arugula to whatever I eat for lunch and some kind of wilted greens with dinner.

For wilting, I use pretty much the same method whether I’m cooking Swiss chard, Tuscan or Lacinato kale, bok choy, beet greens, pea shoots, spinach – whatever I have on hand, and it was inspired by Boston chef Barbara Lynch from her book Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition.

I remove the stems and chop them separately from the leaves:

I sweat a thinly sliced shallot in olive oil with a pinch of salt and some red chile flakes until just tender, a minute or two, before tossing in the stems, cooking them until tender. Then in go the washed greens, with water still clinging to the leaves:

I cover the pot for another minute or two, just until the heap of leaves softens and wilts, when they’re ready to adorn the dinner plate or simply get eaten straight out of the pan.

Luscious Lemon Squeezer

I try not to share recipes that require specialized gadgets or unneeded kitchen appliances, but I’ve been loving my juicer so much lately that I’m hoping to inspire you to go out get one of your very own.

Yes, freshly squeezed citrus and vegetable juices can be found in lots of grocery stores, but they are no comparison to the fine stuff you can juice up at home and drink on the spot, which still tastes vibrant, fresh and alive. Another bonus is that you can be much more creative in experimenting with various combinations of your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Most commercial juice is pasteurized, which destroys some vitamins and the other good stuff in the process. There seems to be small chance that the produce we buy – organic, local or otherwise – will have some invisible, bacterial nasties living on their surfaces, so it’s always a good idea to wash the fruit or vegetable you plan to juice if you’re going to throw them in the machine skin-on.

The recipe below is very, very flexible and happens to be what I like to drink right when I’m thirsty, especially after exercising, and depends on what I have on hand. Sometimes I go crazy and add some green leaves to my juice, but I understand if that sounds too hardcore.