Guess what I did this week? I climbed a mountain. (Specifically, Mount Wittenberg in the Catskills). For those of you who don’t know me personally- I am not the biggest fan of exercise. I am not in terrible shape, but let’s just say the extent of my regiment includes an occasional jog, sit-ups in the morning while still in bed, and a class called “hoopdance”. But I do enjoy exercise that is outdoors that has an ultimate goal, especially hiking to a destination. I am very driven by visual pay-offs, and Wittenberg definitely delivered.
On to the green stuff!
Some of you may be a little let down that I am talking about the green stuff we eat, and not some other green stuff I definitely definitely know nothing about. I have a feeling that there are a lot of unexplored parts of the produce section because we don’t really identify what’s there and we especially don’t always know what to do with it when we get home. Before I started cooking professionally, I never knew what “beet greens” were but I knew they were beautiful as I walked by. I was really excited for the initial kale craze that started half a decade ago because I feel like kale is now a staple in our food vocabularies and that is not only great for cooking but also great for our health.
Let’s start by organizing our green stuff into their proper categories:
- Lettuce – Boston, bibb, iceberg, romaine, red & green leaf, oak leaf
- Bitter Salad Greens – Arugula/rocket, belgian endive, frisee, escarole, mache/lamb’s lettuce, radicchio, watercress
- Cooking Greens- Beet greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, swiss chard
- Cabbage Family – Broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, bok choy/white cabbage, green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa/Chinese cabbage, savoy cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, collard greens
Lettuce start with the first two categories, since they are the ones that are typically eaten raw.
Boston (also known as a “butterhead” lettuce) is a very tender, soft leaf with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. This is a salad standard, although it is a pretty bland lettuce which will need the help of other flavors. Great for use in sandwiches and burgers.
Bibb (also a “butterhead”) – Is slightly smaller than Boston lettuce, and also with a mild, delicate flavor. Great for use in sandwiches and burgers.
Iceberg (also known as a “crisphead”) Pale green leaves and a mild flavor. This is pretty much useless unless you’re making a bomb wedge salad.
Romaine is a crisphead lettuce with a great crunch in the stems. Outer leaves are slightly more bitter than inner leaves. This is usually seen in caesar salads but what most people dont know is that romaine is delicious when braised or grilled.
Red and Green Leaf, Oak Leaf Tender, crisp leaves that will get a little bitter with age. Mild flavor with a slight sweetness, a versatile, colorful filler for salads.
Bitter Salad Greens:
read like a comic strip: Arugula, Endive, Martha’s frisee salad, Escarole, Mache, Watercress, and Radicchio
Arugula/Rocket: This one is a big favorite of mine both in it’s baby and adult states. Tender leaves, vibrant green, and a peppery flavor. This is great for salads, sauteed as a side green, and makes a great pesto!
Belgian Endive These are visually stunning in a salad. The leaves are crisp and juicy with a mild bitter flavor. They are also great halved and grilled, roasted or braised
Frisee Thin curly leaves with a “brambly” appearance. Mildly bitter, with yellow and white bitter center. This is great for adding texture to a salad, and especially when that salad has really rich components. Like lardons and poached eggs. (I love Martha, guys. There, I said it.)
Escarole This slightly bitter green holds up really well in soups, braises and stews. This soup is ridiculously easy and surprisingly delicious.
Mache/Lamb’s lettuce very tender, and very nutty. These delicate leaves should be served raw for salads.
Radicchio – Firm, deep red leaves with white veining. Bitter flavor, with a sturdy texture. This is the most versatile bitter green for everything from salads to baking, grilling or sauteeing. Grilling radicchio with romaine and endive makes for an awesome trio of bitter greens.
Watercress small, dark green crisp leaves with a mustard-like peppery flavor. This bitter green is great in mild sandwiches (like a basic turkey sandwich) and in soups and salads as a garnish since the flavor is so intense.
stay tuned for Part II which will cover cooking greens and the first half of cabbages!
And as always if you have any recipes or ideas to submit please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org