Green Cooking Demo

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Cabbage, cilantro, parsley, Swiss chard, avocados, green peppers, chilies, leeks, scallions and chives, snow peas, petit pois (young green peas), split peas, spinach, tomatillos (used in salsa), kale, collard, mustard and beet greens, romaine and endive are just some of the greenery that clients can use to brighten and fortify March menus.

Soup is usually on the menu during the cold month of March. Suggest using split peas (which also come in yellow and orange) as a base. If there's no time for soaking, simmer split peas slowly in lots of water, seasoning with diced onion, carrot, celery and white pepper. For a thick, a-fork-will-stand-up-in-it kind of soup, allow peas to cook until they form a soft paste and add cooked, diced potatoes and garbanzo beans and continue to simmer until desired texture is achieved. For a smoother texture, puree this soup, or thin out the paste with chicken or vegetable stock and add rice and carrots. For an interesting side dish, (we learned this from a Norwegian friend) allow the split peas to cook until they've reduced down to a texture close to mashed potatoes. This is served with steamed or baked fish as a colorful, flavorful side dish in the cold winter months.

Green cabbage is a versatile kitchen ingredient; suggest the many ways it can be added to the menu. Demonstrate how to use separate leaves for wrapping savory mixtures of stuffing (cornbread or whole wheat bread stuffing) or rice with chopped veggies and nuts. Shred green cabbage and use in stir-fries, soups and stews.

Have clients participate in preparing a traditional St. Patrick's Day side dish, colcannon, with sauteed onions and cabbage mixed into mashed potatoes. The cabbage adds texture and nutrients to the mashed potatoes and can be served as is or shaped into potato cakes, coated with bread crumbs and baked; the addition of eggs or egg substitutes to colcannon brings you to a colcannon croquette, formed into triangles and baked in the oven. This can be quickly prepared with mashed potato mix and preshredded (available in the produce section of the grocery store) cabbage. If you have the time and the facilities, plan a New England boiled dinner featuring steamed cabbage (traditionally cut into quarter heads, not chopped or diced), steamed potatoes, onions and carrots, served with corned beef or pot roast. In addition to green head cabbage, suggest steaming bok choy (Asian cabbage with a sweet-tasting stalk and leaves that resemble spinach), Napa cabbage (a pale green cabbage that resembles Romaine lettuce) or kale. Swiss chard is really a beet, but resembles dark cabbage leaves. Rainbow chard is currently available (if you can't find it, contact Frieda's at www.friedas.com or 714 826-6100, in California) in many markets. The leaves remain green, but the stalks can be pink, red, gold or purple- very attractive and a great way to get people to eat their greens.

March is a green month. Create a green cupboard, with clients bringing canned or dried green vegetables, herbs, pasta, etc. Post an inventory of the cabinet with nutritional values and ideas for using the products.

Think Green - Think Nutrition

Here are some nutrition notes to use as "selling" points for a 4-ounce serving of green veggies:

Romaine lettuce has 2600 IU of Vitamin A, 24 mg of Vitamin C and 36 mg of calcium (as opposed to iceberg lettuce, which has 330 IU of A, 4 mg of C and 19 mg of calcium). Romaine doesn't have to be just for the Caesar salad; try braising it in a small amount of chicken or veggie stock and serving it as a side dish or as a "bed" for entrees.

Endive (also known as chicory, or radicchio if it's red) has 4000 IU of Vitamin A, 24 mg of Vitamin C and 100 mg of calcium. Shred it and use it in green, pasta, or seafood salads or as a crunchy garnish for soups or stews.

Kale is the king of green, having 8900 IU of Vitamin A, 120 mg of Vitamin C and 135 mg of calcium. Kale can be chopped, raw, and added to salads or used as a garnish for soups, stews and casseroles. Steam it quickly, with a small amount of garlic and chopped onion and serve as a side dish.

Escarole (broad-leafed chicory) has 2000 IU of Vitamin A, 6 mg of Vitamin C and 187 mg of calcium. Very high in fiber, with a peppery, astringent taste, escarole is a good counterpoint to mild lettuce in green salads or shred and use in stir frys or soups.

Boston or Bibb lettuce is a sweet green with 970 IU of Vitamin A, 8 mg of Vitamin C and 35 mg of calcium. Use in salads or as a wrapper for spring rolls (filled with cooked rice or barley and chopped greens!)

By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

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