Not all nutritionists come out of the womb loving healthy food. When I was a kid I hated every vegetable known to mankind. Green vegetables were the worst. To this day, looking at a package of frozen spinach still sends a shiver down my spine.
Popeye's favourite food always created a power struggle at our dinner table. My mother tried to coerce me into eating the green wet lump on my plate by smothering it with butter. "Linda, you don't know what you're missing. It tastes like popcorn," she'd say.
Kids will believe a lot of what their parents tell them but the idea that spinach tasted like popcorn was too much for my five-year-old brain. My mother was clearly playing me for a fool.
Inevitably I'd burst into tears and my mom, not wanting to pass up a good opportunity, manoeuvred the green wad into my bawling mouth. I fought back by not chewing and swallowing. Instead, I pocketed the mass chipmunk-style. My stalling tactic worked until my father firmly pinched my cheeks forcing the spinach down the hatch.
Over the years, I've come to love leafy greens by discovering delicious ways to prepare them. Now, spinach is folded into steaming risotto or wilted in salads dressed with warm vinaigrettes. Arugula is mixed into salads or tucked into sandwiches. Hardier greens like Swiss chard, kale and rapini are sauteed with garlic, shallots and lemon or simmered in soups.
One of my favourite dishes is farfalle with greens and asiago. It's a quick, inexpensive and nutritious meal. Any kind of leafy green works here but if using Swiss chard or kale, discard the tough stalks. If you don't have farfalle (bow-tie pasta), substitute with other short pastas such as penne.
Don't be put off by the amount of olive oil and garlic in the recipe. The garlic mellows out while simmering in the oil. And eating leafy greens with fat makes prominent nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin K and vitamin E more available to our bodies for absorption.
- Farfalle with Greens and Asiago (serves 4 to 6) What you need:
* cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of capers
* cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 pound farfalle
3/4 pound washed greens, roughly chopped
1 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
optional garnish : toasted walnuts or pine nuts
How to make it:
In a small saucepan warm oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and stir until slightly golden, approximately four minutes. Add capers, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Stir together and remove from heat. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions or until tender but still firm to the bite. If using kale, chard or rapini, put into boiling water with the pasta for the remaining three minutes of the pasta cooking time. Stir well to combine with the pasta. Drain the pasta and greens, reserving 1 cup of the water.
Place pasta and greens in a large serving bowl and add garlic, caper and sun-dried tomato mixture along with the grated cheese. Toss well. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Add reserved pasta water if needed to moisten.
If using tender greens like arugula or spinach do not cook in pasta water. Instead, place directly in serving bowl and top with drained pasta and * cup of reserved pasta water. Toss to wilt the greens. Add the garlic, caper and sun-dried mixture and cheese as described above. Add more pasta water if needed.
Linda Watts is a registered dietitian. Email her questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.