INDIANAPOLIS - One of my favorite things about the seasons changing from winter to springtime to summer is the abundance of farmer's markets. And with an abundance of farmer's markets comes an equal abundance of fresh vegetables, specifically leafy greens and lettuces.
I love lettuce and I love greens. Whether it is old school Iceberg or fancy-schmancy heirloom varietals, lettuces and greens are versatile enough to eat with any meal, or become the entire meal quite easily.
Lettuces and greens come in all shapes, colors, flavors and textures. For more traditional taste buds, Iceberg and spinach can easily be chopped up and tossed to make a side salad at dinner.
But if you you're willing to be a little more adventurous, there are many greens out there to try.
Twinkle's Top Three Greens:
My favorites tend to lean towards the spicy, bitter side of the spectrum, because honestly, I get pretty bored of regular ol' salads pretty quickly. To jazz up a salad or add more distinct flavor, I usually rely on Arugula, Frisée or Mâche. (Or all of them together)
They aren't really all that exotic, but these three definitely add an extra punch to your salad bowl when Iceberg or spinach can sometimes leave your taste buds wanting more.
Mache, or Lamb's Lettuce, is distinctively small. It resembles sprouts or watercress more than leafier fair. It has a lot of body, albeit bitter, it is perfect for creating a salad with nuts and creamier, full-bodied cheeses or as bedding under dishes like grilled salmon or chicken.
It's also better for you than some other greens, like most foraged field greens, boasting three times as much vitamin C, beta-carotene, B6, B9, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Frisée, also know as Curly Endive, is also a more bitter green, but one with feathery personality, a crunchier texture and bright color. The leaves go from dark green at the leaf tips to light yellow and then white at the stems, making a fresh dish brighter as well as greening up your garnish.
This green can be cooked or eaten raw, but I prefer it in raw form on most occasions. Again, these greens are higher in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients.
Arugula is the most bitter of the three and quite frankly my favorite. This green can be eaten plain, in a salad, on sandwiches and even sautéed. It wasn't used widely until the 1990s, previously a foraged green or only grown in small amounts.
Its popularity soared with chefs as well as eaters and now you can find it in dishes everywhere around the globe.
Another healthier choice in the greens family, arugula leans more towards spinach than the others, and is by no means lackluster. Historically in Italy, arugula was the end of the meal dish, mixed with oils and other greens; this aromatic dish was eaten to settle full bellies. Quite a twist on how we view dessert today.
It's not easy being greens
Normally, I'm all for just tossing some things in a bowl and saying, "Let's go!" when it comes to salad. Oftentimes my main course is much more than just a bowl of salad and dressing, with the greens on the side.
However, I believe arugula is more than just a simple side dish. It can shine as an entrée as well. Nobody puts arugula in the corner.
Twinkle's Arugula and Tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup couscous
1 lb. arugula
Generous amount of olive oil
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup of goat or feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbs. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Cook the couscous in the boiling water about 8 minutes. Add 2 tbs. olive oil and turn on low for five minutes. Cover and set aside.
Chop the arugula and garlic cloves roughly.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add a little olive oil just when the pan becomes too hot to touch.
Begin adding the arugula handful-by-handful, letting the each addition wilt completely. The last few will still be a little unwilted.
Toss in the chopped basil, tomatoes, cheese, and couscous and turn the heat to high, cooking all the ingredients for about 3 minutes.
Remove from stove, adding lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Serve up in large dinner bowl adding just a drizzle of olive oil on top.
For more on food and for more recipes check out twinklevanwinkle.com.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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