As a molecular gastronaut, I like to explore what the actual act of cooking does to food and how my body reacts to different foods prepared different ways.  Science shows us how, for pretty much 90+% of us, green leafy vegetables are very good for us.  In fact, they’re seriously good for us and needed in much larger portions than our parents or Grandma would boil for us.

Science of molecular gastronomy tells us that Arugula, Swiss chard and Dandelion greens are three of the best vegetables we can put into our bodies. Grown wild and human assisted for the past 200 years in Virginia.  Leafy dark greens boast an impressive nutritional profile. Rich in vitamins A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C, they are also great sources of calcium and magnesium, iron, and folic acid.

Arugula, also known as “Rocket” is universally viewed as a weed in the majority of the world and gets discarded and un-noticed.  Now it cultivated and we pay through the nose.

One of the most popular wild greens we eat in these new nutritional “aware” days is Dandelion greens. Granted they are delicious and very notorious but are also the primary image used on the label of Round Up.  I guess that’s the equivalent of a “Sports Illustrated” cover if you’re a weed.

Swiss Chard (which is actually a type of Beet) grows wild in the Mediterranean and is an excellent source of vitamin E, a nutrient that is usually only found in high-fat foods. It is also high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Each of these three greens presented also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are believed to help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.  Extremely rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A, can improve an individual’s immune function.

Everything I’m reading these days tells me that cooking the Greens with a small amount of fat, such as olive oil or butter, will enhance the availability of these nutrients.

So, people… hear that again.  Adding fat to these vegetables is necessary to make them more nutritious.  Following this logic… Butter now becomes necessary and wholesome! 

Parmesan Chard Bake

I, like many, am a big believer that anything with cheese on it will taste better. A chard/greens bake is sure-fire way to introduce greens into the table. It’s simple and you’ll come up with your own version in time.   The tomato pepper adds a very light bite to the dish. Try a few combinations to see which you like.  All types of nuts work great. Rule of thumb the better the cheese, the better the bake. 

3 lbs Chard, stems & leaves washed & cut in 2’ strips

1 bunch green onions, chopped

6 tbs Butter, unsalted preferred

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Fontina works too)

1 sm Tomato pepper, Chopped (Found in a jars in the pickle section)

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanch the stems ONLY for 5 minutes

Add the leaves for 2 minutes.

In a bowl, place the chard, add the onions, tomato pepper and light salt and pepper and toss lightly with your hands. Transfer to an ovenproof dish

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it browns and pour over chard. Toss again.

Evenly place the grated cheese over the top of the chard and bake for 13 minutes.  Cheese should get bubbly.  If you want the top brown and crunchy, turn your over to broil and cook for another 2 minutes (but keep your eyes on it!)

Warm New Potato Salad with wilted Dandelion greens and Arugula Aioli

One of the few potato salads that looks as good as it taste. If many of you had a grandmother like mine they substitute Bacon fat for the Aioli. The aioli is abit healthier, but not by much.

1/2lb Dandelion greens washed & dried, stems removed chopped into 2” pieces

11/2lb new potatoes, quartered

1/3cup Olive oil

1 Lemon, zest only, save juice set aside (1/4 cup)

3 cloves Garlic

¼ cup Kalamata olives or your favorite olives varietals

Cook the potatoes “al’dente.  Meaning leave abit of crunch in them.

In a bowl mix the lemon zest, garlic and olive oil together.

Heat a small sauté pan over med heat. Add 2 tbs of the lemon zest mixture and the dandelion greens stir and toss for 2 minutes, add salt and pepper and toss again. Add the potatoes and lightly fold together.

Locavore Arugula Aioli

1 cup Arugula leaves, washed stems removed

1 garlic clove

2 Egg yolks, med

1/2cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the Arugula, egg yolks, garlic 1 tsp of the olive oil and 1 tsp of the lemon juice In a food processor, blender or in a bowl with a hand held Puree the ingredients, with the motor running on low add the remaining oil in ONE CONTINUOS SLOW FINE STREAM. As emulsification occurs it’ will thicken.

In the potato/dandelion greens mixture bowl add a small amount of the aioli and toss gently until mixture is well covered