Lettuce, kale and spinach, oh my!
From the desk of Laura Foresta, RD, LDN…
June has arrived, and along with it the New England Farmer’s Market and CSA (community supported agriculture) season. I picked up my first week’s CSA share on Thursday and was delighted with the fresh baby spinach, mustard greens, kale, green onions, salad greens and bok choy. I can’t wait to see what next week’s box will hold!
Many of my clients have sworn off vegetables after being forced to sit at the dinner tables of their youth until they finished their vegetables. Others tell me they don’t like the taste of most vegetables. My suspicion is that many people haven’t had vegetables prepared well, so they think all vegetables taste terrible, bland and flavorless. I remember being served a vegetable medley at a local restaurant that consisted of frozen crinkle cut carrot slices, broccoli and cauliflower that were freezer-burned and overcooked until there was not a bit of flavor or texture left in them. I bet this is what my clients think vegetables are.
Perhaps this is the time for a disclaimer: I’m a foodie. I love good food, and I encourage my clients to eat good food. I believe vegetables are delicious and deserve a starring role at meals rather than being relegated to side dishes. I invite you to experiment with purchasing and preparing vegetables in a whole new way.
Start with your local farmer’s market – most of the produce there has been picked fresh that morning, and will be at the peak of its flavor. Overcooking or boiling vegetables causes them to lose a lot of flavor. Experiment with sautéing vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard or broccoli rabe with a small amount of olive or canola oil, chopped garlic or onion and a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes (this is how Grandma Foresta cooked most of her veggies – all to rave reviews!). If the greens (broccoli rabe, chard or kale) are too bitter for your liking, boil them for a minute or two, then drain before sautéing. This will remove some of the bitter flavor components. You will lose some nutrients when you do this, but not as many as if you boiled for the entire cooking time. Consider saving the cooking water for a vegetable stock for later use.
Cook your vegetables until they are their brightest color – broccoli and green beans are done when they are bright green. If they’re olive green, they are overcooked and will have a different, and some say less pleasing, flavor. Carrots are done when they are bright orange. Cook vegetables longer if you prefer a softer finished product or have difficulty chewing harder vegetables.
Try adding fresh herbs for additional flavor and nutrients. Try fresh dill with carrots or cucumbers. Fresh basil is wonderful with fresh sliced tomatoes. Try marjoram, oregano or tarragon with green beans. Marjoram, rosemary or sage are delicious with summer squash. When using fresh herbs, add them toward the end of the cooking time. Dried herbs can be added earlier in cooking.
Check out this website for a directory of Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets to find the market nearest you! http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/farmers_markets.htm
Local Harvest can connect you with CSAs, farm stands and farmer’s markets in your area. http://www.localharvest.org/
Consider OMBE’s personalized farmer’s market tour for your own private guide to choosing produce, recipe ideas and health benefits of our area’s local fresh food. Call 617-447-2222 today to book your tour!
Laura Foresta is a registered, licensed dietitian and nutrition coach with more than 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. Laura provides individual and group nutritional counseling, community nutrition workshops, and corporate lunch-and-learns and wellness programming.
Many of Laura’s clients come to her after having ridden the weight loss roller coaster for years, only to come off the ride at a heavier weight and more confused than ever about what to eat. Balancing nutrition, exercise, work, and family is challenging in our fast-paced, stress-filled world. Imagine how different your life would be if you made peace with your food and your body.
It is possible to achieve your natural, healthy weight and improve your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, all while enjoying the foods you love. Laura is passionate about helping you feel more confident about your food choices and trust your ability to eat healthfully.