Eating healthily isn’t fun even during normal circumstances, when we get to have our treats in other ways, such as “socializing with people outside our homes” and “attending events.” But right now, when all we have to look forward to are snacks, it makes perfect sense that we’ve been overindulging in toasty slices of homemade sourdough bread with thick slabs of cold butter.
But it’s time to get back into the swing of things, at least a little bit, and regain something like normalcy in our kitchens (although the sourdough habit might stick around for a while). As a very dedicated homecook who subscribes to a general healthy-ish, “how do we make this taste indulgent while actually making it really pretty good for you?” cooking philosophy, I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to make greens taste actually good and not more or less exactly like dirt. Here’s a sampling of some of my all-time favorites, utilizing a variety of greens—including a few you may have just been throwing away!
Za’atar Roasted Carrots With Carrot Top Pesto
This recipe requires only about ten minutes of prep time (the author claims it’s a five-minute prep, which is only possible if you’re an octopus) but yeah, it’s extremely quick for such an elegant-looking dish. Carrot greens are a surprisingly tasty, underutilized part of one of everyone’s favorite vegetables. They’ve got a bit of brightness to them, like parsley, while still having an earthiness, similar to kale, but sweeter. I love the pesto variation they’re used in here, which is absolutely delicious (and would also be great on top of pasta, if you wanted to be less healthy about it).
Roasted Grape and Farro Kale Salad
Let’s be real—kale tastes a whole lot like soil, and is extremely tough. But over the past few years, like everybody else who’s remotely swayed by food trends, I’ve gotten into figuring out ways to cook it. This recipe doesn’t call for massaging the kale, which is fine so long as you chop it so finely it’s basically a chiffonade, but generally speaking, the secret to making kale palatable is to break it up so it’s tender and pair it with enough sweetness and acidity to break it down and mask the bitterness. This recipe is one of my favorites because it knows to do all of the above—and it’s reasonably healthy, to boot.
For anyone who isn’t into the bitter-crisp rush of raw radishes, try baking them—it completely softens their flavor, so everyone, including kids, enjoy them (besides, they’re so pretty, like Easter eggs, they pretty much beg to be eaten that way). This quick, five-ingredient recipe uses the whole radish, so the greens—which are rich in vitamin B6 and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and folic acid—don’t go to waste. While the miso lends depth of flavor, this same recipe can absolutely be made with just a little salt or soy sauce instead.
Before I knew better, whenever I made beets, I’d just throw the beet greens away—but never again! Beet greens are super healthy—they’re rich in Vitamins A and K, as well as minerals like potassium and magnesium—as well as being versatile and tasty. More like spinach than kale in texture but a bit sweeter, they’re great simply sauteed with garlic and olive oil. I love this cheddar cheese omelette as a way to sneak some vegetables onto the breakfast table (and spinach would be just delicious in it, too).
Cider Braised Rainbow Chard with Beets and Pistachios
Rainbow chard, aka Swiss chard, manages to both look beautiful (those colorful stems!) and be a total nutritional powerhouse—it’s packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium. However, the leaves are notoriously tough and, like most greens, a little bitter. That’s why I love this recipe, which tenderizes the chard by braising it, and balances the leaves’ bitterness against the sweetness of beets and apple cider. Even better, if you do dairy—add a little goat cheese on top for a touch of creaminess.
Baked Swiss Chard Stems with Olive Oil and Parmesan
With rainbow chard, you want to treat the stems differently than you do the leaves. This isn’t 100% necessary—lots of recipes call for the whole leaf to be used—but if you want my opinion, separating them out doesn’t take a ton of time, can lead to two distinct side dishes from one ingredient, and allows the best of both to shine. While you can just roast them in the oven with a little avocado oil, salt, and pepper, this version with grated parmesan is especially delicious (and more kid-friendly, should you need to tempt any kids into getting their greens).
Look, nothing is more delicious than classic Southern-style collards made with smoked ham hocks and bacon. But while extremely tasty, it’s also a dish that does a lot to counteract its own health benefits, given all that it relies heavily on pork fat for flavoring. We’re not going to pretend this vegan version is just as tasty its predecessor, but this recipe is honestly delicious as-is. You can dissolve a little miso paste or Vegemite in the vegetable broth for a bit of an umami bomb, too.