The Power Greens Cookbook
140 Delicious Superfood Recipes
By Dana Jacobi
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery By the Book, podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Dana Jacobi: I'm Dana Jacobi. My new cookbook, is the Power Greens, cookbook.
Suzy Chase: The Power Greens cookbook has 140 super food recipes. What exactly is a super food?
Dana Jacobi: A super food is any food that is particularly nutrient dense. Although, it's particularly become to mean foods that are rich in substances that may sound a bit like a chemistry lab. For example, they'll talk about broccoli being rich in antioxidants, which detoxifies the liver.
What matters is that super foods help us be healthy and vital. They often have flavors from those substances that are good for us, that can be challenging. A lot of them actually taste bitter. What I did, in the Power Greens cookbook, is create recipes to help you eat super foods every day, which you really should do, while keeping them delicious and enticing and varied enough that you're excited to eat them.
Suzy Chase: You've chosen to focus on 15 power greens. How did you choose these 15?
Dana Jacobi: I chose these 15 greens specifically, because along with being nutrient dense, they are all also easily available, and versatile. For example, you can use kale, steamed, braised ... I make pesto with it. You probably heard of using kale chips, which makes it wonderfully crunchy. Brussels sprouts can be an Hors d'oeuvres, if you make my recipe for salsa Verde, the Italian sauce with capers and olive oil. Makes a wonderful dip. You toss the Brussels sprouts with it, and then stick a toothpick in, and munch on them. And they are steamed. They're cooked, not raw.
Suzy Chase: Now, talk a little bit about antioxidants.
Dana Jacobi: Antioxidants are very important. To be a little scientific, the thing that can cause illness and chronic diseases, is as our DNA breaks down, or oxidizes. Antioxidants help to fight this. You find them in many foods, strawberries, oranges, all kinds of greens. They are very heat sensitive. You want to ... For example, when you buy greens, keep them cold. In the summer, if I'm not going straight home with a car, I keep a cooler with ice packs in it, and toss the bunches of kale and parsley and whatever into that. Lots of the recipes in the Power Greens cookbook help you eat them, either raw or lightly cooked, as well as braised. You get different benefits with the antioxidants. Depending on whether a food is raw or cooked. It's good to eat a raw spinach salad, but you utilize other things in the spinach more easily when you've steamed it.
Suzy Chase: That's so interesting that there are different antioxidants pertaining to how you cook it.
Dana Jacobi: There are probably thousands of antioxidants in our foods. The ones that I talk about a lot are lutein and zeaxanthin for example, help your eyes and your skin. They're all members of the family called, carotene's. Have you ever noticed that greens turn yellowish when they start to get tired?
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Dana Jacobi: That's because the antioxidant, chlorophyll oxidizes and disappears, but some of the other antioxidants are more stable and many antioxidants have color. They're the things that make berries red, or that yellow that you see in greens when they're a little bit tired, means they still do have those antioxidants in them.
Suzy Chase: Organic greens are more expensive than non-organic. For home cooks on a fixed budget, do the nutritional benefits outweigh the pesticide exposure?
Dana Jacobi: That's a yes and no kind of question, meaning, clearly eating foods, like spinach are better than not eating them at all. On the other hand, I was very interested to see ... Consumer Reports puts out a health news letter. Just in the current issue, someone asked, "Is locally grown, or organic better?" I follow the principle of the dirty dozen. If you possibly can afford for greens like spinach, that is heavily sprayed, to do organic. Then, for more vigorous things, or ones that are covered, like Brussels sprouts, buying organic is not that important, cause you peel away the outer leaves.
On the other hand, it's also true that it isn't only the pesticide residue on the food itself. It's also what goes into the land and therefore into our drinking water. The other thing is, look for specials. Shop around. People give Whole Foods a bad name for being expensive, but I have seen them put greens on sale. Two bunches of kale for four dollars. I can't find it cheaper than that, even in inexpensive supermarkets, and they're organic, so ... Depends on how much of a shopper you wanna be. Bottom line, eating them is better than not eating.
Suzy Chase: What is the best way to wash and store our greens?
Dana Jacobi: That's a good question. For washing, I recommend getting a great, big bowl, and putting it in the sink. Fill it with cold water. Generous hand fulls at a time. Put in your greens, especially things like spinach, and beet greens, that really hold sand in the little crevices. Swish them around. Empty the bowl, and re-rinse it. One of the reasons I say that, is a bowl holds a depth of water, so the sand can really sink away from the greens. The other is, unless you want to scrub out your sink every time you wash greens, you do other things in the kitchen sink. This helps protect them from whatever chemicals might have been on what you were doing, even dish washing liquid. And then, give them a good shake. If you're gonna be steaming them, you don't have to worry about drying them. For soft greens, like parsley and cilantro, which can be very sandy, use a salad spinner afterwards.
Storing them. Greens are alive. They're still breathing, even though they've been cut. If you put them in a plastic bag, you notice how water condenses? That's because they've actually been breathing. Sending out gases, and oxygen. What I do is, to avoid that moisture that makes them wilt, I wrap them loosely in a paper towel, and then with the leaves in and the stems pointing out, put them in a plastic bag, like recycling the ones that you get from the supermarket, that you stick your greens into. Don't close the bag tightly. Just sort of loosely gather it around the stems. It's nice to keep them in the crisper, but it's not absolutely necessary, once you've wrapped them this way. Never wash greens, until you're ready to use them. I know that, that bunch of sandy spinach seems like it'll make a mess, but once you wash them, they wilt much more quickly.
Suzy Chase: I find that kale and collard greens take a long time to cook. Do you have any cooking time savers?
Dana Jacobi: Definitely. Yes. Experimenting with this book, my concerns first of all, are that people who love kale, and a lot of people just find it too bitter. The same is true with a lot of the other leafy greens, like mustard greens, collards and also they can be very tough. What I figured out, is a method I call short cook, quick cool. It's like chefs do, when they blanch and shock. The difference is that you only put an inch or two of water in a big pot, bring it to a boil, throw in the greens, and then with a wooden spoon, mush them and smash them. You know, not bash them, just press them, until they collapse into the water.
Cook them for about four minutes, and then with either tongs, or take the pot and dump the contents into a colander. Under cold running tap water, with your hands, stir the greens, so the water gets at them in 30 seconds. They stay bright green, but they're cool. The reason you do this, is then, when you go to braise them, they cook in like 15 or 20, instead of the 40 to 45 minutes that it takes to braise kale normally. It's cooked enough, that you're really gonna enjoy it, and it takes a little of the bitter edge off, but still very rich in the nutrients that you wanna get.
When you do the short cook, quick cool, it gets rid of those dark juices. Some of the oxalates, the stuff that makes your teeth feel fuzzy and that actually can block utilizing some of the good nutrients in certain greens. Those go in the water and then you've got something that ... For example, very, very simple chard dish, is the charred, short cooked that, chopped up. Brown some onions in a skillet. Add the chard, and cook it until it's tender the way you like it, which may take only 10 minutes. People will rave over this dish with two ingredients.
Suzy Chase: Let's talk about lettuce.
Dana Jacobi: Great.
Suzy Chase: I hate that I love iceberg. I read somewhere that it's the slacker of the lettuce kingdom.
Dana Jacobi: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: In the Power Greens cookbook, you grill romaine.
Dana Jacobi: Right. Yeah, that actually is a very hot idea right now. If you look on Pinterest, I think you'll see plenty of recipes. But, cooked lettuce, lightly cooked. We're talking about just seared, or grilled ... It brings out a different flavor. I call it nutty ...
The original inspiration for me, was a very classic french dish. In the spring, they cook fresh green peas, with a few leaves of a tender lettuce, like Boston. It has this nutty flavor that's just delightful. I tried it grilled, and again, you're just searing it. The center of the head is still crunchy, cause you do a whole half, split vertically. It's not individual leaves. What I ended up doing, was trying to make a sit fry. I ended up with what I call, french stir fried lettuce. Using a little soy sauce, but for the liquid, a splash of white wine. Again, it's just into the wok and out in two minutes. It's got that, still got the crunch, but Romaine, that dark green at the top of the leaves, is full of antioxidants, and things that are good for you. We're gonna eat lettuce. We're gonna eat salad anyway. Why not make it nutrient rich at the same time?
Suzy Chase: This is so much more than a cookbook. It's also a fantastic reference guide. Your last chapter is all about how to buy, store, and prep each power green. You go into so much detail. I think everyone needs this cookbook in their kitchen.
Dana Jacobi: Well thank you very much for saying that. Yeah, because, they are alive and I've noticed that a lot of people feel uncomfortable, or even intimidated. You know, they'll look at kale and say, "But what do I do with it?"
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Dana Jacobi: So, they steam it ... You do need the full variety. It's nice to eat a lot of greens for the flavor, and also they each have different nutrients, but making it fun ... When you feel comfortable, because you understand, then cooking can be a lot more fun.
Suzy Chase: Last night for dinner, I made your recipe for poached egg in a nest of bacon wilted kale on page 193. So, tell me about this recipe.
Dana Jacobi: First, you know ... It's hard to have a complete favorite, but Suzy that is one of my favorite recipes. You know, an egg makes everything better.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Dana Jacobi: Let me say quickly, for people who are vegetarian or vegan, another way to make this, that's also delicious, is instead of the bacon, use coconut oil, when you saute the kale, after you've short cooked it. And then, add the egg. You will also get a very delicious version of this dish, but without the bacon, although for me ... The other thing is, as I said, I believe in eating everything, but in moderation. What you're doing with the bacon is rendering out the fat, and using it to braise the kale.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Dana Jacobi: So, two slices of bacon makes enough portions of kale to serve four people. And then, you crumble up the bacon finely and you sprinkle it. Divide it up amongst the four servings, after you add the egg. If you don't want to do poached eggs, this is great with fried eggs too. You can do it that way. Some people are intimidated by making poached eggs. I'm so glad you liked that.
Suzy Chase: It took no time to make too, cause I have a nine year old, so I had to get dinner on the table quickly. It must have taken 20 minutes.
Dana Jacobi: Yeah. Well, one of the tricks that I recommend to help people eat more greens, is ... You know, there are people who cook on Sunday, and they make big dishes that they can eat several times during the week ... This is true, whether you're single, or like you, maybe your daughter is at play camp, or on a play date on Sunday, and you have a few hours, when you can do some cooking.
You can do the blanching of the greens, like several bunches, or several different kinds, and keep them in a plastic container, or a glass jar. They'll keep for three, four, five days, once you've done this. And then you can just take them out, make your chard with the brown onions one day. Bake a potato and mash some chopped kale into it another day. Make your egg, the third day, using that same kale, sauteing it with the bacon. You know, I'm also about convenience, and making it easy.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Dana Jacobi: My website is danajacobi.com. Dana Jacobi is also my Instagram handle. I tweet at, it's @Danadish.
Suzy Chase: Thanks so much Dana, for coming on Cookery By the Book, podcast.
Dana Jacobi: Thank you Suzy. You ask great questions.