Though not a vegetarian, I’m an avid fan of greens, both wild and domestic. I’ve studied them extensively and cook greens regularly. I’ve read and used every English and Greek language book about greens I can find. When I heard Nava Atlas, an accomplished vegetarian cooking authority, had written a book about greens, I couldn’t wait to see it.
I’ve finally read Nava’s new book: Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves (Sterling 2012). It was well worth the wait. I haven’t been as excited about a cookbook in a long time.
There are many things to love about this book. Nava’s recipes are simple and easy to follow, yet produce full-flavored, well-seasoned dishes. Her instructions are complete and uncomplicated. She uses ingredients readily available in American supermarkets; no hustling to find obscure items required. Although the book is for vegan fare, Nava is never preachy or critical of omnivores. Her warmth and good humor shine through every recipe.
Wild About Greens starts with an illustrated section introducing each green used in the book, and explains how best to choose and prepare them using basic cooking techniques. Nava also gives directions for storing and preserving greens. This information is helpful for times like Alaskans face now: greens still in our gardens must be picked and preserved or be lost to snow and ice.
From main courses to salads, from soups to grains, Nava’s recipes are terrific. If you grow greens in your garden, subscribe to a CSA, bring gorgeous stacks of greens home from the market, or are looking for delicious Lenten recipes, Wild About Greens is an absolute must-have. This is the highest praise I can give.
Yesterday, Jennifer McGovern and I had a great time testing four of Nava’s recipes, all for Massaged Kale Salads. And by massaged, I mean exactly that. Kale is stemmed, cut into thin ribbons, and massaged and squeezed and rubbed until its tough cellulose structure collapses. After a good massage, kale darkens, loses its bitterness, and is surprisingly tender.
Kale flourishes during Alaska’s cool summers. It grows prolifically and rarely falls victim to bugs and slugs. Cooked kale is delicious and, when blanched, freezes well. Because uncooked kale tends to be tough, most people don’t eat it raw, despite its excellent flavor. By massaging kale, as Nava recommends, this problem disappears.
Nava provides various techniques for massaging kale. Jen and I tried all of hers and a couple of our own. We massaged kale with salt, with olive oil, with olive oil and lemon juice, just with olive oil covered hands, and with olive oil and salt. I liked the olive oil and salt technique best; the kale tasted delicious even before it was added to salads. With either of the salt techniques, be careful not to add too much and to take the salt massage into account when making salad dressing.
We like all four of Nava’s massaged kale salads that we tested, but had two clear favorites: Kale Salad with Pears & Radicchio and Kale & Cucumber Salad with Avocado-Tahini Dressing. Links to our adapted versions of these two recipes are below.