In my last post, I mentioned that leafy greens are a good source of calcium. Here is my favorite leafy greens recipe. It is quick, easy, and great for trying out greens, since they are more of a highlight flavor. The onion, garlic, and cheese make the flavors more familiar. The recipe is also very flexible. You can substitute whatever greens you like. I’ve used kale and spinach with good results, but my favorite is mustard greens. You can adjust the onions and heat level to your preference. Different noodles also work well. It is a satisfying vegetarian meal, but grilled chicken or fish are tasty additions.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more for more heat)
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 cups of leafy greens, ribs removed, coarsely chopped (if using spinach, no prep is necessary)
12-14 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti (I use a whole box, which is 13.25 ounces for me)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions; saute until they just start to soften. Add red pepper flakes; cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more.
3. Turn heat down to medium-low. Continue to cook onions until are light brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic to pan.
4. After you add the garlic to the onions, add greens to boiling water. Cook, uncovered for 1-2 minutes, until they are just wilted. Remove with tongs and add to onions. Cook with onions until pasta is ready. (If you are using spinach, you don’t need to boil it first. Just cook the garlic for about 1 minute with the onions, then mix in the spinach.)
5. Once greens are out of the water, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving the pasta water. In large serving bowl, toss pasta with parmesan cheese. Add onion/greens mixture, and toss. Add pasta water (1 cup at a time) to keep noodles from sticking. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 11 mg
Carbohydrates: 76 g
Fiber: 16 g
Sodium: 234 mg
Recipe Notes: I know that seems like a lot of onions and a lot of greens. They cook down. The onion flavor really isn’t strong once they caramelize, and every time I’ve cut back on the greens, I’ve regretted it. If you forget to add the pasta water at the end, it will still work. I’ve done that before. Even if you don’t like spicy things, I would not omit the red pepper flake. I added about 1/4 teaspoon this last time, and it was still not “spicy”. It just adds good flavor.
If you are avoiding dairy, you have a few options to “substitute” for the parmesan. You could add a little bit of olive oil when tossing it all together, just enough to add a little richness. Adding in some toasted, sliced almonds would add a “nutty” flavor like parmesan with the added bonus of some crunch. Someone made me a pasta dish with this substitution, and I honestly didn’t miss the cheese. You could also use nutritional yeast, which vegans often use as a substitute for cheese. I have tasted it, and it does taste like you added cheese. Don’t try eating it plain though – that does not taste like cheese! Here is some more info on nutritional yeast if you are interested. It is usually available at vitamin or health food stores. It may seem a little pricey, but a little goes a long way. No matter which non-dairy option, I would add some salt to your boiling water and a little to your onions (right before turning the heat down). I didn’t add any salt above because the cheese added it for me. Without any good source of salt, the dish might be a bit bland.
Source: adapted from Food Network Kitchens cookbook
Low iodine adjustment: Eliminate the cheese.