There’s no denying that Kale is having a moment – but it isn’t the only big unique, nutritious green to incorporate in your meals this season. With summer’s leafy greens piling up at the market, it’s high time to give kale’s botanical cousins a place at your table.
According to “The Lettuce Revolution” research from Technomic, foodservice operators are moving away from romaine lettuce and starting to experiment with a wider selection of salad varieties. Romaine and iceberg menu features are down since 2011 among entrée salads at upscale casual-dining restaurants, while mixed greens and spinach saw strong gains in 2013. What’s more, Datassential reports that more than 50% of consumers are more likely to order an item featuring seasonal, local or organic produce.
Are you convinced to incorporate some unique leafy greens into your menu yet? Go ahead and give it a try! Pick one, any one: watercress, beet greens, collards, chard, Chinese cabbage, escarole, mustard greens. They all create a beautiful salad, but their potential goes way beyond that. Soups, sandwiches, and sautéed sides – the possibilities are endless.
Lauren B. Russell, author of Brassicas: Cooking with the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, suggests trying a bold stance when using greens in your dishes by mixing in red pepper flakes, or a salty element such as bacon, capers, pancetta, soy sauce or hard cheeses like Parmesan or pecorino.
While some use these greens as the standout item of a meal, others look to balance the strong flavor out. Russell says her strategies for seamlessly mixing greens into meals include “balancing them with starches (potatoes, beans, polenta, rice, pasta) or dairy (say, butter or cheese) or adding a touch of sweetness (honey, caramelized onions or balsamic vinegar).”
As you look to incorporate new greens, choose leaves with bright colors and no blemishes. Keep in mind that younger greens have a milder, delicate flavor and more tender leaves.
If you want to introduce new greens slowly, start by incorporating some unique salads on your menu. Pairing Marzetti dressings has never been easier. If something like Chinese cabbage salad still seems too daunting and you opt to stick with kale, try a more adventurous recipe, like Superfood Slaw.
As leafy greens continue to grow in popularity, break out of your iceberg lettuce rut and give your guests the dishes they crave. These healthy additions can be a point of differentiation for your menu. Take advantage of kale’s moment in the sun by creatively incorporating summer’s leafy greens before it’s too late.