Seeing (And Eating) Green
If you've ever been drawn to the baskets filled with leafy greens at the farmers' market and felt stumped by kale, chard or collards, you're not alone.
Helping to make sense of it all is the delectable cooking blog A Couple Cooks (ACoupleCooks.com), run by husband and wife Alex and Sonja Overhiser of Indianapolis. The blog, which combines the Overhisers' healthy, wholesome and mostly vegetarian recipes with their stylish food photos, features an abundance of leafy greens – picture kale frittata, polenta with Swiss chard and garlic, and coconut curry lentils with spinach.
The couple begins by shopping at the Indy Winter Farmers' Market on Saturdays through April at the Indianapolis City Market.
For the healthy-cooking bloggers, the farmers' market is a little bit like what candy stores are to kids: full of surprises to discover. Alongside familiar greens like spinach, kale and chard, they've found toraziroh, a tangy Japanese green that cooks just like spinach, and maruba santoh, a mild Chinese cabbage, similar to bok choy – grown by Indiana farmers.
"We're especially fond of Full Hand Farm [of Greenfield] and Homestead Growers [of Sheridan]," Sonja says, "but every grower there has very-high-quality greens."
Alex recommends that people who are new to greens or looking to shake up their greens routine should seek out leafy varieties in their younger stages, when they're most likely to be sweet and tender and without the bitter flavor that tends to scare people away from trying new greens altogether.
Other than that, Alex and Sonja say selecting greens at the market is a simple matter of making sure they're not wilted – and if you're still learning how to distinguish a young, sweet green from an older, spicier one, just ask the vendor for a little taste.
"People have become immune to tasting the richer flavors of greens," Sonja says. "With high-sugar or high-salt foods, you can't taste the intricacies of flavor."
Once home from the market, greens are surprisingly easy to incorporate into almost anything.
"Throw them in a soup, or eat them raw in salads," says Sonja. "Even sautéing them takes just five minutes."
Some greens, like kale and chard, require trimming; others, like mustard greens and arugula, may need some experimenting to find other ingredients that pair well with their peppery flavors.
"It does take some practice," Sonja says, "but if we can do it, anyone can."
Alex and Sonja weren't always so vigilant about what they ate. Before launching A Couple Cooks, they didn't even cook much.
"I was surviving on whatever I could find in the frozen section," Sonja says.
Since then, they've become cheerleaders for the kind of "simple, whole food" that their blog celebrates. The couple even wrote a cookbook, Green Mango Café and Bakery, which features recipes from the namesake restaurant in Cambodia, where the Over-hisers spent time in 2012.
"Once we cut out processed foods from our own diets," Sonja says, "our taste buds were opened up to a new array of tastes."