By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Leafy living


Spring tends to be the season of greens, and so every spring I relearn how to eat a lot of them.

Sometimes I think all I’m ever doing is relearning things. But at any rate, it was a thrill, recently, to pick enough chard from the bed in the greenhouse for a calzone.

It was the first we’d had in a long time, since we’d been out of chard for months after I forgot to plant any for the winter garden. That is the problem with forgetting gardening duties: You pay for the mistake for a very long time.

One handy feature of this recipe, besides the fact that it is incomparably delicious, is that it uses a lot of chard. When this prolific vegetable gets going, it produces abundantly.

Turnip rabe — the leaves and unopened flowers of bolting turnips — has made its way into a vegetable stir-fry and we’ve enjoyed a few kale pizzas, with undoubtedly more to come. Kale and sweet potato hash is another favorite, and my potato onion omelets of late have also been featuring chopped cabbage, as have our green salads.

Cabbage also goes beautifully with potatoes and onions, sauteed in olive oil; it’s a perfect medley of flavors. Having recently discovered the concept of potato and onion knishes — where have those been all my life?— I’m thinking it would work just fine in there, too.

Although available in various forms year-round, greens are most plentiful and varied in spring: sorrel, spinach, cress, lettuce, chard, very young stinging nettles, the leaves of dandelions, beets and radishes; the bolting stalks and leaves of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli and turnips. The list seems endless, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to cook it all. And, in the event you’re not swamped with cooking greens and want some, try eating young pea shoots — though you may want to be sure to plant extras for that purpose.

One of my favorite spring breakfasts is greens with eggs. The greens are sauteed in olive oil, preferably with a chopped onion, shallot or leek, and some finely chopped chard stems, if there happen to be some hanging around, and topped with a fried egg. It’s always good, but another variation is to use the greens as an omelet or quiche filling — although spinach is our favorite quiche green.

Because I’m lactose-intolerant, quiche in our house is made with plain, unsweetened soy milk and Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese, which I was enormously pleased to learn recently is extremely low in lactose — low enough that I can enjoy it without difficulty. Cheesy celebrations ensued.

Sharp cheddar goes very nicely with greens and whole-wheat bread in a variety of iterations. You might, for example, save some of those sauteed breakfast greens for tucking into a grilled cheese sandwich, which you can rename “panini” to sound exotic and adventurous. If you’ve got any roasted peppers lurking in the freezer, feel free to add them.

With greens for breakfast, greens in your salad at lunch, greens stirred into your supper soup, admittedly it can feel as though you might turn into a green. But you’ll be well nourished, and sometimes needing to use things up can spark the imagination.

A recent lunch salad of spinach, apples, walnuts and fennel was born of that need, and turned out quite tasty. It’s the season, after all, to explore with abandon all sorts of interesting and delicious salad combinations involving mixed greens, nuts, fruit and seasonal vegetables.

Nicole Montesano can be reached at

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