- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When we were children, the order, “Eat your greens,” referred to what? Spinach? Salad? What we understood was that these mysterious green things were a threat, but what were they and what would they do to us?

Of utmost importance, just how bad would they taste? Especially in summer and fall, when farmers markets are overflowing with them, greens refers to a multitude of vegetables.

Last week, at one market table alone, I counted six types of kale. An adjacent table displayed four kinds of mustard. In Chinese markets in Oakland and San Francisco, I usually see huge bunches of edible green leaves. I have purchased and cooked several of these, and they were delicious tossed with noodles, sesame and a few strong seasonings.

How can we get people to appreciate dark green leafy vegetables? It’s really worth the effort, since these are among the most nutritious vegetables full of vitamins and important minerals, including calcium and iron. I like to season them boldly.

I also like to garnish them with a hit of something that will contrast nicely with their exquisite bitterness. This could be a sprinkling of dried cherries or maybe a topping of salty feta or ricotta salata cheese.

Another way to win people over to the virtues of greens is to make a spunky vegetable-noodle combo. The following recipe is a main dish salad that ages well, so you can make it up to several days ahead of time and it only gets better.

It’s always helpful to have a cold main dish on hand in the summer, and this one is so comprehensive that you will only need to accompany it with a chunk of ripe melon for dessert.

Cold Chinese-style noodles with greens, sesame and cashews

VEGETABLES:

3 stalks celery

6 stalks baby bok choy

1 small fennel bulb

6 scallions

Up to 2 pounds of other fresh leafy greens (spinach, chard, collards, kale, mustard, whatever you like)

DRESSING:

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 tablespoons Chinese dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

teaspoon cinnamon

teaspoon ground cumin

cup cider vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

teaspoon salt

NOODLES:

12 ounces very thin egg or buckwheat noodles

Freshly ground black pepper

Hot red pepper flakes

1 cup chopped cashews, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Slice celery on the diagonal into thin strips. Remove leaves from bok choy and set them aside. Cut bok choy stems on the diagonal into pieces slightly larger than celery slices and combine these with celery. Slice fennel into thin, diagonal strips and add to celery and bok choy stems.

Chop bok choy leaves and keep them separate. Mince scallion, including as much of the green tops as possible, and add to bok choy leaves. Stem other greens and chop the leaves and add them to the bok choy leaves.

Place celery, bok choy stems and fennel in a large saute pan with a small amount of water and braise, stirring frequently and covering between stirrings, until almost tender. Add chopped leaves and scallion and cover. Let cook for just a few minutes until all leaves are wilted. Remove from heat and let cool to warm or room temperature.

To make dressing, in a large serving bowl combine peanut or canola oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger root, cinnamon, cumin, vinegar, soy sauce and salt and whisk until blended.

Cook noodles in salted boiling water until tender. Be careful not to overcook.

Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold running water, separating noodles gently with your hands as you rinse them so they don’t clump together. Drain thoroughly after rinsing and transfer to bowl containing dressing.

Add cooked vegetables and mix. Season to taste with black pepper and hot red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with cashews and sesame seeds just before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold. Makes 6 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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