Greens beyond lettuce

Kale, arugula and other leafy greens are adding color to menus.

Published in FSD Update

Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

You know you’ve hit the big time when there’s a commercial about you during the Super Bowl. Such is the case with kale. In magazines, on restaurant menus and in non-commercial foodservice operations, kale and other leafy greens are upping the nutrition factor of many dishes, especially soups, salads and sandwiches.


At Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., the dining services department has moved beyond serving the traditional collard and mustard greens. Kale is the star of several dishes, including a lentil, kale, sweet potato and sausage stew.

“It’s really good,” says Executive Chef Bill Claypool. “A lot of the seasoning is taken out of the preparation of the sausage. It gives the stew a lot of that caraway and chili spice. That, plus the kale and sweet potatoes play off each other very well.” The department also offers an Indian-style kale and chickpea salad, which is flavored with a curry that contains cumin, red peppers, coriander and garam masala.

John Williams, executive chef at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, in Madison, thinks kale is a great ingredient because of its nutrition factor.

“We’ve been using it a lot lately because it’s hearty and holds up well in the winter,” Williams says. “We’re using it in salads with acidic dressings so the kale breaks down a little bit. The salad almost has to sit for a little bit to let that acid attack the greens and make it a little more palatable.”

One example is the department’s grape and kale salad, which has a citrus poppy seed dressing. Williams likes this salad because the citrus and sugar balance the acidity, which works well with the kale. Kale also finds its way into a spicy vegan quinoa and kale soup that includes chickpeas, carrot, onion, celery, black quinoa and lemon juice.

“There’s zero nutrient value in lettuce,” Williams adds. “Your stomach is a machine. Lettuce breaks down very easily in your digestive tract. Kale and other greens like arugula and spinach take a little work to digest, which creates more energy for your body.”

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