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In spring the focus is on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including some of the ones listed below.

Arugula is a dark green, peppery green that is used both raw and cooked. Arugula is sold either by the bunch or as loose leaves (much like spinach). Look for dark greens leaves of a uniform color. Avoid yellowing leaves, damages leaves, wilted leaves, or excessively moist-looking leaves

Spinach – it is easy to forget that the small, tender leaves of spring spinach are a real treat. There is a sweetness to their dark green leaves that is perfect in spinach salads.

Broccolini is actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. Broccolini is tender and somewhat sweet, without the bitterness you might find in regular broccoli or broccoli rabe.

Collard Greens are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale and broccoli. Like kale, collards are one of the non-head forming members of the Brassica family. Collards unique appearance features dark blue-green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively broad.

Spring Escarole is sweeter and more tender than at other times of year. It is delicious sautéed with garlic as a side dish, in soups or in a salad.

Chard comes in Swiss (white ribs), red, golden, and mixed rainbow versions. Each has its own flavor, but an earthy edge defines them all. Chard is usually cooked, but certainly can be chopped up and added to salads raw.

Arugula Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 cups arugula leaves
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large salad bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Wash the arugula well and spin or pat it thoroughly dry. Set aside.

Trim fronds and root end of the fennel bulb. Cut the bulb in half, lay each half flat on a cutting surface and slice as thinly as you can.

Put the sliced fennel in the dressing. Use salad tongs, salad fork and spoon or clean hands gently toss the fennel and coat it evenly with the dressing. Add the arugula and cheese and toss to evenly coat the leaves. Serve.

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Cheddar Broccolini Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccolini, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, with green, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring broccolini and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for about 5 minutes or until just tender.

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat; add bell pepper, garlic and green onions and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Stir in flour and mustard until well blended. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly.

Pour broccolini and vegetable broth into the sauce mixture. Add cheese and the remaining seasonings, to taste. Serves 6.

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Spring Spinach and Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

  • One pound of your favorite pizza dough, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves,chopped and lightly packed
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a 14 inch pizza pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Let rest while you prepare the topping ingredients

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the spinach, garlic and green onions to the pan and toss for about two minutes until spinach is slightly wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Spread sliced mozzarella over the surface of the dough. Top with the spinach mixture, Sprinkle with the asiago cheese and black pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Feta and Pine Nuts

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped separately, divided
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or 1 tomato, cored and chopped
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook 5 minutes more.

Uncover, add chard leaves, salt, pepper and broth and cook, covered, until chard leaves are bright green and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and gently stir in tomatoes. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over the top and serve.

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Rigatoni with Ricotta and Collard Greens

You certainly can use any type of greens you like but this is a great recipe to give collards a try.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound collard greens, washed, drained, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, optional

Directions

Cook pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté onion 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and add greens; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the greens are tender, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour over the greens. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring well. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the cooked pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, if using, over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 20 minutes.or until the center of the casserole is hot.

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Sautéed Escarole with White Beans and Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pounds escarole, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add escarole (in batches, if needed), and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander as done and drain well.

Return skillet to heat and add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes.

Add broth to the skillet and deglaze; add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Return greens to the skillet, toss gently and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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