Field Guide to Greens

Spring has sprung and it's time to enjoy nature's bounty of delicious greens. The Kitchen has the roadmap to 3 different types of these flavor-packed veggies and the ultimate dressing parings to accent their flavors.

Our hosts learn their way around staple greens like spinach, watercress, baby kale and others, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Our hosts learn their way around staple greens like spinach, watercress, baby kale and others, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz

David Katz

SPINACH is on the top of every greens list because it's jam-packed with vitamins and minerals such as calcium--something good for every part of the body. When shopping for these iron-rich greens, you'll find 3 basic types:

Flat-Leaf Spinach, the most popular type, has a slightly sweet flavor. It can be found in bunches and tends to have a lot of soil on it. To clean, simply soak the leaves in a basin of cold water, allowing the grit to fall to the bottom. To dry, spin in a salad spinner or lay out on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet.

Curly Spinach, another favorite, has a crisp texture and slightly bitter flavor. It's sturdier than the other types, so it holds up best when cooked. It is also very good raw and works well in salad. Avoid dull or wilted leaves with yellow discoloration or spots. Store the spinach with a paper towel to absorb moisture and prevent it from getting slimy.

Baby Spinach is tender and sweet. This variety usually comes pre-washed. Try it in smoothies; it's the most neutral-flavored green of them all and hides well. It's also good in salads and, of course, cooked. Just don't overcook it--doing so will leach out a lot of the nutrients.

Spinach is great lightly dressed since it is delicate. Try it with a tangy Lemon Dill Vinaigrette.

WATERCRESS is a green traditionally found near rivers and streams, hence the name. If you like arugula, try watercress as a new alternative. It's loved for its bold and peppery flavor. It's also packed with vitamins and nutrients like calcium. When shopping for watercress, you'll find it pre-bunched in your supermarket--often stacked with veggies like carrots and radishes. Give the bunch a good wash under cold water and spin.

Once harvested, watercress doesn't last very long. If you can't eat it immediately, wrap it in a damp towel in a plastic bag. Try it raw in salads, cooked into soups or added to noodle dishes and pasta salads for a light peppery bite. The peppery flavor pairs well with light creamy dressings like a Basic Buttermilk.

BABY KALE is the "It Girl" of the greens world, showing up on trendy menus across the country. Baby kale has all the nutrition of regular kale, but is more versatile because it's tender enough to eat raw and whole. The flavor is milder than regular kale, but it still has a peppery bite. When you're shopping for baby kale, you'll typically find it pre-washed in a container and ready to use. It tends to last longer in your fridge than other baby greens, such as mesclun. Try it in salads, smoothies or stir-fries.

Because baby kale is sturdy in texture and flavor, it holds up nicely to Miso-Sesame Dressing.

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