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Getting to Know Your Greens

Posted Jun 17 2013 1:57pm
Baby Spinach & Bacon Salad with Pine Nuts & Raisins

Baby Spinach & Bacon Salad with Pine Nuts & Raisins

When it comes to produce, greens are one of the most versatile items you’ll find at the market: there are hearty greens and dark leafy greens, tender greens and micro-greens, “ethnic” greens like bok choy and “classic” greens like iceberg. The same greens are even sold as babies or adults. That might seem like just a bunch of marketing hoopla, but actually there are significant differences between those baby and adult versions, both in terms of flavor and nutrition. In general, the younger the green, the less oxalic acid it contains. Hearty — or “adult” — versions have much higher levels of oxalic acid, which is sometimes referred to as an anti-nutrient since it blocks absorption of other useful nutrients like calcium, not to mention the fact that oxalic acid itself in sufficient amounts can cause kidney and joint issues. (Rhubarb leaves have such high amounts of oxalic acid that they’re poisonous; the stalks, on the other hand, don’t contain any.)

The upshot of all that? If you’re planning on eating your greens raw, opt for the baby versions. Or, if you’re in the mood for heartier adult fare, cook it — heat destroys oxalic acid. Cooking also blunts the bitterness of adult greens, making them taste smoother and more mild, much the way baby greens taste. For this throw-it-together salad, I opted for baby spinach since I didn’t want to take the time to cook it. Besides, summertime is the perfect time to enjoy the crunch of raw veggies!

Baby Spinach & Bacon Salad with Pine Nuts & Raisins
Serves 2 for lunch.

Triple handful baby spinach
Single handful of raisins, preferably organic since grapes are heavily sprayed
Single handful of pine nuts
2 to 4 strips cooked bacon , chopped
2 to 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped (it’s easier to chop than grate since it’s so soft)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
Grating of fresh black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. A few strips of cooked free-range chicken would be nice addition to this salad and would turn it from a lunch to a hearty dinner. And or course feel free to customize the amounts as you wish — I sometimes double up on the pine nuts and the cheese. And you can never have too much pastured bacon.


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