Chef Offers New, Funky Ways to Eat Your Greens Who needs spinach? There are plenty of other interesting, tasty and healthful greens for your dinner table. Chef Patrick O'Connell offers up some spinach alternatives. He is the executive chef at the award-winning Inn at Little Washington in Virginia.

Chef Offers New, Funky Ways to Eat Your Greens

Chef Offers New, Funky Ways to Eat Your Greens

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Patrick O'Connell offers stand-ins for spinach at your dinner table. Scroll down for recipes. Sandro hide caption

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If you're still avoiding spinach in the wake of the recent E. coli outbreak, there are plenty of interesting, tasty and healthful substitutes at the dinner table.

Swiss chard, baby bok choy and arugula are among the leafy greens that chef Patrick O'Connell offers up as great spinach alternatives.

O'Connell is the executive chef at the award-winning Inn at Little Washington in Virginia and author of Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine.

Warm Arugula Salad


Serves 4-6

1 pound of arugula (washed and well dried)

4 strips of bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion (peeled and finely chopped)

1/2 cup of cider vinegar

2 teaspoons of mustard seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon mustard powder

2 teaspoons sugar

2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs (peeled and quartered)

1. Place washed and dried arugula in serving bowl.

2. In a large skillet, cook bacon slices until crisp, remove from pan, drain on paper towels, and chop.

3. Pour off all the bacon fat from the skillet except two tablespoons. Return pan to medium heat.

4. Add olive oil and onion; cook until the union is translucent (about 4 minutes or so).

5. Add cider vinegar, mustard seed, ground mustard and sugar. Bring to a bare simmer; remove from heat.

6. Drizzle the dressing over the arugula (it will start to wilt right away).

7. Gently toss the greens; add crumbled bacon and hard-boiled quartered egg. Serve immediately.

Braised Baby Bok Choy

Baby bok choy

Serves 4-6

3 whole baby bok choy, split in half lengthwise

5 tablespoons butter (2 to saute and 3 to finish the sauce)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cups vegetable stock or water

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the bok choy in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until the core is tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bok choy from the water and drain well on paper towels.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat until it is almost smoking. Carefully place the drained bok choy, cut side down, in the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, or until it is golden brown.

3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce by half.

4. Add the vegetable stock or water and reduce by half.

5. Carefully whisk in the rest of the butter (3 tablespoons).

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamed Swiss Chard

Serves 4-6

1 small onion (peeled and finely chopped)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard

1/4 cup finely grated aged parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Salt and white pepper to taste

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1. Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan and add the onion; cook until the onion is translucent -- about 4 minutes.

2. Add heavy cream and reduce by one-third over medium heat or until the cream coats the back of the spoon.

3. Meanwhile, wash the Swiss chard and remove the stems. Bring a gallon of lightly salted water to boil.

4. Add the chard leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Press out the excess moisture from the leaves and roughly chop the leaves.

5. Add chard leaves to the cream mixture. Simmer for 3-5 minutes or until it has the consistency of thick soup.

6. Add the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Cabbage Braised in Champagne

This simple rendition of braised cabbage transforms the lowly vegetable into a refined and elegant accompaniment to roast turkey, goose or chicken. This side dish is versatile enough to pair with fish and works particularly well with fresh salmon. It can be prepared in less than 15 minutes and can be kept warm for an hour or so before serving.

Serves 6

3 thick slices bacon, sliced crosswise into ½ inch strips

2 cups thinly sliced onion

4 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1/2 cup champagne or white wine

3/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large saute pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is almost crisp. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until they are translucent.

2. Add the cabbage and cook until it is wilted. Add champagne or white wine, chicken stock, thyme and cream, and reduce until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3. Season with salt and pepper.

Crispy Collard Greens

Collards stand up to frying much better than spinach or parsley because they are so sturdy. In fact, you can fry them as much as eight hours in advance. The fried collards turn emerald green and provide a striking contrast to fish dishes and a pleasant crunch. They are an intriguing note in taste, texture and appearance.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup collard green leaves, washed, thoroughly dried, large stems removed and cut into very thin strips

2 quarts vegetable or peanut oil (for deep frying)

Salt to taste

1. In a deep fryer or heavy pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

2. Add the collard greens to the hot oil, turning them frequently with a skimmer or slotted spoon just long enough to make them curl, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the collards from the oil and drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.

Brussels Sprout Petals with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pickled Cranberries

Many people seem to have negative associations toward brussels sprouts, usually because they conjure up memories of odiferous and overcooked little cabbages. Even one with a distaste for brussels sprouts will enjoy this version of the vegetable as a salad. The secret to cooking the sprouts is wonderfully simple. The petals are removed and cooked for less than a minute until they turn a brilliant green. Most people have never tried them this way and will not even recognize them. Tossed with pickled cranberries (recipe below), they make a colorful accompaniment for a buffet platter of cold roast beef, lamb or chicken.

Serves 8

To cook the brussels sprout petals:

2 pounds brussels sprouts, washed

1. With a paring knife, trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and peel away the leaves (like removing the petals from a rose).

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a mixing bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. Add the brussels sprout petals to the rapidly boiling water and cook for about 20 seconds. (They will turn bright green.) Do not overcook. Drain the petals through a colander and plunge them into the ice water. Allow the leaves to chill completely. Lift them out of the water, drain and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To make the coriander vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a spice grinder or pepper mill, grind the coriander and fennel.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the vermouth or wine, onion, garlic, white vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then remove the pot from the heat.

3. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper and the ground fennel and coriander to the vermouth and vinegar mixture. Stir and cool to room temperature. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. (The vinaigrette can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator. Allow it to come back to room temperature, remove and discard the bay leaf and shake well before serving.)

To serve:

2 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup pickled cranberries

1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, optional

1/2 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, optional

1. In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels.

2. In a large salad bowl, toss the brussels sprout petals, bacon and pickled cranberries with the coriander vinaigrette. Divide the salad among eight plates and sprinkle each one with the fennel and coriander seeds.

Pickled Cranberries

These effortless little pickles make a perfect garnish for roast goose, pork, duck, ham or turkey and add a festive touch to holiday martinis. Pickled cranberries can be kept for several months in the refrigerator. They actually improve with age.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, washed and picked over

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 cup water

5 whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon whole allspice

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 whole cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger root

1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Discard the cinnamon stick. Pack the cranberries into sterile decorative glass jars or plastic containers. Cover with the cooking liquid and seal.

Wilted Watercress

This tantalizing stir-fry of watercress adds a brilliant color and an Asian accent to poultry or fish dishes.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 bunches watercress, large stems removed and roughly chopped

1/2 cup clear fish sauce with lime and cilantro (recipe below)

1. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the watercress, tossing and turning it rapidly with tongs for a few seconds, until the watercress turns brilliant green and just begins to wilt.

2. Sprinkle the clear fish sauce with lime and cilantro over the greens, toss with tongs and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Clear Fish Sauce with Lime and Cilantro

Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

7 tablespoons nuoc mam (available in Asian markets as Vietnamese Nuoc Mam)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup cold water

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons finely julienned carrot

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl, stirring until the sugar is dissolved

2. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.