Getting creative with greens and grains

Though the desire to eat local has been popular for a while on the Vineyard, few are aware of its health benefits.

“There is a lot of thought that ties the rise in diseases and health problems with eating food out of season,” personal chef Liz Doon says. “If you eat according to what your environment dictates, you’re less likely to come across pesticides. That’s why local eating is so much better — you know what’s going into the ground.”

Eating local is easy on the Vineyard: Small farms selling fresh products can be found in most towns around the Island and Cronig’s Market currently carries a range of produce from farms such as Morning Glory and North Tabor.

“When you purchase from restaurants or markets that are working with local farmers, you know that the fruits and vegetables have been chosen for their ripeness,” Ali Berlow says. Ms. Berlow is executive director of Island Grown Initiative, an organization founded in 2005 that seeks to increase the circulation of Island-grown food.

“Buying local not only supports the local economy but also allows you to form a relationship with your farmer, asking him or her questions about the product,” she adds.

Getting your greens might be easy, but cooking creatively with them is somewhat more difficult, especially with less familiar vegetables like kale and bok choy. Though rarely a go-to when it comes to fulfilling the green portion of a meal, these vegetables are full of nutrients and can create a mouth-watering side dish in only a few minutes. What’s more, they can be found locally.

“People have to start thinking outside the box,” Ms. Doon says. An Island resident, Ms. Doon privately caters to several families on and off the Island, creating family-style meals that boast restaurant quality. Roasted kale chips are a prime example. These delicious bites of kale take less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish, and are packed with nutrients (see recipe below).

Bok choy contains some of the highest nutrients of the list. While usually associated with Chinese cooking, when steamed (or alternatively sautéed with garlic) this vegetable is a great side dish. Broccoli rabe is another good go-to. While the broccoli look-alike is often stigmatized for its bitterness, this characteristic can be easily remedied with the addition of a little sugar.

People often think to make salads, but less often think creatively about them. “While spinach is great, it’s not as nutrient-packed as its alternatives,” Ms. Doon says. She adds that anything that can be done with spinach can be done with its alternatives. “Rethinking salads is a good start,” the chef advises. She suggests approaching salads from a warm perspective, sautéing greens and then adding eggs, for instance.

Adding grains, such as quinoa, is another good way to add flare to a salad. Grains like quinoa are common additions to local markets and, because they take longer to digest, keep you more full for longer.

“Food shouldn’t be just things on a plate,” says Ms. Doon, referencing the importance of one meal keeping you full until the next. “But you don’t have to compromise taste,” she adds. Cooking quinoa in chicken stock is one easy way to add flavor to the already tasty grain.

Not only are greens and grains nutrient-packed, but they are also extremely accessible for people with common food allergies.

Quinoa is a good option for diabetics because it is low-glycemic. Along with other grains such as brown rice, spelt, and farro, it is also a good option for those with gluten allergies as it is more easily digestible than its wheat alternatives.

Roasted Kale Chips:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear leafs off of kale stems (discard the hard stem in the center of each leaf). Cut loose leafs into smaller pieces (think of chopping a salad). Wash the loose pieces if necessary. Toss kale chips in a bowl with one tablespoon of olive oil. Spread out in a single layer on a lined cooking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes, until kale chips appear crispy and dry.