Convenience is the most critical factor that comes in the way of cooking healthy everyday. We fall back on short cut methods, quick sandwiches, take-aways and home delivered food sometimes when we are occupied with work or just can't handle the housekeeping and kitchen both along with work. If you have young kids the convenience factor counts even more.
Being prepared, shopping for fresh greens weekly and keeping some boiled beans, potatoes, may be some chicken helps a lot when you want to cook or whip up quick meals. Paneer and eggs also help me a lot when I have to cook quick meals. We eat simple meals at home but it has to be tasty and different every time. I just cannot imagine eating the same things everyday, apart from some classics that we cook every season without fail.
I make sure we eat loads of leafy greens everyday but I am not too particular about eating them raw always. I would steam and sautee the greens sometimes, would puree and make dips or cook them into a delicious lentil soup.
How to keep leafy greens ready to use...
Someone on Instagram asked me how to keep the salad greens and other leafy greens fresh for a week in the fridge. I know it is a bit of effort if you want to eat fresh greens regularly. First of all you need to buy them regularly to keep them stocked always. I get to shop for my leafy greens once a week but one can buy 2-3 times a week if possible.
Now a days one can order salad greens online and schedule an alternate delivery to get them fresh always. But what to do when you get to buy them once a week. You have to make sure you process them and store them in such a way that you can use them in salads, stir fries and soups.
Now let's see how we can sort the greens, clean them (or not) and keep them ready to use for quick meals whether those are salads, stir fries or soups.
- Sort the greens by type so you can use them accordingly over the week. The lettuces, rocket leaves etc keep well for 4-5 days in the fridge, the spinach, amaranth leaves, Bathua, fenugreek leaves etc keep well for 10 days, the beet, carrot and knol khol leaves stay good for 4-5 days while the most long lasting leafy greens are the cabbages of all sorts. Think about the green or ed cabbages, Chinese cabbage, pok choi and radicchio etc, the ones that form a head. These stay fresh for a month or so if stored well.
- For all salad greens, rinse them well, drain for an hour and pack into cloth or paper bags to refrigerate. For the first 2 days they stay fresh and crunchy so use them directly. If they get softer after a couple of days just tear them first and then dip in chilled water while you prepare the dressing and other ingredients of the salad. And if the salad greens have wilted beyond repair in the fridge blend them into smoothies or just blend and add them to lentil soups in the last minute of simmering.
- Spinach stays well for a week if it is kept wrapped in a paper or napkin. Choose freshest spinach possible and do not wash it before refrigerating if you are storing it raw. Spinach should be chopped and cooked immediately after washing else it starts rotting. Baby spinach stays well even after washing and draining the leaves well. You can chop and steam spinach and freeze it in ziplock bags to be added to stir fries and to be blended into soups or to make palak paneer etc.
- Fenugreek (methi) leaves are a little dry and can be washed and chopped before storage. Keep the chopped, ready to use fenugreek greens in a ziplock bag (pierced to allow aeration) or a cloth bag. These will be great even if they dry up a little bit.
- Amaranth greens (both red and green variety) keep well if washed and chopped, stored in a perforated ziplock or cloth bag. If kept unwashed these greens last longer as these are almost drought resistant greens.
- Bathua leaves I always wash, chop and steam before storage. Bathua (Chenopodium) doesn't keep well because of higher water content in them. So steam bathua and store, chop or blend when required.
- Purslane (kulfa) has high water content but it is a succulent type plant so it keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks. It stays good even at room temperature for 3-4 days.
- Fennel bulbs, leeks and spring onions keep well if the leaves are trimmed. Keep the leaves separate and use them first, the bulbs stay for longer. Keep them refrigerated in cloth bags or paper bags. Knol khol leaves are better cooked with the bulb like this Monji haak recipe, but keeping the greens separately helps in this case too.
- Cabbages last quite a long time. The tighter the head of cabbage the longer it will last in the fridge. My home grown cabbages last about 6 months in the fridge, the ones from the market are already a couple of months old when they reach you. Do not wash the cabbages before storage. The good thing is that the cabbages do not require cleaning and can be chopped quickly before cooking or tossing into a coleslaw or chopped salad.
- If you are getting mixed salad greens remember to rinse them first and store in a cloth bag or perforated ziplock, but not for more than a couple of days as some of the varieties of salad greens may spoil earlier and cause other to rot too. Dip them all in chilled water before tossing into a salad. I never use a salad spinner to dry the salad greens but I do let them drain in a colander for some time.
Last but not the least, grow some of the herbs and salad greens in whatever space you have. Try and find more leafy greens that grow wild around you and use them. In this salad you can see some Oxalic leaves that impart a tart bite to the salad.
Coming back to this beans and mixed greens salad, I have used a native variety of cow peas in this salad which is a brown and smaller variety of black eyed peas. The taste is much better than the regular black eyed peas and it cooks faster too. In local parlance it is called as laal chowli or desi chowli or desi lobiya.
I keep using different types of beans for my salads or hummus or even stews. This laal chowli I find suitable for a stew as well. In fact I stir fried the boiled laal chowli with spinach and bathua (separately) and it tasted so good that I thought of making hummus with it too. The beans were boiled and stocked for making quicker salads for my lunch though.
(serves 2 for a full meal)
1 cup boiled laal chowli (lobiya) or black eyed peas (or use any beans you like)
3/4 cup black grapes halved (or use orange segments)
3-4 large cherry belle radishes thinly sliced or beets thinly sliced
300 gm mixed salad greens torn into bite sized pieces
I used a few oxalis leaves (khatti buti) for a tart bite
2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts
Few pieces of thinly sliced toasted bread (preferably multi grain or whole wheat)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp or more extra virgin olive oil (or use mustard oil)
2 tsp tahini paste (or use sesame powdered fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
2-3 black grapes crushed
Make the dressing by whisking everything together.
Add the boiled beans (room temperature) to the dressing and toss with the mixed greens, radish slices and chopped grapes or orange segments.
Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if using.
Fill into a salad bowl and arrange the toasted bread slices to one side. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.
This salad is a fine balance of flavours and textures. The black grapes give it a sweetish flavour that enriches the dressing so much I felt like making the salad again and again. I used orange segments the next time when I used red cabbage for the salad and it was as good.
Do not skip radish in this salad as it gives a nice crunch, you can add thickly grated or julienne of radish if you want.