Updated: July 25, 2013

Let's face it, cooking greens have an image problem. Most people shy away because they think they're bitter or mushy, but that's only because they haven't tasted them cooked right. It's worth giving these nutrient-packed vegetables a second chance: They have calcium and vitamin K (for bones), iron (for energy), beta-carotene and B vitamins (for heart health), and lutein (for eyesight). In the winter, when it's slim pickings in the produce aisle, I eat dark leafy greens nearly everyday, and I've come up with a few ways to make them as delicious as they are nutritious.

Add kale of Swiss chard and a little cheese to pasta dishes for a hit of calcium.

POWER UP PASTA

For an easy weeknight meal; add cooked greens to whole-wheat fusilli or shells, drizzle with olive oil, and toss with crumbled feta and toasted walnuts. Or try them in lasagna: Squeeze the leaves dry, then place them between the layers of noodles and cheese.

BUY PLENTY

Greens shrink dramatically during cooking, so aim for half a pound per person. Look for bunches with smallish leaves; they'll be more tender and quicker to prepare.

BRAISE, DON'T STEAM

Steaming leafy greens brings out their bitterness. Braising mellows the flavor and tenderizes the leaves. To do it: Slice greens into ribbons and place in a deep skillet with just a splash of water or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and cook until the greens are wilted, about five to eight minutes.

SWEETEN THEM UP

Lightly dress cooked greens with extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil, or roasted pumpkin seed oil-adding a little fat helps you better absorb the nutrients in the greens. That makes and exquisite side dish on its own, but you can also toss in some fruit and nuts or caramelized onions.

MAKE THEM A MAIN COURSE

Soft polenta or couscous topped with greens is an easy, satisfying dish. Braise them and spoon over the grain.

TRY THEM IN A SANDWICH

Sauté a large handful of mushrooms and add chopped greens and garlic when the mushrooms are nearly soft. Store this mixture in the fridge. Bring to room temp and spread on toasted baguette with a little fresh mozzarella for a change of pave at lunch.

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