I learned of the tradition of eating green foods on St. Patrick’s Day when I was in grade school. Inspired by the concept of green beer, my (not Irish) mother wanted to provide green food for our Irish dinner guests (children of a neighbor who was in the hospital) and served green rice. Not bamboo rice, which is actually the seed of a dying bamboo plant or jade rice, which is infused with bamboo juice, but supermarket green-food-coloring, almost blindingly bright green rice. The grains didn’t fully absorb the food coloring and had an eerie, translucent quality to them. Mom served us each a generous portion and then triumphantly plunked a large bowl of it on the table, “in case anyone wanted more.” The kids were aghast. It was awful.
Nowadays, when I look for something green to eat on St. Patrick’s Day, I reach for foods — mostly vegetables, that are naturally green. Lately, leafy greens, chock full of fiber, iron, calcium, B vitamins and other essential nutrients are my go-to. Spinach, kale, collards, beet greens and hardy lettuces are all fair game, and they show up in all kinds of dishes. These diverse recipes feature them:
A salad of leafy greens with preserved lemon and crushed pistachio makes a salty, tangy, crunchy precursor to a meal. Use a variety of bitter greens to keep it interesting. Even the nuts are green!
Keto-friendly Mustard Greens and Beans Soup with Herby Pork Meatballs is a flavorful protein fest. Heavily perfumed with rosemary (an excellent source of phytochemicals and antioxidants), it is a great make-ahead dish. Prepare the meatballs and cook the beans in advance and the rest comes together in a jiffy. Red Beans and Greens offers a less soupy approach to the beans and greens concept. Andouille sausage and red kidney beans allow for a vibrant contrast with the green collards, all more vivid when spooned over white rice.
Pozole Verde (Green Pozole) is perfect for a multicultural St. Patrick’s Day gathering. A great party dish, pozole is easy to make, impressively showy and fun to eat, as each guest can customize their own bowl with various toppings such as green chile slices, lime wedges, fresh cilantro and iceberg lettuce.
Or try a casserole of not-quite-as-leafy Green Enchiladas, made so from a salsa of tomatillos, serrano chiles and cilantro. For less heat, substitute jalapenos for the serrano chiles — and for no heat, take a cue from the pozole and use poblanos.
Brine-Braised Chicken Thighs With Kale and Avocado (also keto-friendly) is an easy, flavorful one-pan meal. Olive brine gives the chicken a distinctive, earthy saltiness that carries through to the kale and avocado, as well. Chermoula sauce, green from the blend of parsley and cilantro, adds spiciness to roasted salmon and a lemony kale salad.
Made with a base of greens rather than the usual tomato and red bell pepper base, Palak Paneer Shakshuka— a riff on both classic shakshuka and the popular Indian cheese and spinach dish — is a vegetarian breakfast, brunch or “breakfast-for-dinner” option. Serve it with crusty bread for added texture and to sop up the flavorful juices.
Cajun-style red beans, spiced with andouille sausage, are a great vehicle for adding in sautéed greens from your produce or CSA box.
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Sour and bright preserved lemon adds an intense zest to this salad of mature greens and creamy pistachios.
Spicy, herbal chermoula sauce adds zing to simple roast salmon and a lemony kale salad.
Pozole is party food, customized with condiments. Lime adds zing, dried oregano an intense herbal aroma. Fresh chiles spice it up. Shredded lettuce gives a cool crunch.
Time3 hours 10 minutes
YieldsServes 8 to 10
Rosemary adds an herbaceous aroma to simple pork meatballs cooked in a savory broth with beans and wilted mustard greens.
These green enchiladas are made with green salsa, stuffed with chicken and topped with queso Chihuahua and crema.
The olive brine here tenderizes and seasons the thighs well, while the olives and avocado balance it with some needed richness.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
Palak paneer, an Indian spinach dish, added to the simple base of peppers sautéed until sweet, is an instant, super-flavorful sauce for your eggs.
YieldsServes 4 to 6