“The stormy March has come at last, With wind, and cloud, and changing skies; I hear the rushing of the blast, That through the snowy valley flies … For thou, to northern lands again, The glad and glorious sun dost bring, And thou hast joined the gentle train And wear’st the gentle name of Spring” — William Cullen Bryant

With March comes the joyful prospect that winter is nearly done and a conscious cook’s thoughts can turn to spring. The lighter, luscious flavors of a new season will be a delightful tonic to the senses and the system.

As the landscape slowly reveals new layers of fresh green earth, nature provides colorful inspiration for the plate. Healthy green vegetables are the star of the spring kitchen, providing cleansing and invigorating nourishment. Early spring lettuces, hardy herbs such as chives and sturdier greens such as kale, can now take center stage.

A powerful and potent purveyor of health benefits, kale is an excellent source of calcium, which helps to maintain bone health, and may have an impact on preventing osteoporosis and encourage metabolism.

Kale is rich in vitamin C, and eating more of it may help keep the body hydrated, strengthen the immune system and support cartilage and joint flexibility. Low in calories, with zero fat, kale is a superb source of fiber, which aids in elimination and digestion.

While kale’s health benefits may be completely compelling, its versatility as a super food is even more impressive. Juice it into brilliant green smoothies, add it to early spring soups, cut it thinly and scatter it into omelettes or frittatas, braise and bathe it with lemon and herbs, partner it with pasta, or prepare a magnificent salad, melding baby kale with fresh or dried fruits, citrus, crisp, toasted nuts, creamy cheese, and chewy grains, drizzled with a vibrant vinaigrette.

Curly kale is the most common variety to be found in most supermarkets. Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale, may also be available. Choose leaves with deep color, whether they be green, purple or sporting a bit of red on the tips, but avoid leaves that are dry or yellowing. Store unwashed kale in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Baby kale will have the most tender flavor, but larger leaves can be just as enticing. Remove the center rib before preparing, and if using the leaves raw in a salad, give each leaf a nice massage with a bit of olive oil or prepared salad dressing to soften and relax the fibrous texture.

March into spring with all things green as you prepare a delicious life.

Marvelous March Kale Salad

Should serve 4 nicely

1 large bunch fresh organic kale

2 well-ripened avocados, peeled and cubed

2-3 tablespoons golden raisins (optional)

1 large ruby red grapefruit (or orange of any variety)

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

¼ cup torn Italian parsley

½ cup crumbled feta, goat or gorgonzola cheese

½ cup chopped, toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans)

Citrus Dressing

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice)

4 tablespoons olive or canola oil

3 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon Dijon or whole grain mustard

¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare dressing by placing ingredients in a jar, tighten lid securely and shake until well emulsified.

Wash and dry kale well. Remove the center rib and chop the leaves into small pieces or strips. Place kale in a big bowl and sprinkle with just a bit of sea salt. Drizzle half the dressing over the salted kale leaves and massage the leaves until all are coated with dressing. Add all other ingredients to the bowl and add remaining dressing a little at a time. Toss gently and taste as you go along. If salad is tasting well-dressed, do not use all the dressing. Season with black pepper and enjoy.

For more on Robin Glowa HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, go to www.theconsciouscook.net.