Monday, August 1, 2011

Kale: I hardly knew ya

Every year I try to grow something new. In 2008, it was chamomile and, well, almost everything I grew. In 2009, it was regular and black garbanzo beans. Last year, it was chard, new varieties of tomatoes and several types of shelling beans. This year, I am growing Chinese Cabbage and Kale for the first time (and a few other things that I’m still evaluating). I also tried growing some Quinoa this year, but it never germinated.

I’ve never been a big fan of kale – or any greens for that matter, although my mother (as a farm girl) loves kale over all other kinds of greens. She would make kale occasionally for us as children and it was always either soggy and vinegary or stiff to me. Yuck.

Last year, as faithful readers may recall, I attended an impromptu cookout at Jay and Cozy’s house. Jay made some kale in a cast iron skillet over an open fire pit in their back yard from some extra kale donated by their neighbors, who participate in a CSA. Although everything he served that night was very, very good, the kale was great. I became obsessed and they became confused. I conducted some research on the internet and discovered that kale is one of the superfoods. It is related to colored greens, cabbage and broccoli. One cup has 200% of the recommended requirement of Vitamin C, 180% of Vitamin A, 1,020% of Vitamin K (that is not a typo), and 15% of calcium and Vitamin B6. Whew. It’s a multivitamin tablet by itself. That being said, it interferes with the absorption of calcium, so there is no point of eating it with milk or cheese.

When we received our free seeds this year from Botanical Interests through Christ Lutheran Church, I pulled some Tuscan Kale aside. I planted some in both my back yard and at the SACG. Both grew with wild abandon with virtually no assistance from me. That’s a plus in my book. It’s pretty, too. I could grow it in flower beds in the future even if I never cook it.

Last week, I finally harvested some of my kale and tried out a recipe (as well as trying Jay’s vague directions for what he created last year). I highly recommend both and will be making both regularly for until Christmas (since I’m starting my second kale crop and can grow it throughout the winter in my backyard with the assistance of a hoop house).

Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw (modified from Bon Appetit magazine July 2011)

Ingredients (for one serving)
• 3 tbsp lemon juice
• 4-8 anchovy fillets, packed in oil and drained
• 1 garlic clove chopped
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• ¼ cup EVOO
• 1/8 cup finely grated Parmesan
• Dashes of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
• 2 cups Tuscan (or black) kale, thinly sliced and large stalks removed. (Yes, you can serve and eat it raw).

• In a blender, combine lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, mustard and EVOO. Pour into a bowl and add half of the parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Can be made two days ahead.
• Chop the egg into tiny, tiny pieces. Chill. Can be made 6 hours ahead.
• Wash and cut the kale. Put it into a large bowl. Toss it with the dressing. Then top with the chopped egg and remaining parmesan.

Serve and enjoy.

Jay’s Yummy Cast Iron Kale

Ingredients (for one serving)
• 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
• ¼ cup sliced onions
• 1 slice bacon, sliced longways and then chopped into quarter inch pieces. I cheated and had two slices
• Two cups of kale (including stalks) sliced into inch-wide strips.
• 1-2 tsp of red wine vinegar

• Cook bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until it shrivels up to the shape of bacon bits (but before it turns black). Cover it with a splatter guard (to protect the rest of your kitchen).
• Tilt the skillet to distribute the bacon grease evenly. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for five minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and replace the splatter guard.
• Add the kale (and keep the splatter guard over the skillet). Cook until the kale wilts, but before it is soggy. About 3 minutes.
• Splash the vinegar over the kale. Stir.

Serve hot and enjoy.

Life is good.

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