Sunday, March 10, 2013

All Hail Kale!!!

      The media abounds with new information about what we can now eat  that we thought we couldn't; warnings about what we thought we could safely eat but now is found to be deadly; and the latest greatest miracle food. Berries from South America, exotic fruits from Asia, organic this and that, RBST free dairy products, naturally raised meat, free range eggs, sustainably farmed vegetables, and Kale!
     Kale has been with us as a frost resistant dark green leafy vegetable that our grandparents and ancient European cousins have been eating for centuries. There is written history that suggests kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 year, enjoyed by the Greeks and Romans, and was a staple on Scottish tables in the dark ages. A member of the same family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower and broccoli, Brassica oleracea, all are related to mustard, and a large variety of other greens used by cultures around the world.
    The Brassicas are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phyto-chemicals, and thought to be essential for a healthy diet, protecting us from some types of cancer and heart disease. "Greens" are one of those things we probably don't eat enough of, because unless slathered in bacon grease and "cooked down" most of us have not encountered many brassicas to our liking. 
The cold prep tables at True Foods Kitchen are in the dining room!
     A few years ago, my youngest daughter treated me to lunch at Dr. Andrew Weil's "True Food Kitchen" restaurant at the Biltmore Fashion Park In Phoenix, AZ. We started with a glass of Snoqualmie Naked Riesling, an organically grown wine from Washington as we perused the fascinating menu. If you can find it, be sure and try it!  We were so intrigued with the interesting sounding offerings, we wanted to try as many items as we could, and ordered a large collection of small plates and side servings. One bite of Tuscan Kale Salad, and we were hooked for life! Kale is now a staple in my refrigerator, and my daughter has two huge plants for harvesting as needed right outside her kitchen door. 

Lacinato also called  "black" or "dragon kale"  is preferable for this salad, but curly or red Russian will work in a pinch.
You'll need 4-6 cups kale, about 2 nice bunches.

Wash leaves well, and remove thick vein with a scissors (lots easier than using a knife)
Chop leaves crosswise into 1/4 inch strips,  then "massage" by squeezing and tossing. this softens the fibers.
Whisk together the juice of 1 lemon, 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves mashed garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Pour over kale and add 1/4 cup coarsely grated Pecorino or Asiago cheese.   
Let salad sit for about a half hour so soften and season, and then sprinkle another 1/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan or asiago chees over the top, and serve.

     Don't worry about having too much salad left. The kale looses some of its volume as it sits, but also keeps beautifully in the refrigerator for a week.  There are people in this family who would eat if everyday for lunch or dinner if it were available. All Hail Mighty Kale!
And a very big Thank-you to Dr. Andrew Weil for sharing this recipe! ***
***The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup freshly grated and toasted breadcrumbs. I try to avoid wheat when possible, so I have learned a wonderful substitute is a small handful of chopped toasted pine nuts. My daughter uses ground almonds in place of the cheese. Make this recipe your own by substituting whatever works for you... It's the kale that is important.. no substituting iceberg lettuce here!