Thursday, January 9, 2014

In a word, kale.

In pop culture terms, kale is “the new black.”   Love it or hate it, it’s a favorite of 21st century foodies who are crazy about its nutritional benefits.  Kale salads and other kale dishes can be found on the menus of trendy restaurants everywhere—at trendy prices. 

There’s even a book called “Fifty Shades of Kale,” written by a Columbia University psychiatrist who is so smitten with the plant that he bought a farm in Indiana where he grows several varieties.  The author is enthusiastic and the book is pretty to look at but I’m skeptical about the kale chocolate chip cookie recipe.  That goes a little too far for my taste.

Michel has lived in and traveled to enough places in the world to know that the U.S. is still one of the most affordable.  He also knows that the most healthful foods are very often the most reasonably priced, like curly kale.  At our local supermarket, a bunch of curly kale large enough to grace the arm of a beauty pageant winner is about two dollars—maybe three dollars when it’s not in season. 

What does Michel do with that enormous bunch of kale?  It takes some prep time, but it’s worth it.  First he cuts the leaves away from the stems, washes and drains the leaves in a colander, then “rough chops” the kale until the whole bunch is broken into little pieces.  By the time he’s finished, he’s chopped enough kale to fill two 10-cup plastic storage containers.  Since the leaves don’t wilt like other vegetables might, this supply lasts for about a week.  We make our own CHEAP kale salads with a variety of dressings—oil and vinegar with sunflower seeds and “craisins,” the leftover olive pesto or ricotta mixture mentioned in an earlier post, or kale pesto.  

Here’s Michel’s quick and easy Kale Pesto:  Blend olive oil, garlic, a handful of almonds, some parmesan cheese, black pepper, and a few handfuls of kale.  (Remember my other post about how he measures ingredients?)   And now, his secret that takes away the bitter kale taste:  Add “a few squeezes” of agave nectar.  The agave, along with the almonds and craisins, gives a nice bit of sweetness to the salad. 

Another option is romesco sauce.  It also has a sweetness that balances the raw kale taste.

Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe is excellent. Beautiful color, too.  A Romesco Sauce That Earns Top Billing

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