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Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:01 am

All hail, kale

 

Suddenly it seems as if kale is everywhere. The sturdy-leaved member of the Brassica vegetable family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens and others, is showing up on restaurant menus, in cooking magazines and websites; actually in anything food-centric. Or not food-centric: It even made an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s debut week hosting “The Tonight Show.”

0A big part of kale’s newfound popularity is due to its health benefits. Low in calories, high in fiber, it has lots of iron, calcium, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, C and K.

But kale is much more than a health food. It comes in many forms: ruffled and curly, oak-leaved Russian reds, and the dark green, puckery-patterned plumes of Tuscan kale, also known as Cavolo Nero, Lacinato, and oddly, Dinosaur. All kales are good-looking; some are so lovely that they’re grown primarily as ornamentals. And kale is as delicious as it is good for you. It’s one of my favorite greens, especially in cooler months when it’s at its most flavorful.

Kale’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” came in the form of chips. In a skit with Fallon’s and Will Ferrell’s alter egos, Sara and Stacy, first lady Michelle Obama brought kale chips for the “girls” as a healthier alternative to potato chips. It was an “ew!” moment for the girls, perhaps because kale chips don’t really taste like potato chips. Taken on their own merits, though, kale chips are delicious, particularly when dusted with some grated Parmesan before baking, although that’s optional. And they’re a snap to make.

Kale chips
1 bunch kale, preferably curly or oak-leaved
Olive oil, about a T.
Salt
Grated Parmesan or other grating cheese, such as Pecorino Romano, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the center stalks from the kale leaves and tear into pieces that are roughly big enough for two bites. Wash the leaves and blot them completely dry on a lint-free towel.

Toss the leaves with the olive oil until they are lightly coated all over. This is easiest to do if you place the oil in a plastic grocery bag or other plastic bag, add the torn leaves, tie the bag shut, and shake for a minute or so.

Place the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet, preferably covered with parchment paper for easier cleanup. Sprinkle lightly with salt and the cheese, if using.

Bake just until the edges begin browning and the leaves are crisp. Cool to room temperature and serve within a few hours. The chips will lose their crispness by the next day. Servings will depend on the amount of kale.

American Harvest Eatery uses kale in a variety of their innovative preparations, including this delectable take on Caesar salad.

Chefs Aurora and Jordan Coffey say, “For this recipe, we decided to toss the greens with the olive oil rather than in the Caesar dressing for a lighter presentation and to let the kale’s flavor be the star of the salad. In the winter to make the dish more hearty we might toss the salad with white beans marinated with some of the dressing.” Enjoy!

American Harvest kale Caesar salad with garlic crumbs

  • 2 bunches Tuscan or Winterbor kale
  • 4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste

Pick the leaves off the kale stems and finely chop with a sharp knife. In a mixing bowl, lightly toss with the olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle salt to taste.

Caesar

  • 4 farm egg yolks (from chickens that are not confined)
  • 2 canned or jarred anchovy filets
  • 1/2 c. finely grated real Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1 T. Worchestershire sauce
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes

In a food processor, combine the egg yolks, anchovies, lemon juice, Dijon, Tabasco, Worchestershire, chili flakes. Purée until smooth. With the processor still running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is fully emulsified, add the Parmigiano, and season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Garlic crumbs

  • 2 c. panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 c. finely grated real Parmigiano-Reggiano

Melt the butter and stir in the chopped garlic. Pore over the panko, along with the cheese, mix well and season with salt and pepper. Distribute evenly on a sheet tray and toast in the oven at 350 F. until golden brown. Chill.

To plate
Chill plates. With a spoon, swoosh a circle of the dressing onto the plate and evenly distribute almost to the edge. Place the kale salad on top of the dressing, sprinkle with the garlic bread crumbs and finish by grating some more Parmesan on top. Yields 4-6 small salads.

Kale is nutritious enough to eat anytime, but the rest of this decadently over-the-top recipe makes it something to save for a special occasion, although the person below who commented on the dish online clearly would disagree. It comes from John T. Edge, the driving force responsible for the creation of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a food writer and anthropologist whose work has appeared in countless food magazines and elsewhere, including the The New York Times.

Edge’s recipe first appeared in the January 2008 edition of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. Said one online reviewer: “I have permanently broken up with creamed spinach because of this recipe. After I discovered it I made it three times in a week. It’s become a sick obsession. It’s awesome just the way it is, though I feel compelled to point out that it becomes even more amazing if you use as many kinds of greens as possible. Also, it’s totally possible to skip the bacon.”

My review: It’s absolutely scrumptious!

Creamed kale with brown butter

  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 T. minced shallot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 1/2 lb. kale
  • 6 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, cut into 1/4-inch sticks (lardons)
  • 1 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 T. cider vinegar, or to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf, and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Strain béchamel sauce (the white sauce) through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and cover surface with parchment paper.

Discard stems and center ribs from the kale, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook lardons in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off fat from pot and wipe clean.

Heat remaining 1/2 stick butter in pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, then cook onion, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in the kale, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding next. Add béchamel, cream, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring until sauce coats greens and greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in lardons, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:

  • Béchamel sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with parchment. Stir before using.
  • Greens can be chopped 1 day ahead and chilled in a large sealed bag.


Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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