So much chatter about kale these days! I’ve always loved it, so I only recently realized it had become fashionable after being unpopular for so long. It is one of the oldest vegetables around —apparently it’s about 2600 years old and comes from Turkey originally.
Just looking at this dark, leafy, luscious green you know it’s good for you! When I lived in Germany, I washed the kale I bought three or four times because so much sand gets into the curly folds of the leaves. My Aunt Renate showed me to how to cook it: First blanched then strained and sautéed with smoked bacon. (My mom also throws in a sliced-up pear to offset any possible bitterness.) Add a little bit of water and simmer for another half hour or so. I love kale this traditional way, especially served alongside sausages and mashed potatoes!
But I think despite all its nutritional goodness, people are a bit afraid of kale. It’s bitter, do you eat the stems or cut them out, is it good for more than a garnish . . .and what about the purple or flat-leaf kinds? For many people, it’s all very new and intimidating.
I was at a very chi-chi restaurant recently that had kale salad on the menu. I rarely order something in a restaurant that I make at home, but I was in the mood for it that evening. How disappointing! I was hard-pressed to find a single leaf of kale in the salad. What I was served was tasty, but honestly—it was a salad of mixed greens with one piece of kale. Definitely not what I’d call a kale salad!
Back to South Pond, where my friend Judy was en route for a visit. I wanted to make her two-and-a-half hour drive worth it for more than just my company and the usual chaotic swirl of dogs, girls and goats, not to mention the constant tending of the fires. It was promising to be the coldest night we’d had in a while and I wondered how my friend would cope when she exhaled and was able to see her breath as she lay in bed!
Judy is a good cook who appreciates food. Shawn had introduced me to friends of his, the Malcoms, who raise hogs. On evening, he and I did an experiment: We fried one Malcolm ham steak on the wood cook stove, and threw the other into my clay cooking pot (a Romertopf given to me by my Mom who had it when I was young) without any spices or water! The pot went into the wood cook stove for 45 minutes.
We wanted to see which piece was better and to taste the true flavour of the meat without any distraction. Both were delicious, but honestly, the intensity of the ham flavour of the one cooked in the clay pot was absolutely amazing—the best ham I had ever tasted. (I hate to say it, Mom, but it was even better than the one from the smokehouse outside of Brattleboro, Vermont.)
So for dinner with Judy, I decided on ham, baked apples, boiled potatoes with parsley and butter, and . . . kale salad! Before you cringe and tune out, you need to know that my youngest daughter Aubrey Rose loved this salad, and she basically hates most food except bread, butter and chicken. She even asked for seconds! It’s a delicious dish that makes you feel like Popey after you eat it! Not only are you pleased with yourself for eating something so amazingly healthy, I think you actually get a bit of an energy boost.
I threw this recipe together based on what I had in the refrigerator. It was too cold to go out for supplies, even for Judy. The salad really can be made with anything green that you like, and of course, as I always do, substitute freely! (A postscript: Judy went home and made the salad herself, adding sliced red grapes. She said they added a wonderful sweetness – I’ll give that a try!)
Dressing: Juice of half a lemon 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons walnut oil 1 shallot, minced finely coarse salt freshly ground pepper pinch of chili flakes 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salad: 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thinly 1 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped coarsely 2 cups kale, washed carefully; middle stem removed, leaves chopped coarsely 2 heads broccoli, chopped coarsely 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped feta cheese dried cranberries
Mix the dressing together and taste. It should be not too tart, so adjust the oil and seasonings as needed.
Mix the greens together and top with the feta cheese and some cranberries. The result should be tart, sweet and just a bit salty!