Sunday, April 29, 2012

Easy Way to Cook Kale Ahead

Signed up for a CSA? If so, you have a befuddling box of leafy greens coming sooner than later. While it’s still a little early in the season for kale to be coming from the local farms here in Virginia, kale is generally easy to find year round, and I have the daily challenge of getting leafy greens into a husband who eats nothing raw. That’s right, no salads… no cobb salad, no seared tuna over sesame greens, no slaw, no avocado with pink grapefruit and poached shrimp – ok, I digress. The point is, I need to come up with tasty cooked greens that fit into the busy schedule and continue to help lower my honey’s ever-plummeting cholesterol, thankyouverymuch.

Enter several bunches of kale. If you need any convincing of kale’s health benefits you can check out this article on WebMD. It’s a veggie loaded with fiber, antioxidents, a truckload of vitamin K, and surpisingly is more effective in preventing heart disease when it’s cooked than when it’s raw. Amen to that!

Tackling kale can feel like a big, dirty mess but if you start by blanching it, you will quickly have a very manageable medium. To begin, pull the leaves off the stems and give them a rough chop. You’re cooking it so you don’t have to be to prissy or particular in the chopping. Just run a knife through it to get smaller pieces and then drop it into a bowl with cool tap water. By floating the kale leaves in a  bowl, a lot of dirt and little stones and unwanted elements will fall to the bottom while the leaves stay at the top.

In the meantime boil a pot of water with some sea salt. Take the kale out of the water bath and drop it into the pot. Depending on your tastes it will need to cook 6-8 minutes. Just take a piece out and taste it. When it’s the right level of resistance for your tastes, remove it to a sheet pan and spread it out to cool. I had three bunches of kale, so I worked in three batches. Again, it’s not a prissy affair, so you can prep other things, step away, send a text message and it will be fine as long as you’re back in 6 – 8 minutes.

I used one of my favorite low-tech kitchen gadgets. I love it and use it for blanching a frying and couldn’t imagine life without it. It’s called a bamboo spider – I’m not sure why. Seems to me it should be called a spider web, but either way, they are inexpensive, lightweight, easy to clean (just rinse, don’t put it in the machine!) and relatively easy to find. I bought mine at an Asian market, but I also found them here on shopwiki for eights bucks.

Once done blanching I had this bright green, seasoned, clean and totally manageable volume of kale. At this point I squeezed the water out and stashed it in the fridge for ‘pick up,’ to use some restaurant vernacular.

 The difficult part is officially done! To pick it up, I decided to try a couple of different vinaigrettes. The recipe is for a sherry vinegar, mustard version and it is very good and versatile and can accompany pork, chicken, fish, tofu etc. I had some for lunch one day with seared tempeh ‘croutons’ and they were toasty and nutty alongside the bright greens and slight tang from the mustard. Another day I had a peach cider version cold alongside chinese chicken salad. They were both surprisingly good.

To make variations on the recipe you can change the mustard from grainy to smooth, and swap different acids in for the sherry vinegar. I had purchased a bottle of peach cider on a recent visit to an orchard and it was too sweet for my tastes for drinking, so I used it, with a squeeze of lemon and smooth Dijon and it was great. Another sweeter version came from a Spanish Moscatel vinegar I have on hand. Then I tried using a prepared sesame ginger dressing, and that was a quick and easy way to make it with an Asian profile. Hope this helps you heart your heart-healthy kale!

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Kale with Sherry Vinegar and Grainy Mustard

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: about 45 minutes

Blanched kale is easy and delicious when finished off with a vinaigrette.

Ingredients:

2 bunch kale, blanched in salted water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T grainy mustard
2 T sherry vinegar
4 T cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

- combine vinegar, garlic and mustard
- slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil and season lightly (kale is already seasoned from blanching, so go easy)
- heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan
- add kale and saute until heated through
- add the vinaigrette and leave on heat just until the garlic smells fragrant and like it's starting to cook

two thumbs up from your gastroenterologist

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