Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's......

Quick Quiz – what food is full of fiber, grows just about anywhere, and packs a powerhouse of vitamins that promote health, fight cancer, lower cholesterol, and even promote longer life?

Have you guessed yet? Need more clues? Okay this food also has phytonutrients (there’s a hint here) like sulfurophane which helps your body detox and caroteoids which a Harvard study links to a person’s overall sense of optimism.

Still stumped? As if that isn’t enough, this food also contains copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.  And then just to show off it also serves up omega 3’s, folate, and vitamin B6. But what it’s got all over other superfoods is 684% of the Vitamin K and 124% of the vitamin C you need in one serving. And then wait for it….that single serving has only 33 calories!

Can’t stand it? If you haven’t already guessed, the super food I’m bragging on is KALE!

The first time I served kale, my 17-year-old son said, “It tastes like leaves.” (He’s very astute, scores high on standardized tests.) Kale is basically leaves after all. Once I discovered the wonders of kale, I began to figure out ways to work more leaves into our diet. Here are two of my favorite recipes.

This first recipe comes from the website Smitten Kitchen (its author was a huge sensation last year and has a book out by the same name). The prep sounds much worse than it is and you can cheat and not toast the walnuts, not cook the raisins, use store-bought bread crumbs and bottled lemon juice, but you’ll taste a huge difference when you take the extra time. Sometimes I do the prep earlier in the day so I can just toss the salad together, and sometimes I enjoy a glass of wine while doing the simple prep work. I make a HUGE batch of this salad (at least two times what is listed) and eat it all week. That’s another wonderful thing about kale – it doesn’t wilt to nothingness like salad after it’s been dressed.

Kale Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts (Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 cup (105 grams or 3 3/4 ounces) walnut halves or pieces
1/4 cup (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) golden raisins
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup homemade breadcrumbs (or panko)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed (I use more)
Coarse or kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch (about 14 ounces or 400 grams) tuscan kale (this is the thinner, flatter leaf variety, but I also made it with dinosaur kale and it was fine), washed &patted dry
2 ounces (55 grams) pecorino cheese, grated or ground in a food processor (1/2 cup)
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste

Prepare walnuts: Heat oven to 350. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, tossing once. Let cool and coarsely chop.
Prepare raisins: In a small saucepan over low heat, simmer white wine vinegar, water and raisins for 5 minutes, until plump and soft. Set aside in liquid. (I’ve used regular raisins when I didn’t have golden. They were okay, but golden is better)
Prepare crumbs: Toast bread crumbs, garlic and 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a skillet together with a pinch of salt until golden. Set aside.
Prepare kale: Trim heavy stems off kale and remove ribs. (easiest way to do this is tear the leaves off the stems with your hands and break into salad-size pieces).
Assemble salad: Put kale in a large bowl. Add pecorino, walnuts and raisins (leaving any leftover vinegar mixture in dish), remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice and toss until all the kale ribbons are coated. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and some of the reserved vinegar mixture from the raisins, if needed. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving, if you can, as it helps the ingredients come together. Just before serving, toss with breadcrumbs and, if needed, a final 1 teaspoon drizzle of olive oil.

Kale chips have been all the rage. I was all set to jump on board too until I saw the price. After making them myself, I think there is a little price gouging going on here. Kale is cheap and easy to grow and kale chips are cheap and easy to make!

Kale Chips
 1 bunch of kale (I think the dinosaur kind works best because it’s a little thicker, but I’ve made all kinds and they still taste great – they’re just fragile)
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or use a baking stone or nonstick sheet)
Remove stems and tear into bite size pieces (use your hands for this – it’s much easier than a knife and takes a fraction of the time).
Wash and dry kale.
Toss with olive oil.

 and sprinkle with seasonings. (I’ve used chili-lime seasoning, garlic, ceasar salad dressing mix – it’s fun to try all kinds of seasonings. You can always just salt them and jump back too).

 Bake until edges brown but are not burnt, about 10-15 minutes.

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