By Brian L. Lichorowic
I’m told it rises up first, through snow if necessary, defiant and dignified. As if to say: “You call that a winter?”
Kale. Brassica oleracea. Around the Piedmont, it’s everywhere. A non-hearting type of cabbage, meaning it doesn’t curl into a ball. Most commonly rolled into the “greens” category. Rich in calcium, heavy in C &; B vitamins, I eat kale because local, regional food is tastiest and the best for our bodies, as well as abundantly available seasonally. I believe that eating organic local produce, particularly in the spring, helps relieve my environmental allergies, as does local honey.
It’s an important winter vegetable in British cuisine and at the heart of “soul” cooking.
My first impression was not, however, prudent. Our family restaurant used kale as a decorative garnish on one of our most popular banquet entrees, the Roast Turkey Dinner, which was a favorite of the lady shoppers on the tour buses stopping over for a quick bite before hitting the Oneida Silversmiths Factory Store en masse.
One leaf, trimmed with an orange slice and half of a maraschino cherry in the middle on the afore mentioned Turkey dish accompanied with homemade sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and two (2!) hot vegetables with a choice of soup or salad and bread; $4.99.
If we ran out, we’d run kale through our commercial dishwasher, then dunk it in iced salt water for an hour only to be topped again with an orange slice and cherry and returned to the masses (a vicious circle…but good Karma, right?) None of the blue hairs on the buses knew or cared. Equivalent to the wedding favors strategically placed at the hostess stand for them to pilfer as they exited. 300 small plastic top hats filled with small almonds and mints. Leftover from the Mentzer wedding. We left them out for a reason. Not one would remain and no one would care that the little plastic hat read, “Susan & Mark- Love Lasts Forever– July 9, 1977.”
As a garnish, it was indestructible. We never gave any thought to eating it. It wasn’t until a few years later, my freshman year at Boston University, when I dined at Perce Alston’s, my roommate’s parent’s home, did I realize that my family had treated it unfairly.
The Farmer’s Market is opening soon and kale will be there. First in line in fact. Simplicity is key I’ve found with kale. Try it with another dominant flavor or spice. Its nutrients are undeniable.
[Ed. note: Recipes after the jump]
Mrs. A’s Kale
Perce’s mom in Brookline, MA made this for us. I eat it to this day. But on that day, it was particularly tasty to a couple of starving college kids. I offered to show her a trick with the kale and her Kenmore dishwasher, but she wasn’t interested and cuffed me on the head.
4 cups white beans, Navy or Great Northern, cooked
1 tbs lemon juice
to taste salt, pepper
to taste red pepper flakes
1 lg onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb kale — stems removed, leaves only
Dash nutmeg- important!
Mix beans, lemon juice, salt and pepper flakes together. Heat gently and mash slightly.
Chop onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Slice the greens into shreds and add to garlic onion mix with the nutmeg. Sauté until greens are wilted.
Suggested serving is mound beans on top of greens and put it next to a great big old 2″ thick grilled pork chop like Mrs. A did!
Spicy Kale And Chickpea Stew
Over the years, I tend to eat kale when it was the last thing in the fridge. I’ve boiled and faked a few things but few good recipes were common public knowledge. With the Internet you can get a few ideas but still, you had to ask around.
A few people I know have very, very severe food allergies. They’re strict vegans not by choice but by doctor’s orders. This dish seems to be a pretty big staple in their diets. Using your favorite “designer” hot sauce can really take this dish through any flavor spectrum. Add cream and butter for French, or some Dragon Oil for Cantonese or Tabasco for Cajun.
2 cups chickpeas, dried soaked overnight in water
10 cups water
2 lg onions, chopped coarse
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 green bell peppers, chopped coarse
1 1/2 lb kale, stems removed, leaves only
2 14.5 oz cans plum tomatoes, chopped, undrained
6 oz tomato paste
3 tbs chile powder
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tbs favorite designer hot sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
Steamed couscous or rice as an accompaniment
In a large saucepan simmer the chickpeas in the water, covered partially, for 1 1/2 hours, or until they are tender. In a heavy kettle cook the onions and the garlic in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden, add the bell peppers, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add the chick-peas with the cooking liquid, the kale, the tomatoes with the juice, the tomato paste, the chili powder, the thyme, the oregano, the hot sauce, the cumin, the sugar, and the bay leaf, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the stew, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Discard the bay leaf, season the stew with salt, more hot sauce if necessary and serve the stew on couscous or rice.
WifeyPoo juices the stuff regularly, so that’s why I have it around. I should learn from her. I’ve read in several places that when raw kale juice is added to raw carrot juice a “super” Vitamin C cocktail ensues. Amongst other things tremendous for the human body.
In your juicer:
1 apple, tart, organic unpeeled, quartered and chopped
3-5 carrots scrubbed, unpeeled organic, chopped
2 kale clean organic stalks included