Monday, November 16, 2009

Kale - In Praise of a Humble Winter Vegetable


Many years ago, a friend brought an ‘earth-shaking’ salad to a winter pot-luck.  It was made with spinach and (I swear) a whole pound of bacon.  It was yummy, but I just couldn’t get my head around the pork and animal fat.  I took the basic idea, and over time developed my Wilted Kale Salad; what I consider to be one of my favourite winter salads. 

Kale is a little more durable than spinach.  The kale turns from a dull blue-green to a really bright, fresh green when you add the hot salad dressing. 

The first thing is to do is to create the bacon taste with out the bacon.

Japanese Gomasio

Rinse 1 cup of brown sesame seeds in sieve under tepid running water
Let drain
Use dry cast iron skillet –medium heat 
Cut dulse into small bits
Toast in pan until dulse is crisp
Add 1 tsp Celtic salt or sea salt –ground fine
Up end sieve and dump in sesame seeds all at once
Spread over bottom of skillet and leave it to dry for a bit
Stir gently and fairly constantly (you may need to reduce heat)
This is ready when seeds are fragrant, slightly golden and hollow
Cool slightly and store in an airtight jar.
Can be ground coarsely as needed, or used whole as a garnish.
Tastes like bacon and is great with vegetarian Caesar Salad or Spinach Salad

Wilted Kale Salad with Mushrooms and Red Onion
Curley Green Kale sliced fine, enough to fill a large heat proof salad bowl (cut out the large stems and veins)
Slice ¼ medium red onion in very very thin slices
Slice 2 Cups of firm white button mushrooms 

Heat 1/3 Cup of light oil in sauté pan on medium heat
Add the sliced mushrooms, sauté until you can see the mushroom just starting to exude their juice
Quickly add ¼ Cup of Balsamic vinegar and cook down for 2 minutes

Take the pan off heat and move the mushrooms to the sides
Add 1 heaping tsp of Dijon Mustard into the centre of the pan and stir well to mix  it in completely
Quickly pour the hot dressing over the kale and toss the greens fast 
The Kale will turn a bright green from the heat
Taste it and if you need to, add some additional Balsamic dressing if needed
Add the onions and toss lightly

To serve, grind Gomasio coarsely and sprinkle on top
In this way Gomasio tastes like bacon

For a salad main meal: top with cooked and cooled shrimp, crab-meat or grilled chicken, then top with the Gomasio
You can omit the Gomasio and add caramelized pecans, cashews, almonds or dried cranberries on top 

This salad can be made with spinach in just the same way, but you have to serve it right away or it gets too limp.  This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated as the Kale holds up well if it is not eaten immediately.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar - If you find dressings have too much bite, add a teaspoon of water. 
Balsamic Vinegar is strong tasting – so add a little less than the full part of the vinegar
Crush 1 garlic clove and add to oil
Add 1Tbs of Dijon mustard (emulsifier)
Herbamere/sea salt to taste
Shake or whisk like mad

Restaurants usually choose kale as a garnish, over leaf lettuce in the winter months.  I am the person who eats the garnish as kale is a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals.  Kale contains nutritients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium.

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