Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eat Your Greens

Enough musings on vegetables, let's talk about how to eat them! While plenty of produce tastes fantastic raw, fresh-plucked from the soil, I'm not one who would claim that nature cannot be improved upon. For tonight, however, let's keep it simple.

Kale is a leafy green from the Brassica family with which I was unfamiliar before my first CSA box arrived about a year and a half ago. Though kale was never a fixture on my plate growing up, kale is a popular crop everywhere from Brazil to Scotland to Germany, probably due both to its super-food qualities and its general hardiness in the field. We at Serenbe can attest to kale's toughness...we returned to the farm this morning to find the leaves of our little kale seedlings coated in a lacy layer of frost. We had meant to "harden them off" to prepare them for life outside the greenhouse, not freeze them to death! We quickly returned our charges to the shelter of the greenhouse and within an hour they had almost universally sprung back to their former vigor.
For many vegetables, the act of applying heat (in layman's terms "cooking") actually reduces the nutrient value of the food substantially. What is lost in terms of nutrition, however, is gained in ease of digestion and cultural capital. Not being cows, we humans are prone to favor a meal with a little bit of a story to it and one which does not resemble grazing material. But what if you could have it all: taste, nutrition, and a five minute prep time? Massaging kale may sound like a the height of absurdity, but it is an excellent way to break down the tough fibers in kale and add some additional flavors, all which preserving the cocktail of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium packed into those leafy green fronds. Hey, if your Kobe beef gets a daily massage, why shouldn't your kale?

Massaged Kale
Begin with a bunch of kale, as much or as little as you like. Shred it finely across the center stem. Dress it with something tasty: salad dressing (I'm a huge fan of soy ginger), walnut oil, vinegar, citrus juice, pickle brine, or whatever you prefer. Mix the kale with the dressing until coated and then begin to squeeze handfuls of kale with gusto. Your goal here is to fully saturate the kale until it is wilty and the juices in the leaves have been expressed. You can add additional ingredients for a more well-rounded salad: I recommend craisins with the soy ginger marinade, but nuts, other veggies, or additional herbs can all work equally well. As you can see, this is less of a recipe than a technique. Massaged kale will store well in the refrigerator if you have leftovers--the flavors will meld nicely.

My thanks to Sandor Katz's The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved for this, my new favorite way to serve up kale in a flash.

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