Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things to do with Kale III: Salad

Kale salads abound on the internet: recipes for, health benefit claims of, adoration of - it's all there. Given my seasonal influx of kale, I thought I would give it a try. I "massaged dressing into the chopped leaves", and I allowed to marinate. It seems as though I did everything right. What I failed to do, however, was buy the right kind of kale. Kale salad calls for "dinosaur kale" or "tuscan kale" or something else that is available in the summer, and not available here.

German kale, or Gr√ľnkohl, as it is called, is not available is summer. It is a hearty vegetable that is best after the first frost. It is stringy, it is filling, it is not the stuff for salads.

I made my salad with marinated tofu. I enjoy marinated tofu, and these little chunks of soy were enough to keep me going through my salad (or maybe it was the ravishing hunger?). Is this a repeat? Not until I go to Tuscany to sample the kale there.

Kale Salad with Marinated Tofu

1 block of pressed tofu
1 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 cup of chopped kale
3 tbsp olive oil - lemon juice vinaigrette

Chop tofu into bite sized pieces. Add miso, vinegar and chili to a zip-loc bag. Mix. Add tofu. Allow to marinate, at least overnight.
Toss kale with dressing using your hands, ensuring each leaf gets coated.  This can also marinate overnight.
Sautee or grill tofu. Add to kale.
Salt & pepper to taste

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Things to do with Kale II - Kale Chips

Finally, I have been able to get on the kale chip bandwagon. For years, I have been unable to get my hands on fresh kale - something about German kale needing to be super-fresh before the vitamins self-destruct have kept it out of my reach. Perhaps there have been genetic mutations, perhaps the invention of refrigeration has finally broken into the mainstream - whatever the reason, I found 500g bags of kale in my supermarket and grabbed them. They are so foreign that the German gentleman in line ahead of me looked at what I had placed on the conveyor belt and asked, perplexed, what kind of spinach I was about to purchase.

Fresh kale is mine, and I did the easiest, tastiest thing I could think of: kale chips.

My kale comes washed and cut into bite-size pieces. All I have to do is give a final rinse (more for my sanity than for the sanitation of the kale), toss in a ziploc bag with some olive oil, scatter them in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 150 °C for about 20 minutes. Toss with salt and nutritional yeast, put on a movie and you'll not miss chips.

If there are any, I keep leftover kale chips in a ziploc bag filled with air (my own recreation of a potato chip bag), and toast them before I devour another bowl. 

Nutritional yeast is the secret umami I've stolen from the hands of vegans. Apparently it contains B-vitamins. It also contains a whole lot of flavour and can be used to flavour soups, and, oh so importantly, snacks like popcorn and kale chips.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Things to do with Kale I - Caldo Verde

One winter night, long ago, a Dutch friend came back from a weekend trip from the Netherlands with a bag of greens. She invited us over to her place promising a Dutch specialty. Knowing what she had brought, I could barely contain my excitement. Borenkool, known as kale in English. It's very difficult to find this kind of kale because it grows best in cold weather and is best shortly after harvest. I've had it frozen or canned but fresh - there is a new world of opportunities awaiting with fresh kale. This is one of them.

My local supermarket has been having this influx of fresh kale, something I have not witnessed in the last years of shopping there. I saw a 500g bag and claimed it for myself. I made kale chips the first time (another post). The next week, I tried a soup I had tried previously and discovered, frozen kale is not always interchangeable with cooked kale.

I may or may not have had this soup in Portugal. Apparently it's very popular there. My Portuguese memories have all been overtaken by the flaky crust and sugary sweet custard, hot out of the oven, topped with cinnamon, ordered as a 6-pack of Pasteis de Belem, devoured in a nearby park. I still think of those pastries, I still scheme ways to have them delivered to me but I know they will never live up to the freshness that came out of the oven of the Cafe de Belem. There's no room for memories beyond that pastry. So maybe I had caldo verde in Portugal, maybe not, but I was pleased with the result I was able to conjure.

Caldo Verde is apparently a popular dish in Portugal, apparently meant to fill you and warm you. Apparently, it's made out of a certain kind of kale impossible to find outside of Portugal. Knowing that faking this kale is easier than faking that custard tart, I went ahead nonetheless. This soup certainly warmed and filled me on a cold November night. Part of the soup is mashed to add a creamier texture.

Caldo Verde
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 inch (10 cm) of chopped chorizo (extra-spicy)
1 sprig of thyme
small sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup of sliced fingerling potatoes
2 liters of water
250g of kale, sliced thinly
Olive oil to garnish

In a spot over a medium flame, sautee onions in olive oil and add carrot. Add garlic and chorizo until garlic is softened and chorizo has released its red colour. Increase heat to high , add potatoes and cook, stirring constantly until potatoes develop a crust. Add in thyme, rosemary and bay, cover with water. When potato slices are cooked through, use a potato masher to mash some (not all!) of the potatoes. Add kale and cook for remaining 5 minutes, until kale turns an emerald colour. Garnish with olive oil. Serve with a crusty bread.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Return from France

I insisted we spend the day in the supermarket. Not in France, but in a French supermarket. The goal was to get some wine, and maybe the odd pack of oysters or something. We did our regular shopping (wine and oysters and herbes de provence) and made haste towards the border. But wait! Can't we still have lunch in France? Lunch is a bit difficult in small towns at 5pm. We went window shopping in a border town before we sat down to our French Meal.

French Meals consist of French components that you would never find in one particular region, often not the region you are currently in. Paris may be the great exception because you can get everything there, but that would have been another blog entry that I was too engrossed with food to actually write. We did however find a leitmotif to carry us through our meal: garlic. Ail may be the only word the Workaholic knows in French, it is certainly very relevant to him.

The Amuse-bouche may have even set other people off. It was a terrine. It was a fantastic terrine but it was, well, bits of meat packed into jello.

The frog's legs could have been my thing but they were joined at the hip and looked like mangled barbie dolls. The Workaholic claims they are "like chicken wings" which confuses me because every time we go to his home town, we get chicken wings covered in hot sauce. These were covered in garlic. I am confused by the legs, joined at the hip, claiming to taste like wings. I am fairly certain that these wings have never seen a bottle of Frank's Red Hot in their day.

You may have already heard of escargot. We call them: the ultimate garlic delivery method. The crevices in snails enabled an extremely effective delivery of garlic, parsley, and butter to my mouth.

The truely Alsacian specialty was certainly the light as air tarte flambee. It's a French pizza, minus the tomato sauce, lessen the cheese, crust is paper-thin and ideally imparted with a kiss of a charcoal oven. This particular model was topped with topped with lardons (like bacon minus the cult surrounding it) and garlic. Lots of garlic. I may be able to fend off the Twilight movies for a few more years, thanks to the amount of garlic on this tarte flambee.

There we are, full of food, following our GPS. It tells us to cross the Rhine. We don't realize that we have to take the ferry at this particular juncture. So we pay the ferryman (in coins, no less) and cross the river. Our adventure in decadence behind us, our adventure with new wines about to start.
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