Monday, May 16, 2011

Spicy Kale

When I was at the farmers market last weekend, I picked up a bunch of black kale. It’s different from the variety I usually find in grocery stores. It has a narrow leaf and is a deep, dark green. Sometimes it is called Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale because its leaves resemble reptile skin. It had been sitting in my fridge for a couple of days, so I knew I had to use it up quickly. Luckily, Christy from The Daily Dish just posted a recipe for garlicky broccoli rabe. Although her post was about a different vegetable, it inspired me to fix the kale my favorite way – sautéed in olive oil with lots of garlic and some red chili flakes.

Prepping took a little longer than expected because I had to carefully rinse away aphids that were still attached to some of the leaves. That’s the downside of buying organic, pesticide-free vegetables. I was getting rushed for time, so I decided to use a short cut. For years now whenever I’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s, I’d stock up on Dorot garlic and basil frozen herb cubes. The garlic has 30 mgs sodium per cube, while the basil has just 5 mgs sodium per cube. A few days ago I was perusing the frozen food offerings at my favorite local grocer, when my eye caught the bright red Dorot logo. I just about started jumping up & down with joy when I discovered that the store now carried both the garlic and basil cubes. But even better, they carried the red pepper (0 mgs), ginger (10mgs), and cilantro (10 mgs) cubes as well. Of course, I had to snatch up all three.
Back to the kale I poured some olive oil into a sauté pan and added two garlic cubes and one red pepper cube. Once everything was sizzling, I tossed in my chopped and now aphid-free kale leaves and added about 1/3 cup of water. Normally I use NSA chicken broth, but I really was rushing. I covered the pan and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes. That was it. Greens are definitely a personal preference: some people like them well cooked and very, very tender while others want them still crisp. The kale I made was tender but still had some texture.
I really liked the flavor of this particular kale variety. It was great warm, and tonight I’m going to serve it cold, drizzled with homemade balsamic vinegar syrup. (Instructions for making your own balsamic reduction are found near the end of this earlier post.) So, there you have it Kale Kubed!
If you can find these cubes, don't hesitate to buy some. They're great during the winter months when fresh herbs are often hard to find. And this particular technique for greens can be adapted to other vegetables as well. For an Asian spin, use a light flavored oil and add some ginger & a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. For an Italian adaptation, add a sprinkling of oregano. For a Greek twist, omit the red pepper if desired and add some lemon juice right before serving.


Christy said...

Shambo, you continually amaze me! LOVE this post. I've never seen nor heard of the Dorot cubes; will definitely have to seek those out. And I'm equally fascinated by the black kale - it looks amazing. The one thing I dislike about regular kale is the tough stems. The last time I bought it pre-packaged, thinking I was doing myself a favor prep-wise. I prepared the entire pound and we could hardly eat it -- the little pieces had simply been chopped, stems & all and the stems -- EGADS. Even chewing and chewing and chewing... ugh.. They were like pipe cleaners. I ended up composting the bulk of it and have vowed never to buy it bagged like that again. This black kale looks like it has very little stem on the leafy end. Which, apart from the aphid eradication, would be grand! Thanks for another fabulous post; lots of food for thought, as usual!

shambo said...

Christy, I agree with you about the stem issue. I've seen recommendations to simply cut off the leafy part from the stem. I don't do that because I'm at the age where additional roughage in my diet is a good thing. However, I think that would be the easiest method. I forgot to mention in the post that with regular kale I normally remove the bottom non-leafy stems altogether. Then I chop the leafy part that still has some thick stems attached and cook that first for about 8-10 minutes before throwing in the chopped all leafy part.

I liked the black kale, but it definitely has the same stem problem. If I hadn't been so rushed for time, I would have chopped the bottom stem-y halves of the leaves and cooked them longer than the top leafy halves.

Maybe the whole stem issue is why Southerners cook greens for such a long time...