Monday, 4 April 2011

All hail Kale

Anyone who knew me as a child must have laughed their head off when I first went vegetarian and later vegan. You kinda have to like vegetables if you plan to eat a plant based diet. As I child I was the quintessential picky eater. It is rumoured that I survived on a diet of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee and Spaghetti-Os for several years because I would eat nothing else. This is not much of an exaggeration. I was once heard to say, “There’s something irritable in my salad!” which by my definition would have meant anything except lettuce and shredded carrots. You think with the amount of carrots I ate as a kid my eyesight would be better. Or I’d have grown up to be a rabbit.

When I left meat (and later dairy and eggs) behind a whole world of food was opened up to me. I started to discover there were foods I had dismissed as yucky as a child had to do with texture or smell or being cooked to death by the school dinner ladies. I am supposed to have come home a very indignant first grader and proclaimed, “You know what they served today? Cooked grass!”  Thus making the connection between lawnmower day and mustard greens.

Over the years I have discovered the joy of raw, fresh tomatoes. But only if the goop is scooped out. Yeah, I know, “the goop is the best part”--whatever. It is all slimy and I can’t cope with the texture but I love tomatoes diced in tabbouli, a childhood dish I steered well away from until a few years ago. In November I discovered purple sprouting broccoli and tenderstem broccoli. Both taste amazing stir fried, but are heavenly good roasted in a hot oven until crispy.

Roasted Broccoli courtesy of several recipes I found on Google.
Preheat oven to 220C/425F
Cut your broccoli as thin as you can--split any large florets. Drizzle with 1-2 tsp oil (garlic infused oil is extra yum and keeps vampires away) making sure the florets are coated (rub ’em, around a bit in any oil that is at the bottom of the pan) and twist on some cracked black pepper then bake for 10 minutes. They come all  crunchy and crispy and yummy.

Now that fresh broccoli is in season I am trying it with regular broccoli. It is not quite as good, but because I can get it locally grown without plastic then that is how it will be for the time being.

My new favourite love is Kale. This green packs a powerhouse of nutrients. Kale is a source of Omega 3 fatty acids and its Omega 6 ratio is fantastic--right up there with flaxseeds. Kale is also high in absorbable calcium. One cup of raw kale has 90mg, about 10% of  your recommended daily allowance. It shrinks down a lot when cooking so it is easy to eat 3-4 cups in one sitting. (Source: Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbook Appetite for Reduction) 

To prepare it you have to pull it away from its tough stem but the only kind I can get is in a bag where someone has kindly done that for you. My bag of curly kale is just that--curly leaves of kale. My favourite way is to sauté it in a smidge of olive oil and a Tablespoon of water until it turns bright green and wilts slightly--less than 5 minutes. Then squeeze on a bit of lemon juice and a drizzle with toasted sesame oil and greedily eat the whole pan. Spiderman does not have a similar liking for kale yet. But I hope he will be so taken by my enjoyment that he will jump on the kale bandwagon. But if not, more for me. I was just telling him that I was blogging about kale and wanted to tell him all the nutritional info that I had discovered and he replied, “I have to read the blog, I don’t need the audio version as well.” He always claims that I portray him as the pantomime villain, but no where have I said he was dressed in drag as an ugly step sister or urged people to boo him. So there.

Another way to prepare kale is to roast it in the oven to make kale chips. This too is good, but makes the air have a suspicious farty cabbage-y smell. The one time I tried this Spiderman  accused me of making the farty smell myself (and to be fair normally he would be correct in his assumptions) so I don’t make the kale chips too much anymore. But if you don’t mind a small farty aroma but want crispy kale chips then here is the recipe courtesy of Lauren Ulm’s cookbook Vegan Yum Yum. 
Crispy Sesame Kale
Preheat oven to 375F/ 190C
Tear kale into bite size pieces then spread them evenly on a cookie sheet covered in foil. Drizzle 1 TB dark toasted sesame oil on top then scrunch the greens to get to oil distributed. Sprinkle on 1 TB sesame seeds and a pinch (or 1/8 tsp) salt. Bake for 10 minutes until the leaves are crispy but still dark green.

The only veg I still haven’t conquered my childhood dislike of is green beans. Maybe someday, but I doubt it.


  1. I loved this. Brought back memories. You forgot the "grits and eggs" which supplemented the Chef Boy Ar Dee Spagettios diet in those years.

    I find that green beans taste so many different ways----have you tried all the variations? Canned ones and boiled ones and pickled ones and stir fried ones all have completely different flavors and textures. Just saying. . .

  2. Yes! Kale is the best! Where did you find any this time of year though? I think I actually dreamt about kale earlier this week.