Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Out of the bus, and into the food chain!

I had this post's title said to me as I was being dropped off in the wild bear/moose/caribou populated back country of Denali National Park, Alaska. We owed this thoughtful bus driver a nervous laugh.

I'll get back to Alaska in a little bit. Many times I have overlooked this pretty frilly vegetable in the produce section, never knowing its full potential. Truth be told, I actually like cabbage - I love cold slaw, love cabbage rolls, and LOVE to use cabbage in making spring rolls. But then there is kale, a form of cabbage that looks like it stuck a finger in the socket and frizzed the edges to no end. There are ruffles within ruffles. What does one do with kale?

Wikipedia is my hero today in learning me in the way of kale. Check it out (my thoughts in green):

  • Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost. Good to know as they don't sell small bunches at the store.
  • Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly-flavored ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, tamari-roasted almonds, or red pepper flakes.
  • In the Netherlands it is very frequently used in the winter dish stamppot and seen as one of the country's traditional dishes, called Boerenkool.
  • A traditional Portuguese soup, caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage. (sounds strangely like what I made today, see below) Under the name of couve, kale is also popular in the former Portuguese colony of Brazil, in caldo verde, or as a vegetable dish, often cooked with carne seca (shredded dried beef). When chopped and stir-fried, couve accompanies Brazil's national dish, feijoada.
  • Kale is eaten throughout southeastern Africa, typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanut and served with rice or boiled cornmeal.
  • This part is pretty neat: A whole culture around kale has developed in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen and Oldenburg as well as in the land of Schleswig-Holstein. There, most social clubs of any kind will have a "Grünkohlfahrt" ("kale tour") sometime in January, visiting a country inn to consume large quantities of kale, sausage and schnapps. Sign me up. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a "kale king". What, no kale queen? Curly kale is used in Denmark and Halland, Sweden, to make (grøn-)långkål, an obligatory dish on the julbord in the region, and is commonly served together with the christmas ham (Sweden, Halland). The kale is used to make a stew of minced boiled kale, stock, cream, pepper and salt that is simmered together slowly for a few hours. The traditional Irish dish Colcannon is made from kale and potatoes. In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat. I've never used this phrase and now I'll have to just to confuse all around me.
  • Kale is a very good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and Carotenoids (which provide vitamin A). Kapow! In Japan, kale juice (known as aojiru) is a popular dietary supplement.
Apparently, I've known kale before I knew it was kale. In the late summer of '99 I went on a Geotrek Alaska trip and I saw these "ornamental cabbages" at the Anchorage LDS Temple grounds. I thought they were so funny. Yes they are pretty, but cabbages? Well they are really flowering kales which are just as edible as the ones you get at the stores. Anyway, I found them in Alaska so they must be pretty hearty plants right?

These aren't kales but check out the size of these cabbages!! The ladies are real lookers too, especially since they hadn't showered in a week when this was taken. This is in down town Anchorage.


Well now that I've filled your minds with cabbages, it is time to fill your bellies. This one is from my mom who got it from who knows where and it is a remake of the Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana soup. Be warned, the kale is oh-so-healthy but I am guessing the soup as a whole is not for the dieters... It is really good though. I served it with some toasted focaccia bread I got at the store but I just now drooled over la fuji mama's bread so next time I might make hers.

Grab yourself some kale and let me know what you do with it!

OLIVE GARDEN ZUPPA TOSCANA

1 lb ground Italian sausage, sweet
1 ½ tsp crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4Tbsp bacon pieces
2 tsp garlic puree
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
¼ of a bunch of kale

Sautee Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients. In the same pan, sautee bacon, onions, and garlic for approx 15 mins. or until the onion is soft. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onion, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour. Add heavy cream and cook until thouroughly heated. Stir in the sausage. Add kale just before serving. Delicious!

3 comments:

  1. I left a comment, but it said it hadn't gone through . . . sorry if this duplicates! Madagascar's most famous dish uses kale, salt, rice, and boiled animal fat. I remember people offering it to us all the time! I also appreciate the recipe, as we just went to the Olive Garden and ate zuppa toscana. Now I have a similar recipe! This makes me happy! Thanks!

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  2. I love this recipe! We make it all the time. Yummmmm!

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  3. This looks pretty darn yummy! Something we have quite often is a side dish of escarole and beans - or as the Italians here say "skaroll" and beans. It's basically just the leafy greens braised in chicken broth with garlic and canellini beans in the mix. Yum!

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