Crazy for it: Try green du jour on everyone’s shopping list

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)October 24, 2012 

Kale with White Beans and Roasted Garlic 8 cups Tuscan kale, trimmed and cut in chiffonade (in thin strips or shreds)

1-1/2 cups cooked cannellini or other white beans, drained

3 whole heads of garlic, roasted, cloves removed and skinned

6 to 8 red radishes, quartered

6 small tomatoes, quartered

Flat Italian parsley leaves, for garnish

Basil vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Place kale on a platter or in shallow, wide bowl. Scatter beans around artfully, then compose the salad by placing the veggies all over. Garnish with parsley. Dress with basil vinaigrette or another that you like.

To make vinaigrette: In a blender, process ingredients until creamy, adding a bit of extra oil if needed. (Makes about 3/4 cup vinaigrette.)

From “The Book of Kale” by Sharon Hanna

Savory Kale Scones with Squash and Cheese 2 cups kale leaves, loosely packed

2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup cold butter

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup cooked squash or pumpkin in small dice

3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set oven rack in the middle.

Steam kale for a minute or two, just to blanch. Chop kale finely, squeezing out as much liquid as you can. You should have less than 1 cup chopped kale. If you have more, save it for soup or eat it. (Too much will make the scones sticky.)

Blend or sift flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fingers.

In a bowl, beat the egg, then add buttermilk, continuing to beat until well combined. Add egg/buttermilk mixture, along with squash, kale and cheese to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork just enough to combine. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Kale is the Jeff Bridges of vegetables – been around forever, utility player, not the flashy type. Until lately.

Since being crowned prom king of locavore fads, kale has been putting on airs. All of a sudden, it’s cozying up to caramelized onions and being photographed slathered in chanterelles.

Easy to grow and touted as one of the vitamin- and antioxidant-packed superfoods, kale is being used by chefs in just about everything.

Home-roasted kale chips have become a popular DIY snack food (Gwyneth Paltrow made them on “The Ellen Show”). The once lowly leaves have inspired their own T-shirt, reading “Eat More Kale.” It’s so darned trendy that Slate essayist Scott Jacobson sarcastically dubbed it “now the only food worth the trouble of digesting.”

“People really are crazy for kale,” said Susan Berkson, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis Farmers Market. “They’re asking for it more, so our growers are growing more, and more variety, too – we’re seeing the curly kale, the purple, red, dinosaur, Russian.”

But kale has been around the Western world since roving Celts brought it back to Europe from Asia Minor in about 600 B.C. Why all the interest now?

“It’s loaded with things that are good for you, and if people are going to eat their greens, they want them to pack a punch,” Berkson said.

The rise of Community Supported Agriculture (more commonly called CSAs) also has contributed to kale’s newfound popularity. Because of its hardiness, the leaf has been popular with growers, who stuff their customers’ boxes full of it. Today there is even “The Book of Kale” by Sharon Hanna (Harbour Publishing).

Alex Roberts, chef/owner at Restaurant Alma and Brasa, observes kale can be “polarizing. But as more people learn how to cook it, how to coax out its seductive flavor, more will like it. It’s like Brussels sprouts, when people first tried caramelizing them.”

Roberts recommends starting with lacinato, known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale, “because it caramelizes really easily, and people really like it.”

Kale is full of vitamins A, C, K and B6 and a good source of iron, folate and calcium. And let’s not even get started on the percentage of daily fiber it can provide if not cooked into mush. It is self-seeding, grows at will and can even be planted indoors in pots.

Learn more about the nutritious veggie at kaleeffect.com.

Servings: 4-6 Servings: 8-10

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