CSA Survival Menu #1: Kale Konnundrum

Occasionally there comes in your box something you might not have an immediate taste for. I thought I would add another feature to my ‘CSA Survival Guide’: a Survival Menu! I’d like to throw out, for your consideration, some recipes for some of the items I either a) never tried b) didn’t recognize or c) didn’t really care for in the first year (or so!) of being a CSA share-holder.

There are several commonly grown varieties of kale, from the ‘curly’ shown here, to ones with pointy, oak-like leaves, to bubble, leather-skin looking ones, called dinosaur kale.

The first of those to which a, b, and c equally applied, was kale!

“But DUDE,” I thought in my mind…ok, I don’t really self-refer to me as ‘Dude’, but….you get the idea, “Its so nutritious! It is a super-duper-food! You just gotta eat it and love it!” It also stores well in the fridge and lasts quite a long time before getting icky at all – It is high in Vitamins A and C, also K, and has a good amount of B6 and calcium (says my must-have veggie guide, Simply in Season).

Eat it, I did, or tried to. But love it, at first, I did not.

Kale is tough – as in, the taste. Its tough! Chewy! The center stalk is inedible. So, that increases the prep time a bit. Plus, its green (and, if you’re my kids, that is enough to make you not want to try it.) Kale is not generally eaten raw, so that meant I had to find some way(s) to cook the stuff!

By the by, through trial and error, I did find some recipes that I love – and guess what? I can now say, to myself, “DUDE! I love kale!” Or something like that.

I hope by the end of your CSA share season, you will be able to say the same (but, honestly, give it a few seasons. Let it grow on you. ). By the way, Kale is pretty easy to grow, and is very prolific. So, if you develop a taste for it, you can easily plant it in your backyarden to have even more to love!

Basic kale shreds:

Remove center stalk, and then layer leaves on top of each other. Cut perhaps 10 – 15 stalks of kale. Then, with all the leaves piled, roll them up into a cigar shape. Use a sharp knife to slice, as if you’re cutting small circles off of the cigar. The leaves will unfold into long, thin strips. When you have them like this, prepare in one of the following ways:

  • – boil in salted water until just tender. Don’t let ’em get too mushy! But don’t let them be to tough, either.
  • – stir fry with your favorite marinade, and throw in other season veggies with a bite to them – radishes, peas, ginger and a sweet and sour sauce. Yum!
  • – Wilt in a covered frying pan with a few Tablespoons of water, and serve under fish, chicken, or steak. Cover all with a light sauce of your choosing – really good with a homemade peanut sauce. Or,  Saute with butter and onions, or garlic scapes. Yum!
  • – Also consider using kale in place of or in the same ways as you would collard greens (now, if you’ve never eaten collards, that is sad, too. And actually, I don’t think you can totally justify the substitution, but, in a pinch for ideas, consider it at the least).

Basic kale bits:

Remove center stalk as before, then put leaves into a food processor (or use knife) to finely chop. Here’s where you can get reaaaalllly sneak with the green bits:

  • – put in soup!
  • – put in casseroles!
  • – sprinkle with pasta, put in an alfredo sauce (it will give it a green tint), put in a wrap sandwich or even just a plain ol’ bread slice sandwich for that matter, etc etc etc.

Trick is: you hardly see it, you do detect a taste, but not much – but you’re still getting the awesome nutrient benefit (dude).

Basic kale bits could also be lightly steamed or blanched, excess water squeezed out by wrapping the bits in a tea towel/flour sack dishtowel, and then frozen in 1 c. servings to use as above.

Other creative uses:

I dehydrated quite a bit of kale last year, to make a ‘greens powder’. After dehydrating, I ground in my tiny spice grinder – I think it worked out to be something like 5 or 6 kale stalks equaled something like a Tbl. – crazy! But, then I would just sprinkle in soup, or on casseroles. It is quite easy to store in just a tightly covered jar.

I heard of a neat idea, and you really gotta try this to believe how good it is. Prepare kale as above, and then just rip leaves into ‘chip’-sized portions. Using a baking stone, if you have one, put the pieces on the stone, drizzle with your favorite olive, grapeseed, or other oil, and then bake in the oven until crispy. I like to add lemon pepper, garlic, or a mix of curry spices — whatever flavor I’m in the mood for. These kale chips are great! I have also made them with Italian spices and crunched them up over pasta or bruschetta.

So, dudes and dudettes, give kale a krunch – and learn to love this health green! *By the way, kale is a cold-hardy green, and though our CSA delivers it in the spring, you can also grow it in the fall, and in some places, or under the right low-tunnel, through the winter!

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