Monday, February 14, 2011

I am a Kale Addict

I am very much a creature of habit, and one of my most beloved rituals is my weekly grocery trip. I try to plan ahead so that we get enough ingredients for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the upcoming week. Often another grocery store visit is necessary midweek, but I usually get most things covered in my main trip.

There are certain things I always get on these trips. Like onions. Also, garlic. If I've run out of fresh ginger I get some more. The same goes for Jalapenos, carrots, and celery. For some reason these things seem like normal staples to me. They are simply basic ingredients that I frequently use in a number of different dishes. The consistent presence of Kale on my weekly list seems a little less normal. And the fact that I have been buying several bunches of kale every week now for months, strikes me as perhaps a little obsessive. I could brush it off, blaming it on the fact that the grocery store I frequent has an amazing deal on kale (69 cents for a huge bunch!), but really, to can't deny that I have come to rely on a substantial amount of kale being in my refrigerator at all times. I actually get a little anxious when I want to make a kale recipe with the kale I have on hand, because it won't be there for me to use it for something else later.

The thing is, I really like kale. And I like it in a variety of ways.

Since the beginning of January I have begun every day with a nice big frothy mug of kale-spinach-apple-banana smoothie. Weekly, I also like to make a big batch of spaghetti with braised kale and homemade fresh ricotta for dinner. My stand-by snack is crunchy kale chips. And now, after taste-memories of a lemony raw kale salad I got from Whole Foods nagged me into tracking down the recipe so that I could make it myself, I have been making big bowlfuls of kale salad, which seem like they should last for days but which I chomp my way through extremely rapidly.
Perhaps this is one of those food phases I will have to appreciate while it lasts, appreciating that my the object of my obsession is reasonably priced and full of vitamins and minerals. Which, really may be the reason I crave kale in the first place. Maybe my body is simply thrilled to be getting so much of a good thing.

As I've already shared my recipe for my kale breakfast smoothie, I will now add my new favorite kale salad recipe, which I found on gourmet's website. It comes from a restaurant in New York, called Lupa.

This recipe is extremely simple - quick and easy. It tastes delicious right away, and is still fantastic the next day. I love the taste and texture of the uncooked kale, there is something so robust about raw kale, it is fantastic. The flavor is surprisingly mild, also. When I was growing up I associated kale with a very strong bitter flavor, but that flavor is not present here. If anything it is a little grassy, but not overly so. The lemon and olive oil dressing give it a little bit of a Mediterranean flair, along with the addition of ricotta salata (or in my case, feta). Try it, if you don't like it I will finish it for you.
Lacinato(or curly) Kale and Ricotta Salata (or feta) Salad
Adapted from Gourmet, whose recipe was inspired by Lupa

I large bunch kale (tuscan kale is recommended, but I use the more pedestrian curly kale)
2 Tbsp shallot (finely chopped)
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice*
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz ricotta salata or feta (crumbled or coarsely grated)

Wash the kale thoroughly, then remove the leaves from the tough center stem. I do this by holding the base of the stem in one hand and running my other hand up the stem, pulling the leaves off in one motion. Additionally you can simply tear the leaves off of the main stem in pieces, or run your knife along either side of the stem to detach the leaves. Either way, once the leaves are stemless, chop them into thin slices.

Mix the chopped shallot, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in the bottom of a large bowl (whatever you plan to serve/store the salad in). Add the oil slowly, whisking until the mixture is combined. Add the kale to the bowl, and toss it in the dressing, mixing it well. Sprinkle the ricotta salata or feta on top, and dig in.
*I was tempted to just use a whole lemon and forgo the precise measurement, but I found that the salad is much better with the proper amount. Depending on how juicy your lemon is it might be 1/2 a lemon or it might be closer to a whole lemon, but regardless, using too much lemon in this recipe does not enhance the salad, it overpowers it.