Friday, January 9, 2009

What's This?

This post is the first in a series called “What’s This?” I know that many of my readers, clients and friends either frequent the farmers markets or are members of a CSA (community supported agriculture). In doing so, regardless of your level of cooking skill, you will inevitably come across a fruit or vegetable that’s completely unfamiliar to you. This series is intended to answer the question “what’s this?” and more importantly “what do I do with it?”

Dinosaur kale

At the Green City Market just before Christmas, I picked up some young dinosaur kale from Genesis Growers. Kale is a cold weather green, extreme cold. In fact, its flavor and color is at its best only after a frost. Considered a brassica, kale is related to cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Many people will be most familiar with the flowering variety, which is seen in many a floral arrangement in October and November. While attractive, this is by far not the best use of the plant.

Kale is highly nutritious, with large amounts of beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C. It’s relatively high in calcium and is considered to be full of antioxidant properties. It’s also one of the few greens that we can find grown locally into the Winter months. Young kale can be used raw in a salad or sautéed in a little olive oil. Older kale benefits from a long cooking with aromatics such as onions or garlic.

I used my young kale to make a one dish supper with some Polish sausage that we received in our last Cedar Valley Sustainable Valley share. The kale was so tender that I was able to remove the stems as I would do with spinach, by pinching each leaf half together like a book and pulling the stem down and away from the veins.

Polish Sausage Cooked in Red Wine with Young Kale
Serves 3-4

4 polish sausages
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bunch young kale, washed and harder stems removed
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
1 cup water

METHOD: In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausages. Remove to a plate. Let the pan cool slightly and add olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the garlic and cook until fragrant approximately 30 seconds. Add kale and stir to combine. Pour in wine and water and return sausages to the pan with any juices accumulated on the plate. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and kosher salt and bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until the kale is wilted and most of the juices have evaporated.

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