It may seem like I'm on a curry kick and...well, I am. I love using curry powder in the winter when I need a little something warm in my tummy. And please don't think curry has to be a big production (as in creating an entire Indian buffet because you somehow thought it was necessary when you promised your husband curry). I sneak a zesty addition of curry powder into my tahini tuna fish, onto roasted butternut squash and grilled zucchini, as well as into my dark leafy greens.
Now I haven't spoken of my favorite vegetable for a while so I think it's time for an ode to kale. First know however, that the first 21 years of my life were dedicated to broccoli. Yes, I ate lettuce, greens beans, asparagus and boy choy but none of these held my attention like broccoli. Its textured crown and crunchy stalk were forever welcome on my plate, whether steamed, roasted or, in my favorite childhood fashion, drowned in my mother's curried mayo and lemon sauce. So when I started cooking for myself, not surprisingly broccoli was the first item on my shopping list. I strolled down the vegetables aisle looking at the chard, spinach and a leafy unknown named kale, and always ran back to the safety of my broccoli. So what changed? Well I did't get bored if that's what you're thinking. As a creature (and
eater) of habit I would have happily stayed a sole broccoli eater had I not ventured into macrobiotics. In adjusting my food to a more plant-based diet, I was forced to branch out a bit. Truly, when half your plate is required vegetables, there is honestly only so much broccoli you can eat.
My next trip to the market I begrudgingly bought a head of kale. The large leaves flattened in the middle and attached to a hearty stalk while the outer edges curled up, making each leaf look like a large green fan. "What the hell am I going to do with this? " I thought. Broccoli was simple. Rinse, chop, saute, done. This looked way more complicated. My macrobiotic cookbook recommended I steam the kale then drizzle sesame oil and tamari over the top. The preparation was easy enough: rinse, chop then steam, and the result was okay, even good actually. Though not as sweet as broccoli, I enjoyed its chloroform-filled taste and if I didn't steam the kale to death, I could get a nice al dente (almost broccoli-like) texture. And with that one recipe, I was kale-inspired! I soon branched out and tried red kale, lacinato kale and red Russian kale. I sauteed kale with garlic and onions, tossed it into soups, threw it into smoothies, and mixed it in with my beans and rice. (Now that I eat meat, I love it with braised beef, or chicken, or fish or well, any animal protein actually.)
Though I've never lost my broccoli love, "culinarily" speaking kale goes where broccoli just can't. Sure I can put broccoli into a soup or a stir-fry but it has to be at the last minute to make sure the broccoli doesn't turn to mush. Kale, alternatively, somehow always holds its physical integrity, making it a much more versatile vegetable. Rarely does a day go by when I do not eat kale in some form or another. I simply adore it, though will admit I should probably branch out a bit...you know, give chard a chance, perhaps. I actually partook in my ole' buddy broccoli last night and it was a nice change of pace. I guess when it comes down to it, I'm just a greens freak!
The key to falling in love with greens is preparing them the right way. Rarely do plain vegetables entice the taste buds, but if prepared well with spices and good fats, there is no end to the delicious possibilities. Here is my current favorite way to make kale. I made this recipe at a cooking demo just last week where a 10-year old told me it was "the best thing she has ever eaten!" She might have been exaggerating for my ego's sake, but hey I'll take it. It also went over well with a 5 and 7-year old pair of siblings whose father told me neither of them will eat kale. After one bite the 7-year old proclaimed, " Dad, we'd eat kale if you made it like this!" And with those kinds of endorsements, there is not much else to say. Enjoy!
Curried Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves 4 as a side
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 a red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) shiitake or trumpet mushrooms, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon curry powder
1 bunch kale, washed, ends trimmed, and chopped
sea salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg to taste
2 tablespoons water
Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until translucent and a bit golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, curry powder and a pinch of salt, stir well, and cook until the mushrooms have softened.
Add the kale and combine with the mushroom mixture. Reduce the heat to low, add another pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and the water and cover and cook for about 7 minutes. The kale should be nicely wilted and bright green and the liquid mostly evaporated.