Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Veggie Might: Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad - A Relaxing Evening with Kale

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism. It's being posted a day early this week because I (Kris) am mercilessly behind in blog writing, and Leigh is more prepared than a battalion of Boy Scouts. The regular Wednesday article will appear tomorrow. (Thanks, Leigh!)

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the encouraging comments about Curry Fest 2009. I’m so glad you’re on board; it’s going to be great fun. To do proper justice to the subject matter, I’ve decided to make it a monthly (and occasionally bi-monthly) feature. Not only will this keep us from burn out, we can take advantage of in-season fruits and veggies as they come around. So keep checking back for more coriander- and cumin-scented food and fun.

Speaking of in-season vegetables, I love that it’s leafy-leafy green time. (It needs a theme song as catchy as this.) And I am not alone. While we love to love the leafy greens here at CHG, we cannot compete with the folks at I ♥ Kale. They have a great relationship with produce and really know how to treat it right.

You’re right, it’s not a competition. There is enough kale (and Swiss chard and turnip greens and collards and spinach) to go around. So, I took this opportunity to learn and grow. I got to know kale just a little bit better, and we grew closer. Much, much closer.

Since it’s prime green time, kale is at its best. And as I learned from the post/recipe Massaged Kale Salad with Grated Root Vegetable at I ♥ Kale, it’s a great time to eat it raw. Now, I’ve struggled through raw kale before, loving the taste, but wishing the texture was less like tarp. Little did I know, all the kale leaves need is a little rub to loosen up.

A quick stroll around the Interwebs revealed that massage is a common raw food technique for tenderizing greens. You get the texture of cooked with the flavor and vitamins of raw. I enjoy playing with my food, so I was excited to try it.

Apparently I was the last to know about this trick. Even my mom had heard about it. When I mentioned the recipe to her on our biweekly 3-hour phone call, she was all “Oh yeah, I get something like that at the natural food bar all the time.” Oh really, CJ, do you? Well, then.

Here’s how it went down:

The I ♥ Kale salad calls for avocado, sesame seeds, and a rutabaga, which, to be honest, I’ve never eaten or even seen. Mom (who apparently knows everything) said it looks like a big turnip, but I couldn’t find one. I opted to substitute it with celeriac (celery root)—a root veg I’ve always wanted to try.

Since I was already making replacements, I went all the way and did a spin on the classic American dinner salad: carrot, parsnip, celery root (Jabba the Hut in vegetable form), sweet red pepper, and scallion. Then I went in with both hands.

I gave the kale a cold rinse, toweled it off, and removed the stems. Then I chopped the pieces in a ribbonesque fashion. Finally, thanking my sweet lord for the welcome distraction from E!’s painful red carpet Oscar coverage, I tossed in 2 teaspoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and massaged that kale until it relaxed and fell asleep.

While it rested, I prepared the rest of the veggies. The kale woke up just in time for the main Oscar event. Good thing, too because The Roommate and I were starving. We each scarfed down a big bowl while we waited for our burritos to arrive. (A New Yorker has to order take out sometimes...)

The kale was exactly as promised: crunchy without being tough, sweet, and delicious. Because the veggies were grated and thinly sliced, all the flavors came through in each bite. The celeriac gave just a hint of celery without being overpowering.

TR loved it too, especially with the grapefruit dressing I made for the Kismet Salad a couple of weeks ago. The tangy citrus played nicely off the sweetness of the carrots and peppers.

This salad holds up amazingly well too. I’ve had it for lunch two days in a row, and it’s stayed crisp. I shared it with a coworker who gave it two thumbs up. That’s a total of 6 thumbs for one very chill salad.

Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad
Adapted from I ♥ Kale’s Massaged Kale Salad
Yields 6–8 servings

1 large bunch curly green kale (about 5 cups), chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, grated
1 parsnip, grated
1 medium celeriac, grated
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced
4 scallions
Dress to taste

1) Wash and remove stems from kale. Chop into ribbons.

2) In a large bowl, combine kale with oil and salt. Massage with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow kale to rest while you prepare the rest of the salad or up to 20 minutes.

3) Grate carrot, parsnip, and celeriac. Slice red pepper and scallions.

4) Toss topping vegetables with kale.

5) Dress with your favorite salad dressing.

6) Chow down. You too will ♥ kale.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
66 calories, 0.85g fat, $0.56 (8 servings)

1 large bunch curly green kale: 165 calories, .06g fat, $1.49
2 teaspoons olive oil: 80 calories, 4.67g fat, $.05
1/4 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $.01
1 carrot: 30 calories, .2g fat, $.16
1 parsnip: 50 calories, .2g fat, $.18
1 medium celeriac: 145.2 calories, .9g fat, $1.81
1/2 sweet red pepper: 26 calories, .2g fat, $.46
4 scallions: 32 calories, .03g fat, $0.33
Totals: 528.5 calories, 6.8g fat, $4.49
Per serving: 66 calories, 0.85g fat, $0.56 (8 servings)


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