Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Return of Kale!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Okay so maybe kale never really left. But it was not a veggie that I remember getting a lot of press when I was younger. While the other JRs rhapsodize about the wonderful dishes they learned to cook at their mother's knee (I can write this only because she's passed on) - my mother was a terrible cook. Her idea of veggies was a CAN of peas and carrots. My recollection of them was that the only difference between the two was that some were green and some were orange. They tasted the same - watery and salty. (In fairness to her memory she was a terrific baker and I think I got that chip from her. But I digress.)

Doesn't it seem as if vegetables, like clogs and bell bottoms, gamine haircuts and cat eyes, go in and out of fashion?

Who decides? Do chefs have meetings, like fashion editors, and say things like Think radicchio! Kohlrabi is the new broccoli rabe! (BTW, when you're Italian and born in Brooklyn, broccoli rabe, like finocchio (fennel) never goes out of fashion.)

For a while there I kept seeing recipes that included either farro or spelt so - like a lemming - I bought some. Still in my pantry. But, I have totally taken the kool-aid on kale. I'm embarassed to say - nah, I guess not since I'm saying it - I can eat an entire bunch of kale. Garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper. Yum. And the bonus is, it's good for you. I've been on such a kale tear, that as one of my Christmas presents last year he gave me a t-shirt that says Eat More Kale. (Available from a cool guy in Vermont at )

RHYS BOWEN: It's funny that we're discussing kale right now as my son is currently living with us and has gone vegetarian/alkaline diet in a big way. This includes about five pounds of veggies going into a juicer every morning and loads of kale. The way I like it is roasted,  a little garlic and olive oil, so that it's like kale chips. He also made cashew cheese that is so yummy and tastes like sharp cheddar--served over roast veggies.

JAN BROGAN: Yeah, I hopped on the kale train for a while, too, Ro.  I think its all a conspiracy of chefs, restaurant review critics, and those inspirational people on PBS who convince you that you have to eat healthier and make more money.
And just as I think thriller writers have a secret contest among themselves as who can add the more preposterous twist at the end of a book, I think chefs have a contest who can add the most preposterous (but oddly delicious) ingredient.    I mean who ever thought the BEET would come back and be gourmet?

HALLIE EPHRON: I love beets! Always have. And fresh beets, though they are an awful mess to make, are so delicious.
Oven roasted veggies are my new 'train.' Cut them into bite-sized pieces and just coat lightly with olive oil and coarse salt -- carrots, turnips, potato, beets, even KALE (but cook them separately because Kale cooks fast and before you know it all you've got are burnt embers)! Roasted they all sweet and a little nutty. Mmmm.

ROSEMARY: I've been using the Williams-Sonoma recipe for roasted veggies for years. I add fennel and balsamic vinegar.

LUCY BURDETTE: Yeah, that's the thing Ro, kale is good for you. Really good for you. I have one recipe with it that I love--in fact my hub does too. We fight over the leftovers:

I one time grew kohlrabi in my garden but I never did really "get" that vegetable so I won't bother again. The one I love that never seems to be in fashion is okra. We were so mad last year when deer ate ours down to stalks. Over and over. I love it sliced, dipped in egg and cornmeal, and then fried with chunks of onion and pepper. MMMMMMMMM

ROSEMARY: The fabulous (Raven Award winner) Molly Weston turned me on to fried okra the first time I toured in North Carolina. It's almost worth all the hard work of writing a book to get to eat that once a year! And to visit Molly.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, the kale recipe looks fab, but I'm afraid it wouldn't go over in my house.  I make a white bean, sage, and smoked sausage soup with fresh spinach stirred in at the last minute.  So I saw a box of tiny little fresh organic kale at Whole Foods, and thought, "I'll just see if I can sneak in a substitution."  It was delicious--and dear hubby wouldn't eat it. Sigh.  So much for even baby kale.
I'm with Hallie on the beets.  Love them. All colors.  Roasted.  Steamed. In salads. But again, verbotten on our dinner menus.  Ditto sweet potatoes, which I love and are really good for you.  Sigh again.
My latest veggie indulgence, all on my own?  Raw mini-bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange) and raw sugar snap peas, dipped in tzatziki.  I don't care if they are fashionable or not.

LUCY: Me too on the beets--love the ones right out of the garden! On the tzatziki--do you make this yourself Debs? Recipe?

DEBS: Lucy, I buy it at CostCo, along with the mini-peppers and the sugar snap peas.  It's full of garlic and cucumber, surprisingly low-cal, and is wonderful as a sauce for grilled fish, cooked fresh veggies, and even just as a dip for crackers and chips.  The brand is called "Hannah."

ROSEMARY: My husband loves that stuff. And it was his mother's name (..but that's another blogpost, I suppose.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I love fiddleheads! Sauteed in butter. And we're still loving arugula, even though I know it's so 2010. (Grilled pounded flat chicken breasts, put on top of arugula so it kind of wilts, cover with barely sauteed chopped tomoatoes and garlic, then top with shaved parmesan.
I make potatoes Anna with sweet potatoes...YUM.  (For winter, though.)
Kale. I'm so sorry. I hate kale. I think. I've never tasted it. And I don't think I will. I'm rotating away from it.   

ROSEMARY: Sorry - I may be a gardener, but that basket of fiddleheads looks like a basket of worms to me.  I love kale! It's angry! It fights back! It won't be ignored like my mother's peas and carrots. So, are there any new to you foods that have worked their way into your rotation?
 Three commetors will win some of our favorite recent trade paperbacks!

(Don't forget to come back tomorrow for your official invitation to our Cinco de Mayo party!)

(And don't forget to come back


  1. I got a little turned off kale when the farm subscription we had gave it to us EVERY WEEK. I like it once or twice a year... But yay on those oven-roasted veggies, yum on okra (I like it best with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a bit of hot pepper, tastes like Africa to me), awesome on anything picked a few minutes before. Summer in New England is coming!

    What made me laugh in this post is Rosemary saying her husband's mother's name was tzatziki. What?! Oh, Hannah. ;^)

  2. Edith YES...and his father's name was Spanakopita!

    (Can I officially say that Blogger has not been kind to me this week? Apologies for typos, sentence fragments, etc.)

  3. Ooh, kale, yes! Especially roasted to make kale chips. But then we are veggie lovers, now that all the kids are gone and it's just Ben and me.

    My favorite are roasted assorted veggies (including beets), baked sweet potatoes (almost a dessert), and oven-fried okra. We can't do anything fried any longer--since Ben's heart attack and surgery a couple of years ago--but I found a way to make oven-fried okra that's almost as good as my grandmother's original fried okra. Or so I tell myself.

    Ro, Blogger goes through phases, I've found. He (we all know he's male, right?) can suddenly turn nice to lull you into complacence, and then he'll turn on you, moving photos, changing fonts at random and type sizes, as well, slipping in big white boxes or thick dark lines. Sorry you've had a bad week with him. You have my sympathies!

  4. Kale, beets, roasted veggies--all yum. I put kale in smoothies, too. My boys who won't eat kale any other way don't even notice!

  5. I love kale.

    Adore fiddleheads. (Sunday I had my first of the season.)

    I'll eat fresh, local asparagus night after night.

    The beets in our Maine garden are already showing their greens. We'll pluck some babies this summer for grilling or salads, leave the rest for roasting in the fall.

    Where is the love for kale's rainbow cousin, chard? Its almost as versatile and beautiful, too.


  6. In fact I do not like kale, but the T-shirt is nice and I would wear it with pleasure - :), just to urge people eat more of it!

  7. Rosemary, I can't stand the smell of fiddleheads cooking, but since we have some of the best fiddleheading in the world here I feel compelled to defend them. : ) I can tell you that if they're prepared properly they are very good.

    Linda how do you make oven-fried okra? The only time I ever had it was in gumbo and it was a little gooey.

  8. Darlene, I prepare it as if to fry, then put it on a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray and spray more of the nonstick on top. Turn it over halfway and spray again.

    I've found it works best if I slice, batter, and freeze the okra. But it works fresh, too.

    Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes on each side.

  9. Just reread your comment, Darlene. You've never had fried okra, I guess. It's sliced and breaded, dipping into egg and then cornmeal, before frying (or oven-frying).

  10. It's freezing cold in Boston today and in honor of this blog I am making leek and potato soup. Leeks are always in fashion, even if they are a pain to clean. And where would we be without potatoes??

  11. Worms. Okay, fine, RO. SO much for fiddleheads.

    I OD'ed on asparagus, so be careful. I had it EVERY DAY...craved it...and now, I can barely look at it.

    Same thing happened with toasted sesame bagels with strawberry jam. LOVED it. Now it makes my teeth crawl.

  12. I don't think we have fiddleheads in TX. What do they taste like?

  13. Linda, next time I see okra I'll buy some and try the oven-fried method.

    Deb, to me fiddleheads taste like a cross between asparagus and dandelion greens. I've only ever had east coast fiddleheads but I've been told west coast ones have a different taste.

  14. My vegetarian son also told me that kale is delicious in salads too. But you have to remove the rib first and then massage it with lemon juice to take away the bitterness.

  15. I don't believe I have ever had kale, but I think I would like to try it. People who know my food tastes tell me that I would love it. (You should know,though,that most of my close relatives and friends tell anyone who will listen that "Deb loves weird foods,so don't pay attention to her if she recommends something.")

    I have tried okra and had to force it down! I really expected to like it but the consistency was just awful, and I had carefully followed the cooking directions. I might try Linda's recipe. Does it matter if it is fresh or frozen?

    In the past couple of years I have begun to oven roast veggies. I even enjoy snacking on them! Until now,I have not included beets but because I like them very much I now feel encouraged to add them the next time I roast other veggies.

    This blog today makes me SOOO hungry! I took a vacation day to try to clear some clutter,and have been taking Every Last Secret breaks (thanks,Linda! I keep forgetting to get back to work!) and this JRW break. I don't think I can get back to work until I have a healthy snack!

  16. I absolutely adore Brussel Sprouts. Sauteed in butter, garlic and salt.

    I need to retry Okra. Once, we had okra when I was a child. But my mom was not the best cook, and I fear it was not presented to the best of its abilities.
    I need to attend a Vegetable Buffet...where there are all different kinds of veggie dishes...and then recipes are supplied! I don't know what to do with veggies, and since my kids are not fond of them, I often think, why bother?

  17. I’d never heard of kale until I moved to Portland, where I learned it was a favored decorative plant. I thought, “Weird. People plan cabbage in their flower beds.” It never occurred to me anyone would eat the stuff too.

  18. I like every vegetable except onions and scallions. And ramps freak me out; I'm scared to go to good restaurants in the spring because every special seems to feature ramps.
    For some odd reason, leeks are fine.

    Recent veggie trends in my apartment are kale in salads (it you massage it with coarse salt and leave it for 10 minutes, it's delicious), red and white radishes, and my favorites. although it's hard to fine -- baby artichokes. They're dreamy pan roasted with olive oil and salt.

    I love fiddleheads, too. On pasta.

  19. Yes to steamed brussel sprouts in butter!

    Deb and Lora, okra cooked the wrong way in soups and stews can turn slimy. Maybe that's what turned you off? It's a great vegetable and a beautiful blooming plant, one of the hibiscuses, most resembling the American hibiscus called rose of Sharon.

  20. Kale chips!!! I can hardly wait for my CSA to start up again. I might need to supplement with a pot of kale on the deck. Greens of all kinds are also good cooked and added to other dishes, but the chips are just so much more fun!
    Jessica also introduced us to squash blossoms, so good that they planted extra squash just for the blossoms.

  21. Linda, the last time I visited Auntie-Mom she made a beautiful dinner with fresh - really fresh - brussel sprouts in butter. I couldn't believe how good they were. I had never liked them before. I mean I hated them. But because she had made them, I smiled and and said, "Yes please, thank you, and yummy."

    Auntie-Mom was patient. "I knew you never liked brussel sprouts, so I was waiting to see the look on your face when you tasted these! I got them at the farmers' market. They are young and fresh." I'm a believer now. I just don't know where to get them.

  22. Linda! Your cookbook just arrived! I am fascinated by the humongous variety of recipes. Cabbage tamales. Would you believe I was just looking for a recipe for cabbage that used those ingredients... brilliant. xo

  23. Linda,

    The okra that I had was definitely very slimy. I DO want to try your recipe. I had no idea okra was related to Rose of Sharon!

    Big decision: go to bed NOW - or stay up to finish reading Every Last Secret?

    Brusssels sprouts: as a kid, I loved them,then I hated them, and then I loved them again. They are among my favorite vegetables. I like them cooked just about any way, and I also like the Brussels sprouts salad/slaw that I have had a couple of times. I MUST get that recipe!

  24. @Linda

    Yes, the okra was beyond slimy. Get the heebee jeebees just thinking about it! :)

  25. I don't think I love kale. I love greens but not this one. But I am a huge fans of fiddleheads. I love having them saute with lots of garlic, onion, and shrimp broth.
    How to Make Sweet Potato Fries

  26. Deb and Lora, the slimy feel comes from a thickener in okra that makes it a favorite for Cajun cooking. You have to be careful in how you cook it, though, to keep that slimy texture away. Never a problem with fried or oven-fried okra.

    Reine, I'm glad you found a recipe with the ingredients you wanted to use. Try the Cucumber and Lime Salsa or the Asparagus and Pistachio Soup.

  27. Linda, both the Cucumber and Lime Salsa and the Asparagus and Pistachio Soup sound fantastic. Woah... I need to do more grocery shopping.

  28. Sounds great whoo, great Ty fr the giveaways