Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eat More Kale

Princeton, New Jersey has officially dubbed March "Eat More Kale" Month - a town wide, month-long celebration and awareness campaign for this super leafy green.  It all started with a Vermont man making "Eat More Kale" t-shirts out of his garage.  The employees at the bent spoonSmall World Coffee, and Whole Earth Center all starting wearing these shirts, sparking discussions of how to promote kale and eating healthy.  Soon, the movement was embraced by over a dozen local businesses and organizations.  Not only is kale being highlighted in dishes around town, but when you buy kale products (t-shirts and salad at Small World, a pint of kale ice cream at bent spoon) a bunch of kale will be donated to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
So what exactly is kale, and why does Princeton want me to eat more of it?  Kale is found in recipes all over the world from Europe (Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal) to East Africa to Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan).  It's a form of cabbage that comes from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts.  Up until the Middle Ages, it was the most common green in Europe.  During World War II, the UK cultivated massive amounts of the easy-to-grow kale in order to replace nutrients lost from diets due to rationing.  Kale - also known as "farmer's cabbage" - is high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium.  When eaten raw, kale possesses both sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties; the latter boosting DNA repair and blocking the growth of cancer cells.

There are many different varieties of kale, but the most likely ones to be found at your grocery store are dino kale, green kale, and red kale.  Dino kale is a dark green with flat, smooth-edged leaves (they look like dinosaur scales, which I assume is where it got its name).  It is also the mildest of the three.  Red kale and green kale are very similar looking with their curled, crinkly edges; the only difference being that the red kale is tinted purple around the edges and is more bitter and tough.
Red, Green, and Dino Kales
Besides being ridiculously nutritious, kale is ridiculously versatile: raw, baked, sauteed, steamed, savory, sweet, blended, combined, by itself, chips, pesto, hummus, anyway and every way.  Which is why, for this blog entry, I'm giving you a full day of kale.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  So much kale that you'll be sick of it.  I'm only teasing, you could never get sick of kale, because there are so many things you can do with kale it's kind of insane.

In honor of "Eat More Kale" month, I've donned my celebratory t-shirt and put together an entire days menu featuring kale, kale, and more kale.  I used both raw and cooked kale, as well as using it in sweet and savory dishes.  For your pleasure we have for breakfast, a Tropical Dino Smoothie made with - you guessed it! - the dino kale; lunch is a Raw Green Kale Salad with chickpeas and homemade dressing; and for dinner, the finale, a sweet and spicy Red Kale and Butternut Squash Curry with brown basmati rice.

So, go!  Go buy a bunch of kale - make that three bunches - and make these recipes.  Or better yet, do some creating of your own with this amazing versatile ridiculous nutritious leafy green.

Tropical Dino Smoothie
1 cup dino kale, de-veined and roughly torn
¼ cup orange juice
1 banana

1 cup fresh cut pineapple
⅓ cup fresh cut mango

+ Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth (or chunky, if you're like me).  If needed, add more juice until to reaches desired thickness.

Raw Green Kale Salad

½ bunch green kale, de-veined and roughly torn
1 can chick peas, rinsed
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs umeboshi vinegar (or any other vinegar)
2 tbs orange juice
1 tbs honey
salt and pepper to taste

+ Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, juice and honey in a small bowl.
+ Place kale on the bottom of a large bowl, topped with onion and chick peas.  Toss with dressing and serve.

Red Kale and Butternut Squash Curry

1 bunch red kale, de-veined and roughly torn
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 20 oz package of pre-cut butternut squash
1 cup shredded carrot
½ cup fresh mango, chopped
2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
2 tbs curry powder
2 cups wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup brown basmati rice
olive oil
salt and pepper

+ In a medium pot, combine rice and 2 cups stock.  Bring to a boil, then stir once, cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 45 minutes (or until all the liquid has been absorbed) without uncovering or stirring.  Once it's done, uncover, fluff with a fork, drizzle with a little olive oil and keep covered until served.
+ In a large sauce pan or large pot, saute onions and garlic over medium-high heat.  Add the squash, potato, mango, and pineapple, cooking for a few minutes.  Add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste, and give a good stir.  Add half the stock and half the wine.  Place the kale on top, and cover and cook until the squash and potato are fork tender, and the kale has wilted.
+ Remove ⅓ of the curry and place in a small pot.  Using a stick blender, blend until the mixture is smooth (if you don't have a stick blender, a normal blender will work just fine).  If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a bit of the reserved stock or wine.
+ Place the blended mix back into the pot and give it a good stir.  Add the remaining stock and wine, season to taste.  Cook until alcohol has cooked off, stirring occasionally.
+ Serve the curry over the basmati rice with a side of warmed naan.

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