Monday, October 5, 2009

As Common As Kale And Crows

When dining out, kale is often slapped onto an entree plate as a garnish. Restaurants use it because the leathery, blue leaves have a long shelf life. I've only ever known of one person to eat the uninspired garnish and that was my daughter. She would eat the kale from everyone's plate and then move on to the lemon wedges if available. She'd eat this stuff before even thinking about her entree. Her father and I often joked that we shouldn't bother to order a dinner for her but simply ask for a garnish plate. The purple stalks of growing kale are beautiful and can be delicious with a little bit of thought to the preparation. It is very high in fiber, vitamins K, C and calcium. Kale is regarded as a highly nutritious member of the cabbage family with anti-oxidant and ant-inflammatory  properties. Kale is usually cheap, too as it's not too popular as vegetables go. I make a soup of kale, cannelloni and garlic that I can't get enough of. The following is not so much a recipe as a cooking technique.

Kale  6-8 big leaves
two cans of cannelloni or about 3 cups of gnocchis
about 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
(also fabulous with stock made of beef neck bones with the meat pulled from the bones for the soup)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
big onion, chopped
slug (about 1/2  cup) white wine or balsamic vinegar- about 3 TBLS
olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
a few flakes of red pepper
sauteed, crumbled bacon - optional
crumbled goat cheese or feta - optional

Strip the leaves from the kale by folding then in half along the stem like the spine of a book. Chop the stems coarsely, chop the leaves. In olive oil, saute the stems until tender. Add chopped onion and saute until lightly brown. Add the chopped leaves, saute until soft. Add garlic and saute until you can smell it. Add to pot of heated stock. Simmer until it all smells good and the kale is soft, then add the cannelloni. I add the cans juice and all which gives a little thickness to the soup. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes then white wine or balsamic vinegar and simmer about 10 more minutes. If you like bacon, you can throw that in just before serving. If you want the cheese, serve that on top of each bowl as you serve it. If you want to get really decadent with your kale soup, have bacon and cheese! Kale stands up well to strong flavors like balsamic vinegar, goat cheese and bacon. You can eat this until your head blows off because it's really good for you. If you have fiber issues, you may want to ration yourself. Of course, if you added bacon, and/or cheese, it's not so benign.

Kale is marvelously adaptable. It's great roasted as a sort of potato chip alternative. Strip the leaves from the stalks. Discard the stalks or save them for some other dish later. Dry the leaves, brush them with olive oil and then sprinkle sea salt on both sides. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Place in very hot, 450 degree oven. Watch closely so they don't burn. When lightly browned, turn them over and roast until brown. Serve immediately. This is good crumbled onto the soup above. 

American Crows and European Starlings in the bird world are as ubiquitous as Kale in the garnish world. Like Kale, they are tough and highly adaptable. Both birds have been very successful on the planet, especially the Common Starling, or just 'Starling.' In European urban areas,  their roosting flock numbers are in the thousands. As they roost for the night, they swarm together in tight spheres that settle and rise repeatedly into the sky. The 'bird balls' undulate into odd shapes against the setting sun. In Denmark, the phenomenon is called "Black Sun." Starlings prefer insects,  but will eat anything if given opportunity, as do crows. Both birds are highly intelligent and will mimic the calls of other birds. Crows and Starlings are noisy, often troublesome birds regarded by many as pests. If you can just look at them as birds, though, they have their own beauty, like kale. However, I do not recommend adding crow nor starling to kale soup, though chicken might be nice.

European Starling

1 comment:

  1. Nice comparison/contrast post. My mom used to make a kale soup that was delicious. I may try your recipe out, sounds yummy!