Kale Massage Therapy

The other day I got a facebook message from my San Francisco-based, uber-hip, very happening friend Nadine, extolling the virtues of kale (to which I think I can take credit for introducing her) and asking if “massaging kale is as big in Gaspe as it is in Berkeley?”

Good question, Nadine. In fact, in Gaspe, I have yet to meet someone who has heard of kale. I have been growing it for the past 3 years but I have to explain it every time, sort of like this: “It’s kale. Well, there’s no translation really. Curly cabbage… but that’s not really it. It’s kale. Like a cross between cabbage, and broccoli, and spinach…Yeah, no, the seed packet [from Quebec] just said, ‘kale’. Try it! ”

Lacinato, or Toscano, or Dino, or Black kale. Many other kinds exist, and they all look different. They all work for most every kale application.

And as I live in a  spacious yet well-insulated bell-jar, of course I had never heard of the trend – and it is very trendy – of kale massage. This is not rubbing people with kale, as I found out through a hasty internet search. This is massaging the kale leaves themselves. Although, considering the extreme nutritional value of kale, I wouldn’t be surprised if rubbing it on people would be beneficial.

Anyway, you’d think that I wouldn’t have time for all this foodista crap, what with working full-time all of a sudden, and having all those other things to do as well, that I barely managed to do while I wasn’t working at all, but everyone raved about it so much that I had to give it a go. And the kale in my garden was just calling out to me, day after day: “Holly! Poor us! we’re growing so dutifully, fending off hordes of slugs and sacrificing our lower leaves to them every night, and here we are, in all our leafy splendor, and you ignore us! Pick me! Forget the beans! Pick me!”

So, OK, I picked it! Piles of it, cause the massage (like cooking) makes it shrink. It’s kinda like making a salad and leaving it for a few hours after putting on the dressing. It gets a little fatigué – but with kale, that just makes it…edible.

The short of it is, you cut up the kale (remove the tough stem), put it in a big bowl,

drizzle a bit of olive oil on it,

squeeze a bit of lemon juice on it

sprinkle a bit of salt on it

and put on some instrumental music with water sounds….

and get yer mitts in there and squish it all up for 2 or 3 minutes.

Then, just like after a person massage, you let it rest for about 15 minutes (you can even put a fluffy, warm, white towel over it, but this is not absolutely necessary), while you prepare all the nibblies that are going to go in your amazing salad: Toasted nuts or pumpkin seeds, apples or peaches or mango, dried cranberries, grapes…

…and while you whisk up a little lemon juice with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

and when all this toasting, chopping, and whisking is done, your kale should be well-rested after its massage and ready to get dressed.

So there you go. If you’ve caught yourself staring at that big bunch of leaves in the store and wondering what the heck you’d do with all that kale, wonder no more. Cause if massaging it doesn’t turn you on, you can find fifty million other things to do with it on line. I am a bit obsessed with kale these days, but not as much as this lady, who can really help you find things to do with your kale. Seriously. Try googling “massaged kale“. Or “kale chips” (Gotcha, Frida!). Right there, you’ve got 2 ways of ingesting ridiculous amounts of vitamins, iron, and calcium.

And the only downside is that you have to check your teeth before you interact with colleagues.

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Beet the Bar Salad

I am sick. I have the flu, of all things. And boy, do I feel sorry for myself. I don’t even want to eat cake, and the few biscotti that have managed to evade me are still successfully hiding in the freezer. I must be really sick.

Yesterday, all I wanted was this lentil and sweet potato soup from the LCBO magazine, which I’ve been wanting to write about anyway, cause it’s a big hit around here.

I upped the ginger A LOT and doubled the recipe to freeze some for later. It’s so easy to make and so good – everyone raves about it.

But I also found a 10-pound bag of beets slumped sadly on the floor and decided to put it out of its misery. Also, P bought beets, so I told her I’d share a beet recipe. I’m kinda in love with beets too, for so many reasons, although I didn’t really need to deal with a 10-pound bag of them the other day. I am starting to plan my garden and beets will figure prominently there; red-and-white striped Chioggas did well last year, and I’d like to try some golden beets this year too.

But the other thing – really weird thing – is that a famous chef has stolen one of my recipes!!! I don’t know how, cause I haven’t noticed any famous chefs lurking around my kitchen, taking surreptitious notes. I’m sure I would have noticed. But how else do you explain the salad I ate at the Gite du Mont Albert, a 4-star hotel in the heart of the Parc de la Gaspésie – A beet and green apple salad with walnuts! OK, my recipe had pecans instead of walnuts, and I have to say, I think the pecans are better in this salad. I guess the chef didn’t want it to be so obvious that he had lifted my idea straight out of my head.

this is an approximation of the famous chef's version of my salad

So – beets. The thing about beets is, you have to learn to love them. They don’t just jump into your plate; there is a decent amount of work involved in preparing them. For this reason, I tend to cook up a lot of beets when I’m feeling inspired, so that I have some ready when I want to make something with them.

A couple ways to prepare them:

You can roast them, with the peel on, drizzled in a bit of oil, wrapped  in foil. It takes a while, up to an hour or even more for biggies, at 375 F. The peels are really easy to remove once the beets are cool enough to handle, and a paring knife will help you with any resilient beet skin. A step-by-step how-to can be found here if you feel like you need more detailed instruction than that.

Or you can boil them, peeled, but this removes a lot of their flavour. And peeling beets is a PITA*.  So go ahead and roast a whole bunch and then you can make things with beets all week long.

MY beet salad, made in December, 2010!

Beet & Green Apple Salad

with almond-butter vinaigrette

Created by me and STOLEN!!! by a famous chef

I first made this salad with wheat berries, which made it more of a hearty lunch-salad that I kept in the fridge and dipped into all week. You can omit the wheat berries and just go with the beets and apples if you want more of a refreshing side-salad. Barley I guess could work as a wheat-berry substitute, but try wheat berries – they’re lovely. If I could get farro here, I think that’d be even lovelier.

Ingredients

2 cups cooked wheat berries

1 granny smith apple, skin ON, chopped or sliced as your whimsy takes you

1 cup cooked, then grated or chopped beets

1/2 cup toasted pecans (pieces or halves, whatever’s training in your cupboard).

Vinaigrette: (makes about half a cup)

1 tablespoon almond butter

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (wine vinegar if you must, white  de préférence)

2-3 tbsp walnut oil (olive oil would be ok if you don’t have walnut)

1 tsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp powdered ginger (or very, very finely minced fresh ginger)

Water or apple juice to thin to desired consistency

Salt & pepper to taste.

1. In a small jar, combine the vinaigrette ingredients (all except the water or juice). Shake the jar and add water or apple juice to thin the vinaigrette to the desired consistency. Salt to taste.

2. Combine all the salad ingredients except the pecans and toss with the vinaigrette. If you are going to eat it later, save the pecans on the side or they’ll get soggy. Saving a bit of the vinaigrette will freshen it up too as the wheat berries will absorb a lot of the dressing as they sit around.

3. Serve with the pecans sprinkled over top.

Now, with those leftover beets, do you want a recipe for beet muffins????  Cause I got one.

*PITA =  Pain In The Ass