With spring more than 2 weeks off, and actual spring weather closer to 8 weeks away in the northeast, the seasonal vegetable harvest might seem like a bleak prospect. Here in the Hudson Valley, the ground has been in a deep freeze for over 6 weeks with no end in sight, unwelcome to the thought of spinach, asparagus or even a ramp. Personally, I can only handle so many months of root vegetables before I start to feel like a turnip. If only the market offered a crisp, refreshing leafy green to remind me of balmier days, and hold me over until the spring thaw. Turns out, it does!
Versatile, and Vitamin-Packed
Kale is one of the only green vegetables that are available and tasty during the year’s coldest months. A structurally “tough” green that begs to be tamed, kale is perfect as the base veggie for a sauté, a stir fry, or even a soup. In addition to flavor and texture, kale is stuffed with nutrition and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, rendering it a super food. The Curly, Siberian, Russian, Dinosaur and Premier varieties are easily identified and located at farmer’s markets and specialty grocers.
If you’ve decided somewhere along the line that you’re not a fan of kale, I would urge you to give kale one more chance, using my very simple, very springtime recipe. It incorporates just a few other common ingredients, and happens to require no cooking at all. Massaged Kale is another welcomed culinary invention, and combines the kind of physics and flavor chemistry that we can all relate to, including a little citrus “pop”. It involves literally massaging the kale leaves to break down their sturdy structural fibers, transforming this hearty green into a silken delight in just minutes.
I’ve been hooked on this side dish since the first week of January, and I predict you will be too. Here’s to springing forward!
Massaged Kale (Serves 4):
1 Head of Your Favorite Kale Variety
1-2 Tbsp Your Finest Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¾ Cup Reggiano Parmesan Cheese, self-grated finely
The Zest of 1 Lemon or Lime
Salt and Pepper
Wash and dry kale thoroughly. Tear the leaves into preferred size pieces (salad size), and place into large serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and, with clean hands, massage the kale assertively, aiming to break down its toughness while evenly coating it in oil (about 3 minutes). Rinse hands. Add salt & pepper, and grated Reggiano. Zest the rind of a cleaned lemon (or lime) over the kale and toss. Serve at room temperature as a side dish to any meal. Consume your Massaged Kale ideally with chopsticks.