Raised on her family's farms and imbued with the shrewd kitchen wisdom of her Southern grandmothers, it's no surprise that Inspired Eating's Lisa Turner embraced a deep respect for food and the land at an early age. In her new column, Farm Food, Lisa celebrates the clean, simple beauty of food pulled straight from the ground.
In her inaugural post, Lisa features kale -- ever the winter survivor -- in three rewarding preparations.
Photo by Sarah Shatz
In Praise of Kale
Here in Colorado, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, our growing season is pitifully short. We brace for storms as early as October and as late as May, and many an untimely freeze has devastated the average gardener. But as the tomatoes wither, as the peppers perish, and zucchini becomes a fond but distant memory of the past, our kale lives on.
This year, after premature snowstorms felled a giant cottonwood in my yard and turned my tomatoes into a mushy mess, my kale thrived beneath a makeshift hoop house and a heavy blanket of snow. Thus inspired, we fortified the garden cover, and had a tiny farm of chard, spinach, arugula, escarole, cabbage, chives, and half a dozen herbs into December.
Even if you're not so inspired, kale is one of the few vegetables that thrives in colder weather, and you’ll find several varieties in the markets and grocery stores throughout the United States. Tuscan kale -- also called Lacinato, dinosaur kale or Cavalo Nero -- has a nubby, rugged texture that holds up especially well in stews and roasting. Curly varieties are tender enough for quick sautéing and raw salads, and Red Russian kale, sturdy as a weed, has green-purple leaves that add color and antioxidants. All varieties of kale are types of crucifers (like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts), and are rich in compounds that help prevent cancer, curb inflammation, and may reduce cholesterol. These recipes use three different varieties of kale, but you can generally substitute one for another. And while black truffle salt doesn’t grow on any farm I know of, it’s still a lovely addition to this winter vegetable lineup.
White Bean, Carrot and Kale Stew
Red Russian kale is outstanding in this hearty stew, but Tuscan kale is a beautiful stand-in as well. This simple classic soup is one of our winter staples; we used heirloom carrots in three different colors, which yielded beautiful results. Peeled and cubed pumpkin or winter squash are other delicious seasonal additions. You can also add pasta shells or orzo toward the end of cooking, or stir in pieces of day-old bread for a Ribollita-style soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 cups homemade or high-quality chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 pound white beans, soaked overnight
1 large sprig rosemary
1 3-inch chunk of Parmigianno-Regianno cheese rind
1 large bunch of kale
4 large or 5 medium carrots
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kale, Apple and Pear Salad with Honey-Spiced Walnuts
Massaging the kale with oil, salt, and acid before serving to soften the aggressive flavor and texture. This is especially good with fig balsamic vinegar. You can also use tamari-roasted almonds in place of the honey-spiced nuts, and add a handful of currants or chopped dried figs.
1/2 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
1 large or 2 small bunches curly kale
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar
1 firm, medium apple
1 ripe but firm pear
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup crumbled Stilton cheese (optional)
Tuscan Kale Chips with Black Truffle Salt
Roasted kale leaves are a fast, appealing way to cook kale; Tuscan kale is especially nice, since the leaves are flat and cook more evenly. Vary the spices -- chipotle powder, garlic, or cumin are nice additions -- and serve them upright in a squat, heavy glass for a novel presentation.
1 bunch of Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur or Lacinato kale)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
Black truffle salt or sea salt
Lisa is a food writer, cooking instructor, nutrition consultant, and Psychology of Eating coach in Boulder. She's written five books and hundreds of recipes and articles for national and local magazines; developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app; and co-founded Boulder Soup Works. In her consulting business, Inspired Eating, she works with individual clients, groups, and corporations to help them create healthy eating patterns.