All Hail, Amazing Kale! Jennifer Audette On Summer’s Hippest Superfood & Sumptuous Peach, Corn & Kale Salad . . .

August 3rd, 2013 § 6 comments § permalink

Peach, Corn and Kale Salad - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comPeach, Corn & Kale Salad, Recipe Below

Kale, glorious kale. A member of the extensive Brassica oleracea species (cultivars: cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, savoy), kale is in the acephala group, which means “headless”. Kale and its nearly identical partner, collards, are likely quite similar to the earliest forms of cultivated cabbage, which were also non-head forming and known to be in cultivation for thousands of years.  The word “kale” is apparently Scottish in origin stemming from the Roman coles and caulis, their words for cabbage. Bet you can guess where the words “cauliflower” and “cole crops” come from now, too. In medieval times this group of vegetables was known as coleworts or colewyrts.

Like my favorite Vermont-made t-shirt says, we should all “Eat More Kale”, but kale can be a hard sell, even to people who love their veggies. Does the idea of kale cause you to cringe as you picture bitter greens lumped in a foreboding pile on your plate like a gustatory penance for all the junk food you ate this week? Well you’re in luck, because I’m here, a Kale Krusader, to convert you.

Redbor and Rainbow Lacinato Kale Harvest - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comHarvesting Tender Leaves of Redbor & Rainbow Lacinato Kale

Kale can be planted each spring as soon as the soil is workable, which we all know is the time when gardeners chomp-at-the-bit to stick hope into the cold earth and wait for it to grow. So, don’t you dare plant tomatoes, peppers and green beans in early May as a desperate attempt to get a jump on the season only to have failed germination and frost-killed seedlings! You should be planting seeds or six-packs of kale instead! Winterbor is my favorite variety because I like how the ruffle-y leaves trap dressings and seasonings. But there are other varieties: Lacinato (dinosaur kale), Red Russian, Rainbow Russian, Red Winterbor and many others.

Rainbow Lacinato Kale - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Rainbow Lacinato Kale with Lovely Hints of Lavender, Blue and Turquoise, is Even Pretty in Edible Floral Arrangements

I have grown kale easily from seed in the past, but now prefer to purchase six-packs of healthy starts.  The tiny, tentative leaves emerging from seeds were harder for me to protect from the darn slugs. The more mature six-pack starts seem to stand up better to moderate slug and snail abuse.  Kale prefers well-drained, organically rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 and full sun.  The most common pest you’ll find on your kale is the cabbage worm, the larval stage of those pretty little white cabbage butterflies. Dark green frass (fancy word for poop), collecting on the stems of your kale plants will give the little buggers away.  So, do a daily walk-through looking for frass. If you find any, search for the well-camouflaged cabbage worm. It will be almost the exact color of the kale stem. Pick it off and dispose of by your preferred method. (I throw them onto the driveway, hoping that birds might eat them. I’m not sure if this system actually works as planned since I’ve never done a follow-up study of my disposal method.) Kale is very easy to grow and produces from early spring right through late fall. They say frosts make the leaves sweeter, but honestly, I’ve never noticed a big difference.  This year, the neighborhood woodchuck took a liking to my kale and in early July ate most of my crop (18 plants).  But once the woodchuck problem was solved (a story for another day), the kale recovered even stronger than before and on it grows.  Go kale, go!

Young Redbor Kale Leaf - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Beautiful, Curly Redbor Kale is Great for Holding Dressing and Seasoning, or Fancying Up a Serving Bowl

So with the growing part out of the way I can hear you wondering, “yeah, but what’s so great about eating the stuff?” I’m glad you asked! When you grow your own kale you can pick it right before you’re going to eat it so it’s fresh and tender. You don’t get stuck with excessive bits of the hard, fibrous ribs like you get in a bag of kale from the grocery store. You can harvest the younger leaves for salads. Save the more hearty leaves to braise atop golden-brown onions and garlic for 20 minutes (adding small amounts of water to keep from burning). Then toss with a good squirt of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan cheese and serve over your favorite pasta. You can tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle over the top of a pizza before popping it into the oven. The edges of the kale will get crisp and nutty while the part in contact with the pizza stays tender.  And if you missed the craze of “Kale Chips”, just do an internet search and you’ll find plenty of recipes for the simple-to-make, healthy, addictive, salty snack.  You can make a dressing with tahini, tamari, red wine vinegar, garlic and water then toss with torn kale leaves. Top with tomato, cucumber and avocado.

Ingredients for Peach, Corn and Kale Salad - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Fresh Ingredients from the Garden and Walker Farm Make Great Companions for Homegrown Kale

But hands down, this is my new favorite thing to make with kale. This salad appeared in my life just three weeks ago and I’ve made it four times since then. Because kale is so hearty, it holds up as leftovers even under an acidic dressing that would wilt lesser greens. So this recipe is great to make in a big batch to have for quick, healthy lunches and dinner side dishes for several days.  If there’s still time where you live to buy local corn and perfectly ripe peaches, you should make this salad post haste. I think there will be a few kale converts among the ranks.

Peach, Corn and Kale Salad with Wine - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Kale, Peach and Corn Salad

(adapted from a recipe at NPR.com)

Ingredients for 6 servings

Dressing

½ cup olive oil (the better the quality, the better your dressing)

¼ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (or more to taste)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 cup of red onion very thinly sliced into half moons

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt & pepper. Add the thinly sliced onion, stir and allow to sit for 15 minutes or so. This mellows the flavors and softens the onion.

Salad

1 bunch of kale, (maybe about 10 – 12 small to medium stalks) washed, dried and torn into smaller pieces

½ a bunch of cilantro, stems removed and leaves torn, or to taste

4 ears of corn, uncooked, cut off the cob

4 peaches, peeled, cut into wedges

4 oz. of feta or to taste (I use Vermont’s Maplebrook Cheese and it’s delicious!)

Rainbow Lacinato and Redbor Kale - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Method

Combine the kale and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour dressing over greens. Toss well, making sure to get the dressing over every piece of kale. Then add the corn kernels, the peach slices and the feta.  If you can let the salad rest, (refrigerated or not) for about an hour, the kale will absorb more dressing and soften slightly.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.  Enjoy!

Peach, Corn and Kale Salad Mixing - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Toss the Ingredients Together Well and Let Stand in the Refrigerator for One Hour or More, Before Serving

The best thing about eating so much kale is that it’s one of those supposed “superfoods”, which means I can drink more wine and eat more dessert with less guilt, right?  Hurray!

I know there are other kale-lovers out there in TGE-land. Got any great recipes to share?

Peach, Corn and Kale Salad and Wine - michaela m harlow - thegardenerseden.comA Sumptuous Summer Salad & Crisp White Wine Make a Perfect Light Dinner for Two on a Sultry, August Evening

Today’s guest blogger, multi-talented writer Jennifer Audette is author of the always entertaining and often humorous Cozy Toes BlogspotWhen not experimenting with canning, baking, cooking, horticulture, entomology or other scientific pursuits, Jennifer can be found writing, hiking, making music, working at Walker Farm and delivering smiles to her very fortunate friends.

Travel back to Jennifer’s previous post on Dilly Beans by clicking here.  

Thank you Jen! xo 

Article ⓒ Jennifer Audette, Photography ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you! 

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Cool as a Cucumber: Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat & Summer Memories…

July 30th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria (my aunt Maria) lives in the southernmost tip of Bavaria, in a small town near München (Munich) Germany. My mother comes from a very, very large family —all still living in Europe— and although I have many aunts, uncles and cousins, I will always feel closest to my Tante Maria. When I think of her and our long summertime visits, I am flooded with warm memories of her cooking, canning, baking and storytelling (as well as various odd adventures). My unmarried, travel-loving Tante would arrive at Boston’s Logan airport on a Lufthansa jet  —arms laden with heavy packages and carts of enormous luggage— in a soft, lemony cloud of Tosca perfume. It was almost impossible to sleep the night before my family made the two hour drive to pick her up, but when I finally did drift off, I’m sure I was dreaming of the contents of her perennially over-gross, goodie-stuffed bags. The edible treats hidden in Tante’s luggage usually included Alpine chocolate, German cookies, Haribo Goldbären, chamomile tea, spices for cooking and baking, and of course, smuggled meats and cheeses for dad. Tante rolled all of these things —as well as dishes and perfume for my mother, biersteins for my father and toys and books for us kids— in delicately fragrant bed linens, hand towels, and wonderfully strange articles of clothing.

München Skyline- Photo by Stefan Kühn via Wikimedia Commons

It seems to me that from the moment she arrived, until the moment she left —usually quite tearfully, six weeks later— Tante Maria ruled our family kitchen and dining room table. No sooner did she step inside the door, than she donned her apron. Spätzle (egg noodles), kartoffelknöedeln (potato dumplings), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), sweet kuchen (coffee cake), and delightfully vinegary kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and gurkensalat (cucumber salad) are but a few of my Tante’s many specialties. And although I tend to cook in a more Mediterranean than Bavarian style, I have added a few of her dishes to my repertoire. My favorite? It’s hard to choose, but I do love gurkensalat —a vinegar-based cucumber salad— especially when it’s hot. In July, when my father picked the first, deliciously fragrant cucumbers fresh from his garden, Tante Maria liked to make a very simple version of this classic German salad; cutting the fruits tissue-paper thin with an old-fashioned, über-sharp slicer (mandolin). On a humid summer day —made with a hefty dose of good, white wine vinegar, a bit of red onion and lots of pepper— this cool salad is truly heaven-on-earth.

Bavarian Checked Bierstein – From King Werks via Amazon

I love cucumbers served most any way —fresh in soups and salads and of course pickled— so I grow lots of them in my garden. Overall, Raider and Holland cucumbers are still my favorite green varieties for flavor, but I have also come to love the taste and pretty chartreuse color of lemon cucumbers. Recently my friend John introduced me to some more exotic cucumbers, including a delicious red variety I hope to grow in my own garden next year. Wonderfully easy to grow on fencing and trellises, cucumbers produce more fruit, grow straighter and are less vulnerable to slugs and other pests when grown on vertical supports. Good cucumber companions include dill, nasturtiums, sunflowers, broccoli, bush beans, radishes, and peas. Avoid planting cucumbers near other cucurbits (squash, melons, etc) as they share similar pests. If you spot cucumber beetles on vines or foliage, they may be controlled with neem oil soap (use only as needed), and squash beetles (which also affect other cucurbits) may be controlled with insecticidal soap and/or garlic spray. Cucumbers prefer a neutral to slightly acidic, rich soil (with plenty of nutrient-dense compost worked in) even moisture and regular applications of fish emulsion to help develop productive vines and tasty fruit. Cukes should be picked frequently —check vines daily when it’s hot— and at a small size for best flavor…

Raider cucumber and Lemon cucumber side by side on a wire fence trellis – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Cucumber and cleome – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Lemon cucumbers – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side salad, easily doubles for increased portions):

2-3   Very fresh cucumbers (more if very, very small), washed, partially peeled and sliced paper thin with a mandolin

1/2  Small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin with mandolin

1      Teaspoon kosher salt

1/3  Cup white wine, rice wine or apple cider vinegar

1      Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped dill (traditional)

Freshly ground pepper

*For a creamy version of this salad, add 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

Cool, green stripes – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Directions:

Partially peel the cucumbers with a vegetable peeler (stripes look kind of cool)

Set a your mandolin, or other slicer blade to a very narrowly angled opening. Run the cucumber through to test, and if the resulting slice is thicker than tissue paper, narrow the slit between blades. If you are slicing by hand, you will need to be quite patient and steady. It’s very, very important to get ultra-thin slices as this enhances the cucumber flavor and the delicate texture of the salad. Slice all of the cucumbers and place them in a medium sized bowl. Mix in the salt and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Remove the cucumbers from the refrigerator and drain. Pat gently with paper towels.

Slice the red onion, again very thin, and toss the separated rings into the bowl with the cucumbers.

Add the vinegar, cracked black pepper and optional dill to taste. Chill for one hour before serving.

If you would like a creamy gurkensalat, drain the chilled mixture and stir in the sour cream or yogurt. Serve garnished with a bit of fresh dill.

Fresh from the garden, red onion – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

I like to use a tasty white wine or champagne vinegar in my gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Ready to Chill – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Joy of Thin Slices… My classic Bron Mandolin !

Trellised Cucumbers and Nasturtiums Along the Fence – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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