My favorite leafy green

On this, the very first Local Lunchbox post, I thought it would be extremely gratifying to subject the world to a diatribe on my favorite of leafy greens: kale.  Not just any kale, but the tuscan variety cavolo nero, also known as lacinato or dinosaur kale.  This kale is so tasty, than even my sweetie, for all his anti-vegetable campaigning, will eat it quite happily.

The fact that it is easily grown in the cool fall and winter of the Pacific Northwest, turning sweeter after a frost, makes it particularly good to eat at this time of the year.  Filled with vitamins A, C and K, minerals iron and calcium, and cancer fighting phytochemicals called indoles; this leafy green can strengthen your eyes, skin, bones and blood.

There are many wonderful recipes for kale, one of my favorites is the traditional Portuguese soup called Caldo Verde, with potatoes, kale and sausage.  Another is this recipe for kale with local dried plums (alias: prunes) and hazelnuts.  There are several traditional versions of this dish from the mediterranean using flavorful greens with currants or raisins and pinenuts.  It is a fabulous side dish to any meat or pasta, and reheats quite well.  Just remember to only add the hazelnuts to each serving just before eating, leftover soggy hazelnuts = blech.

Braised Kale with Dried Plums and Hazelnuts

*Indicates ingredients that are grown or produced locally

Makes 6 – ½ Cup Servings

*2 Bunches kale

1 Cup light coconut milk or Vegetable stock

*5 Cloves garlic, chopped

*10 Dried plums, chopped

¾ Teaspoon kosher salt

1 Teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 Teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

*1 Tablespoon honey

*¼ Cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped (or substitute toasted pine nuts)

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the kale leaves and drain in a colander.  Remove the thick stems that run up the center of each leaf, and discard.  Stack 4-5 leaves at a time and chop into ½ inch strips.

Heat a large stock pot with a lid over medium heat.  Add the coconut milk or vegetable stock and kale.  Cover for 1 minute, then uncover and stir to wilt the greens.  Add the garlic, dried plums and salt.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, uncover and let cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally to evaporate some of the liquid.  Turn off the heat and add the vinegar, olive oil and honey, stir to combine.  Season the kale with salt and pepper to taste and serve in a warm dish.  Sprinkle hazelnuts over the dish just before serving.