What is Kale?

The winter crops have always baffled me. Recently, I was thinking about my latest visits to the farmers’ market. I see that almost every stand is selling kale. I mean, what exactly is kale? I was not raised on such a leafy vegetable and have no idea how to cook it. I think I used to see it on plates at fancy restaurants, there for a pretty part of the plate. I never ate it! So, I find myself passing the stands that sell kale. I guess it looks like some kind of lettuce, but I am still not sure. Would I eat it like lettuce? How exactly do people eat kale? What does it taste like? I mean, do I even want to eat something called kale?

Kale and beets at Farmers’ Market. Image from: https://sweetpaprika.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/farmers-market21.jpg

Kale and beets at Farmers’ Market. Image from: https://sweetpaprika.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/farmers-market21.jpg

I start to laugh out loud as I remember the movie “My Blue Heaven” (1990). There is a scene where Steve Martin, playing an Italian New York mobster, goes to a grocery store in a small California town and asks the produce clerk, “Where is the arugula?” And she replies “What is arugula?” He says “A vegetable.” It is a very funny scene and it reminds me that unless you grow up eating such things as kale or arugula, you really don’t know what they are…much less know how to cook them. This made me think that I should look up some recipes for kale and give it a try. It is time I stop passing on the foods that are foreign to me especially when they are not foreign to the land in which I live.

My favorite website is Food Network, so I headed straight to the site and looked up kale. I found a lot of recipes which surprised me; I mean, who really eats kale? Then as I looked over the list I found recipes for kale chips, kale salad, sautéed kale, baked kale, roasted kale, and kale soup. So, I chose a recipe called Kale and Apple Salad by the Food Network Kitchen. I went ahead and actually bought some kale and made the salad. It turned out to be pretty good. I substituted the pecorino cheese with feta. They are both made from sheep’s milk so I figured the substitution would be okay.

The salad goes well with my homemade mushroom pizza. Does this count as a vegetarian meal? It’s delicious! I have found a new salad and I am no longer afraid of kale.

This attempt at cooking and eating foods unknown to me made me go look for other recipes. Walking through the farmers’ market I see beets as often as I see kale, and I found a recipe for Red Velvet Brownies by the Vegetarian Times. I made a batch for my son just to see if I could sneak some good vitamins into a favorite chocolate delight. I made this wonderful treat and didn’t feel bad when my son ate three brownies.

Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of a warm brownie square added just enough balance between cake and cream.

Other New Mexico crops that I have found foreign include chard and quinoa. It turns out that chard is much like kale in that it can be made in many of the same ways. There are recipes for sautéed chard, Swiss chard, and chard soup. I recommend looking through the recipe list on the Cooking Channel website, my second favorite site. Quinoa is a grain that is used much like rice. I found a recipe for Chicken and Quinoa Soup that looks tasty. It will be my next new food attempt.

I hope I have inspired you to take a second look at produce that can be found at winter farmers’ markets. Remember, if you did not grow up eating certain foods it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to cook and eat them. I recommend talking to the farmers themselves and always checking out the Food Network and the Cooking Channel websites. Once you look over a few recipes, try one that has other ingredients that are familiar to you. This will make it easier to introduce new foods into your diet.

Try new things and eat well!

-Posted by Angela

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