"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice." – Albert from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell C. Hoban
Food in Israel is grand. Produce is local and fresh. The organic marketplace is growing and developing but the cooking greens leave a bit to be desired. The spinach is tasty but not delicate enough and the beet greens/mangold, are the only cooking greens regularly available. They’re a bit like chard, without the lemony flavor, and while hearty and tasty, we all grow tired of them. I pine for collards and kale. Once last year, I caught someone who posted on Janglo, the local listserv of all that interesting and available, that they had a glut of kale in their garden. I went over immediately to investigate and found a rather unusual kind of guy, who had a massive garden in what was basically an empty and untended lot next to his garden apartment and who had ton of kale – curly and flat leaved varieties growing. I bought up 2 bags and went home and cooked and spent the rest of the year remembering the experience fondly.
I’ve asked Meir of Hachavah Haorganit a few times about varieties of greens and he’s assured me that his growers are hoping to offer some alternatives. Two weeks ago, the kale arrived. Beautiful, flat-leaved and purple veined, Red Russian variety, kale. I practically swooned with pleasure. I had ordered 3 bunches of Kale along with 2 bunches of mangold and was ready to have my calcium and vitamin C raised along with my tastebuds.
Kale is lovely steamed and dressed or sauteed simply with or without onion and garlic and chopped red pepper, let’s say, and then eaten (once it’s been lightly salted and peppered and splashed with lemon juice). It’s good roasted – develops and intensifies the flavors and yet sweetens the result through the roasting process. It’s great, a la Marion Stein, sauteed – first saute onion and garlic, salt and pepper, then the kale stems, then add cubed new potatoes and stir-fry. Cover and let them cook for a bit, adding a bit of liquid as necessary – like white wine, or water as well. As the potatoes get a bit more tender, add the chopped kale and saute some more. Cover and cook until potatoes are fully cooked. Stir together, adding salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice and eat – either plain, or on pasta but I like it plain. Hearty and good.
Kale is great in soup and that’s what I did with it over the past 2 weeks. It was chopped and added into a fish soup, then a veg soup and then my favorite – Sweet potato and Kale Soup.
Sweet potatoes – 3-4 chopped. (You could also use winter squash)
Carrots – 3-4 diced.
Celery – 2 ribs sliced.
Onion – 2 medium, diced.
Garlic – 3-4 cloves, chopped.
1 bunch Kale – Trim ends, chop stems and wash, reserving to saute with celery. Chop greens and soak in water, changing as needed if very dirty.
Water – 8-10 cups
Bay leaves, salt and pepper
Lemon juice – 1 lemon
Miso – mellow white or light colored variety (you can make the soup without this but it does give a lovely flavor and is quite good for you).
Warm olive oil. Saute onion for a few minutes, then add garlic. Stir fry for 2 minutes, not letting it brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add carrot, celery and kale stems and saute for 3-5 minutes letting them soften slightly. Add sweet potatoes (or winter squash) and cook, stirring frequently for another 5-8 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring until greens are semi-wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add water to cover, stirring as you add – you should be able to stir the veggies but still sense a chunky and not thin mixture. Add 2 bay leaves. Bring to boil and let cook until sweet potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes.
Dip a cup of hot soup broth out of the pot and add 2 tbsps miso, stirring the miso up and pressing it against the cup to combine it with the liquid. Add the lemon juice and pour the mixture back into the pot. Taste soup. If you like it more miso’y, do process again – it’s not necessary to add more lemon juice.
(If you’re not doing miso, add some white wine when you add the broth water or puree a can of white beans – strained and rinsed – and add them to the pot for body and taste with some lemon juice and be prepared to add more salt and pepper as well).
This is a lovely soup and it ages well, too. Heat it up and add some noodles or cooked rice for some extra body as well.