Around this time of the summer, the zucchini cartoons start appearing in the paper. Gardeners are creeping around in the dark of night, unloading zucchini on unsuspecting neighbors. My question for everyone trying to unload their zucchini is, have you ever grown kale?
Kale Just Keeps On Giving
Trust me, kale cranks out the harvest at a speed that puts zucchini to shame. Pick some, it grows back overnight. As summer goes on, the central stem turns into a trunk, topped with sprouting leaves. By fall, it looks like a cruciferous palm tree, and it will keep waving at you as the days get shorter. It’s actually sweeter after a frost.
Leave it there, and the sturdy leaves will peep out of a snowbank til Spring. Zucchini doesn’t do that.
Juices, Smoothies, and Grilling with Kale
I hardly need to tell you how nutritious kale is. Just the word has become a cultural signifier. If a character in a movie eats kale, they are either a California-lean yoga girl or a baby boomer hippie type. The kind of people who suffer through bad tasting but virtuous meals eat kale.
Not me, I never eat anything I don’t enjoy. The Tuscan kale growing so prolifically in my garden is sweet and tender, especially the small, young leaves at the top. And I don’t just munch on plain kale.
It pays to have a plan for your kale. I planted it so that I could make juice and smoothies with it, as well as add it to other dishes. I can power through a big pile of it in a green juice. I’ve got some recipes here to put your kale to good use.
Make Easy Kale Tartines
Today I am hungry and in a hurry, so I’m making a crowd pleaser out of all the goodies in my garden. Fresh basil, tomatoes and kale, all on a piece of toast. Good toast is essential; I used Baker’s Field Flour and Bread’s lovely locally grown, ground and fermented whole grain bread. Look for a naturally leavened whole grain bread wherever you live, and all your meals will be better. I did boil some water for blanching the kale, but otherwise, no cooking. The kale is pretty incognito in the pesto, with a large quantity of fresh basil and some creamy pine nuts to balance out the flavor.
Of course, you could add some parmesan to the pesto, or shave Asiago over the tartines. It’s got plenty of richness from the olive oil and pine nuts, so you might not need cheese as much as you think you do.
You don’t have to be a yogi or a hippie, just eat that kale. Cultural stereotypes were made to be broken.
Kale Pesto and Tomato Tartine
- 6 small Tuscan Kale leaves about 1 cup, packed
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves packed
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 5 tablespoons pine nuts divided
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large slices of whole grain bread
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes or several small ones
- red pepper flakes
- Put a quart of water in a pot and salt it generously, use it to blanch the kale. Strip the stems and drop it in boiling water for a minute, drain, rinse with cold water, and squeeze out until dry.
- Put the kale, basil, garlic and 3 tablespoons pine nuts in the processor bowl and process. Scrape down and process until finely minced. Gradually add olive oil, scraping and pureeing until smooth. Add salt and process. Scrape out into a small bowl. If not serving right away, cover the surface with olive oil and cover tightly.
- Toast the bread, spread with pesto, then top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and remaining pine nuts.