Kale me, maybe: Trends come and go, but kale has staying power
In the new year, many food writers like to discuss the latest trends or what's hot and what's not. And lately, I've been seeing too many articles saying that kale, that crinkly, earthy, slightly bitter, and highly nutritious dark green has already enjoyed its moment in the culinary sun; that it should start disappearing from our menus and tables, especially in salads.
I think that banishing kale is a terrible idea. Yes, it's hard to find a restaurant menu or supermarket produce shelf today that doesn't feature kale. But the fact that it's everywhere should no more be a reason for us to start ignoring kale than, say, deciding that we won't eat chicken or pasta because everybody is serving those ingredients.
I myself love the flavor and texture of kale; and as someone who tries every day to make smart food choices, I don't want to stop eating such a generous source of not only dietary fiber and vitamins, but also micronutrients that research has found can play a role in helping to prevent so many illnesses.
As I see it, the trouble with kale is that too many people don't know the right way to shop for and prepare it. Many people find the leaves too tough or bitter. That's why you should not only look for tenderer, milder-tasting baby kale leaves, but also take care to remove any tough stems or veins or ribs from them. And, as you'll learn in the following recipe for one of my favorite kale salads, it also makes sense to complement the flavor of the leaves with a tangy-sweet dressing like the mixture I prefer of cider vinegar, honey, olive oil and a touch of walnut oil.
Finally, I add to the kale other complementary flavors, textures and colors -- pale leaves of curly endive and beautiful purple-and-white radicchio, matchsticks of apple, shavings of Parmesan cheese, and candied walnuts that are so easy and delicious that you'll want to make batches of them regularly.
The result is a salad that looks as beautiful as it tastes delicious and fresh. I think you'll feel happy to serve it as a first course. You can certainly vary it too -- maybe crumbling in some blue cheese or feta in place of the Parmesan shavings, or candying a different kind of nut such as pecans or hazelnut pieces. If you like, you could top it with grilled or broiled seafood or chicken for a main-dish salad. Whichever way you enjoy it, you can be sure you're benefitting your health -- not to mention defying the opinions of the so-called food trend experts!
BABY KALE SALAD WITH APPLES, PARMESAN AND CANDIED WALNUTS
1 egg white