Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item—Curly Kale

Kale, a member of the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and brussel sprouts, is what I call “King of the “H’s”: It is Hardy, Hearty, and Healthful.It actually gets sweeter in colder (even frosty) temperatures, does not lose its texture during prolonged cooking, is quite substantial and filling, and boasts incredible health benefits.It is low in calories, but includes a good amount of fiber and protein, is rich in vitamins K and C as well as calcium, and contains high amounts of cancer fighting antioxidants.

There are several varieties of kale, which differ mainly by the type of the leaf (generally curly or flat).Curly kale, featured in this week’s distribution, is one of my favorites because all the nooks and crannies afforded by the curly leaves means that they “cling” to sauces very well, offering incredible flavor when cooked in sauces or broths, or even tossed raw with vinaigrettes or dressings.

Curly kale is typically bright green in color and can contain long, sometimes woody stems.While the stem is edible, some find it too fibrous and opt to cut it away.However, the upper stem and central ribs can become tender with cooking, especially when cut into small pieces and given longer cooking times.In quick cooking recipes, it is usually recommended that stems and ribs be added and cooked first, followed by the more tender leaves.

Kale, especially younger or smaller leaves, can be very good added to or served on its own as a salad.It has a bitter edge and tougher leaves than tender greens so it tends to hold up well to strongly flavored vinaigrettes and ingredients.

One very fun way to serve kale is to make kale chips by baking the leaves in the oven on a low temperature.Last year I included a recipe for Lacinato Kale Chips that got rave reviews.While the chips are great with Lacinato Kale, they can also be made with any type of Kale, so I will reprint the recipe below.

Kale is wonderful cooked, but because its leaves are tougher than many greens, it often requires a little liquid to cook them without browning or drying them out.Thus, to sauté these greens, simply add a few tablespoons of water and cover the pan while cooking.Stir every couple of minutes and add more water as needed until the kale is tender.

This method of sautéing kale is essentially a kind of “braise”.Indeed, one of the best ways to cook kale is a traditional braise or simmer.The base for a kale braise can be water, broth, juice, wine or any combination thereof.See recipe below for an example (Kale and Apples Braised in Apple Cider).

Kale is also divine simmered into soups or stews at the end of cooking.See below for a recipe for a delicious Turkey Kielbasa, Kale and Tortellini Soup.

When selecting kale, choose deeply colored, crisp greens without yellow or brown spots.Small leaves are generally sweeter than large ones.Place your kale quickly in plastic in the refrigerator because warm temperatures can cause it to wilt.

Freezing kale is a great way to extend the harvest.The best way to freeze kale is to blanch it first in boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then plunge it into an ice water bath.Drain it, cool it, and then package and freeze it.

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These chips are addictive.Even kids love them.It was adapted from Allrecipes by Yogi.

Lacinato Kale Chips

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 bunch Lacinato kale, or other kale leaves

– 1 tablespoon olive oil

– 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

– 1/4-1/2teaspoon garlic salt

METHOD:

1. Arrange racks in mid and lower third oven positions.Preheat oven to 300.Line two large baking sheets with parchment.

2.  Wash kale leaves well and pat completely dry with paper towel.

3.  Cut leaves in half lengthwise and then remove rib (at least 2/3’s up).Cut leaves crosswise into 3 pieces.

4.  In a large bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt.Add kale leaves and toss well with hands, rubbing leaves between your fingers to distribute the oil mixture and to coat the leaves completely.Taste and add more garlic salt if desired.

5.  Divide kale pieces between the two baking sheets, laying them completely flat and trying not to overlap any pieces.

6.  Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, switching baking sheets on racks after 10 minutes.Kale chips should be airy and crisp.  Avoid browning them or they will get bitter.

NOTES:

Try sprinkling with Parmesan as they first come out of the oven.

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This stew is very hearty and only needs a roll or a small salad to accompany it.

If you do not plan to eat the whole stew at one sitting, add only the portion of the tortellini you plan to eat because it tends to get mushy and to thicken the stew as it sits in storage.For leftovers, reheat stew and then add reserved, cooked and refrigerated tortellini at the end of reheating until the pasta is heated through.

Turkey Kielbasa, Kale and Tortellini Stew      Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 14 ounce package turkey kielbasa, sliced

– 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

– 1 large onion, chopped

– 1 cup diced carrot

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

– 6 cups vegetable or low sodium chicken broth

– 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

– 1 19 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

– 4 cups chopped kale, packed, with or without center ribs, tough stems removed

– 1 9 ounce package cheese tortellini

METHOD:

1. In a stockpot, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat and add one half of sliced kielbasa.Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.Transfer with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl.Add second teaspoon of oil and reheat.Add second half of kielbasa and brown as with the first batch.Return pan to stove and reduce heat to medium-low.Add onion, carrot, garlic, and rosemary.Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 8 minutes.Increase heat to medium high.Add broth and canned tomatoes and bring to a boil.Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil.Boil tortellini according to package directions.Drain.

3. Add drained cannellini beans, browned kielbasa, and kale to stew.Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.Reduce heat and simmer until kale is tender, about 10 minutes.Add cooked tortellini and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tortellinis are heated through, about 5 minutes.Serve.

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This is an addictive fall recipe for kale.It was simplified and adapted from Myrecipes.com.

Kale and Apples Braised in Apple Cider     serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 thin slices pancetta, diced (or two slices bacon, diced)**

– 1/2 thinly sliced red onion

– 1 cup julienned apple

– 10 ounces chopped kale, any ribs or stems separated from leaves

– 1/3 cup apple cider

– 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts **

**Optional.  If you do not use pancetta or bacon, add 2 teaspoons olive oil before adding onion and apple.

METHOD:

1. In a medium to large pot, heat pan over medium heat.Add pancetta (or bacon) and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp.Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.Remove all but 1 teaspoon grease.Add onion and apple, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 8 minutes.

2. Add apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and salt, and stir to combine.Add tough kale pieces (stems and ribs) and pancetta, and cover.Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes.Add kale leaves and re-cover pot.Continue to cook while stirring occasionally until kale is tender, about another 10-15 minutes.If at any time the mixture starts to dry out, add a few tablespoon of water and continue.Add additional salt if necessary.Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.Serve.

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I knew this recipe was a winner when my son’s friend, who NEVER eats anything green, asked to taste these meatballs and LOVED them.So did my husband and son.They are great served as an appetizer or as part of a lunch or dinner.

I like using the chicken breasts chopped in the food processor because I think it is lighter, leads to a more tender product, and has a less “spongy” texture than commercially ground chicken.However, if you prefer, you can substitute the chicken breasts with a pound of commercially ground chicken.

Apple & Kale Chicken Meatballs in Apple Sweet & Sour Sauce      Makes about 30 meatballs

INGREDIENTS:

– 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed

– 1/2 onion, shredded

– 1 apple, shredded

– 1/2 cup cooked finely minced kale, packed

– 1/4 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 teaspoon chili powder

– 1 large egg, lightly beaten

– 1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce

– 1/2 cup apple jelly

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 400.Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.

Cut chicken into 1″ chunks and place into the bowl of a food processor.Pulse repeatedly, stirring occasionally, until most pieces are pea size chunks but mixture has not completely turned to mush.

2. In a large bowl, mix onion, apple, kale, breadcrumbs, salt, chili powder, and egg until combined.Add chicken and mix gently just to incorporate.Be careful not to overwork mixture.Chill for 30 minutes.

3. Very gently roll mixture into 1 1/2″ balls and place on baking sheet about 1/2″ apart.You should get about 30 meatballs.Place in oven and bake until cooked through, about 12-17 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat chili sauce and apple jelly until jelly has melted and mixture is hot.Place hot meatballs in a serving bowl and pour hot sweet and sour sauce over them.Shake bowl gently to distribute sauce around the meatballs, but try not to stir too much, as tender meatballs will fall apart easily.Serve.

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