Simply Fresh by Julie Wern-Week 12

IMG_0548Feature item—Russian Kale

Russian Kale is so pretty, you could just eat it! Those blue-green leaves with frilly edges are not only gorgeous, but are hardier, sweeter, more tender, and thus, more quick cooking, than many other varieties of kale.  We are fortunate to experience two different types of Russian Kale at the CSA–white and red.  The main difference in the two types is their stem color, which is either white or purplish red.

Like other kinds of kale, Russian kale is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. In general, kale is a highly nutritious vegetable, boasting significant levels of beta carotene; vitamins A, K, C, and B6; calcium; and magnesium. It also contains significant amounts of fiber, protein, folate, and iron, and many antioxidants.

Kale has traditionally been thought of as “tough” green that needs to be cooked. However, kale salads are becoming increasingly popular. One recent trend is to “massage” kale greens. Yes, that’s right, massage!. This simply means literally rubbing raw kale greens gently between one’s fingers, either with or without oil. This process softens the fibers of the leaves and makes for a more tender result. Check out the attached article from the LA Times that describes this interesting process (click here for article)

I tried the “massage” method of tenderizing kale and found it does work to a considerable extent. The leaves do get softer and less fibrous, but be warned, they still retain a significant amount of texture. If you find raw kale a bit tough for your tastes, try this method and see if it doesn’t change your mind. Below I have included a delicious recipe for a raw kale salad that utilizes the “massage” method.

Another great use for raw kale is fruit smoothies. While it might add an unusual color to your typical smoothie, it won’t scream “vegetable”. In fact, your family members aren’t likely to even detect it. Yet you get so much added nutritional value.

Of course, cooking kale is a delicious option as well. One of my family’s favorite ways to eat kale is baked kale chips. See my highly popular recipe for Kale Chips, which can be utilized with any kind of kale, including the Russian variety.

Kale is wonderful blanched, steamed, braised, sautéed and even fried. It is great in soups and stews because it keeps its texture even when cooked for long periods of time. However, it will take longer to cook than more tender leafy greens, like chard. Just remember when sautéing kale that it helps to add a bit of liquid and to cover the pot for a few minutes to really get the leaves tender.

Many people prefer not to cook kale stems, as they can be tough. If you wish to try cooking stems, try adding the thinnest or youngest looking stems and chop them into small pieces. Reserve larger stems for making vegetable broth.

Kale will keep best wrapped in plastic and stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator, where it will keep for about 5 days. Avoid leaves that are wilted and/or yellowed.


Tahini Kale Chips


– 1/4 cup tahini
– 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 bunch lacinato or Russian kale, well rinsed and drained


1. Adjust oven rack so that two racks are in the centermost position. Preheat oven to 300℉. Line two unrimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Lay out a layer of paper towels on a work surface. Place a layer of kale leaves on top of paper towels. Using additional clean paper towels, blot leaves dry. Remove leaves from work space and set aside. Continue with the rest of the leaves until they are all dried, replacing papers towels with fresh ones if they get too wet. Remove and discard paper towels. With each kale leaf, cut around center kale stalk to remove the stem and main center rib. Cut leaves into large pieces and place in a very large bowl.

3. In a small bowl, mix tahini, salt and olive oil. Mixture should be the consistency of maple syrup. If too thick, add a bit more olive oil. Pour over kale leaves and using a spatula, do your best to mix in tahini mixture throughout the leaves. Set spatula aside and using hands, massage tahini mixture onto the leaves with your fingers, coating each leaf on both sides as best as you can.

4. Lay kale pieces in a single layer (do not overlap) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until you run out of room. Place pans in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Switch pans to opposite racks and bake an additional 7-10 minutes, or until kale pieces are completely crisp and airy. If any of them are still chewy, return to the oven for a few more minutes until all chips are crisp. Carefully slide chips onto cooling rack. Lay more kale leaves on baking sheets and continue to bake chips as you did with the first batch until all chips are done. As chips cool, move them into a roomy airtight container. Will keep for at least a week tightly sealed.


My husband adored this salad with its light vinaigrette and crunchy vegetables.  Like many dressed kale salads, leftovers were even fairly palatable the next day.

IMG_0527Fresh Tomato Vinaigrette          Makes about 1 Cup


– 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded
– 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano)


In a mini food processor or a blender, blend tomato, vinegar, Dijon, thyme, and garlic until smooth. Add basil or oregano and process to mince.

Refrigerate tightly covered for up to 4 days.


Kale Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette, Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumber


– Cleaned and dried kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
– 1/2-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 small cucumber, diced
– half recipe tomato vinaigrette
– feta cheese, optional


Place kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Using fingers, massage olive oil into leaves until kale wilts, reduces in volume, and leaves soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add tomatoes, cucumber, and feta and toss to combine. Add vinaigrette slowly, tossing and tasting until salad is dressed to your taste. Serve.


This is a refreshing and interesting take on traditional salsa.  It’s mild sweetness makes it great with both chips and as an accompaniment to fish.  Of course, you can also just eat it with a spoon!

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Husk Cherry Salsa     Makes about 3 1/2 cupsIMG_0541


– 2 cups diced, seeded watermelon
– 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
– 1 pint husk cherries, husked, rinsed and halved
– 1 jalapeno, seeded, deribbed, and minced
– 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
– 2 teaspoons honey
– 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice


Stir all ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Serve.

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