Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Hope you enjoyed your first week of produce from the CSA.  This week we will be enjoying red Russian Kale, some more Napa cabbage and scallions, and some tender greens.  I would recommend that everyone read my past post that discusses using up tender greens before they go bad (since they are less hardy than other items like Napa cabbage)(Click here)

Feature item—Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale is so pretty, you could just eat it! Those reddish-purple veined 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.

Like other kinds of kale, Red Russian is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. In general, kale is a highly nutritious vegetable, boasting high level of beta carotene, vitamins A, K, and C, 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 Caesar 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 Lacinato Kale Chips, which can be utilized with any kind of kale, including the Red 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.


I love the strawberries this time of year, especially the ones I pick at the farm!!! I thought I would try a kale and strawberry salad to use up the Red Russian kale we will be receiving this week.   The quinoa-almond crunch adds a nice textural element that stands up to the heartier kale and adds protein and other nutritional benefits.

This recipe is highly adaptable. Use your own favorite dressing, leave out the goat cheese, or add other veggies of your choice (spring turnips or radishes would be nice).

Lighter Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette                    Makes about 2/3 cup


– juice from 1/2 an orange, about 3 tablespoons

– 1/2 teaspoon orange zest

– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

– 1 small shallot, roughly minced

– 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste


Place all ingredients except salt and pepper in the bottom of a long, clean cylindrical container (like a tall ricotta or sour cream container). Using a stick blender, blend well until smooth and emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Kale & Strawberry Salad with Quinoa-Almond Crunch        Serves 4


– 1/4 cup quinoa

– 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds

– 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

– 1 large Bunch Red Russian Kale, washed, de-ribbed, and cut into bite-sized pieces

– 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and thinly sliced

– 2-3 ounce goat cheese, crumbled

– lighter orange balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe above)


1. Rinse, drain and dry quinoa. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add coconut and melt. Add quinoa and almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until nuts and grains are golden and sizzling, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Mix well.

2. Dry kale as best as you can and place in a large bowl. Massage kale with your fingertips, handful by handful, until it softens somewhat and loses part of its volume. Toss kale to taste with dressing. Divide kale onto salad plates. Sprinkle with strawberries, goat cheese, and quinoa-almond crunch. Serve immediately.


I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to try Asian style vegetables in non-Asian ways just to push the creativity envelope. However, sometimes, it just makes sense to stick with traditional foods and flavors.

In his illuminating book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan argues that culinary traditions in various countries have persevered for hundreds of years because they actually make nutritional sense in ways we are just beginning to understand. He says, “The specific combinations of foods in a [traditional] cuisine and the ways they are prepared constitute a deep reservoir of accumulated wisdom about diet and health and place”.

So when in Rome, do as the Romans do, so to speak…in other words, when you have Napa cabbage, try Asian!

Thai-Style Minced Chicken and Napa Cabbage                        Serves 4


– 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

– 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

– 3 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

– 1 pound ground chicken

– 2 large carrots, shredded

– 6 scallions, sliced

– 5 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage

– 3 tablespoons lime juice

– 2 tablespoons fish sauce

– 1 tablespoon water

– 1 tablespoon organic palm sugar, plus 1 teaspoon

– 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

– 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

– 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

– lettuce leaves


1. In a small bowl, mix lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, water, ½ teaspoon sesame oil and crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add ginger, garlic, and chicken. Cook, stirring frequently and breaking up chicken with a spatula or a spoon, until chicken is cooked through. Add carrots and scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add Napa cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add lime juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid partially cooks off and cabbage is tender, 3-5 minutes.

2. Placed lettuce leaves on individual plates or a serving platter. Top with chicken mince. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve immediately.

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