Hail Kale Caesar

kaleThis leafy green vegetable now seems to be a stalwart at the growers market that I frequent each weekend but until recently, I wondered what I would actually do with this cruciferous vegetable. A trip to New York this year solved this dilemma when within two days I had experienced Kale Caesar Salad twice. Kale is available as the curly voluminous form or the Tuscan Kale (cavalo nero) which has a flatter, darker leaf. Both are known for their bitter taste but this can be minimised by cutting out the tough middle stems and shredding the leaves finely. This cousin of other brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts is a very rich source of antioxidants such as carotenoids, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, magnesium and fibre. However, it also contains oxalates which can interfere with the absorption of any iron and calcium found in the vegetable. Kale is a new addition to my diet and I am still experimenting but I claimed my first bunch of the curly variety last weekend and I am on the trail to perfect the delicious Caesar Salad I found in NYC. Around the world, people have been eating bunches of this green goodness since the middle ages and the most common method of cooking is braising with lemon or herbs and as an addition to potatoes. Kale chips are also doing the rounds at the moment but in all honesty, it’s not really kale that you are tasting but the deep-fried flavours added to them, and the nutritional benefits have certainly taken a back seat. Kale doesn’t need to be eaten with other foods to enhance its health value but take care when preparing it to enhance its flavour, that way it may just become a regular feature. Chef Ryan Angulo of Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens, New York started substituting romaine for Kale back in 2008 and by all accounts can be credited for the Kale Caesar Salad. However, the recipe below is the tasty, low fat Julie Meek version. Enjoy!

Kale Caesar Salad

½ bunch curly or Tuscan Kale (washed, dried and leaves trimmed off stalks) 4 slices proscuitto (fat trimmed), grilled 4 slices sourdough bread Dressing ½ cup low fat natural yoghurt 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 1 large garlic clove ¼ cup lemon juice 2 tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese, grated Once trimmed, roll up kale leaves, slice finely and place in large salad bowl. Break the grilled proscuitto into small pieces and scatter over the kale leaves. Tear the bread roughly into 1 cm pieces, place on a baking tray and spray with cooking spray.  Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 10 minutes until crispy. For the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a shaker or jug and pour over kale leaves. Using your hands, mix the dressing through the salad and serve.

On the Fifth Day….

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…. Five kan-ga-roos… four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs and a kookaburra up a gum tree. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is lean red meat.  I know that might seem a bit mean to our international readers but in Australia we do multi-love kangaroo’s and by that I mean we admire their beauty and significance in our history but they are also a food source. Kangaroo (and some other game meat) is a very lean meat and is a great source of protein, iron and zinc.  Iron is important on any day but especially important during the Festive Marathon months of November, December and January.  You really do need plenty of energy whilst partying and socialising and iron assists by helping oxygen sail around your blood stream.  Everyone is after more oxygen aren’t they? Iron is known as Haem (animal sources)  and Non-Haem (vegetable derived) iron and the haem iron is absorbed quite a bit more efficiently.  Liver is top dog in the iron stakes with red meat a much lower second, followed by chicken and fish with much lower amounts again.  Breakfast cereal and legumes are decent sources of non-haem iron but need a friend in the form of  of Vitamin C to assist absorption with fruit and vegetables being just the ticket for the Vitamin C factor. Forget Popeye chugging down the spinach with bulging muscles to get his fill, the iron in spinach is very difficult to absorb due to other compounds in the vegetable (oxalates and phytates) which bind the iron and make it unavailable to you. We can always use the hopping skills of kangaroos to inspire some more exercise too.  There is nothing like a spot of hopscotch.