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Green Green Green

25 Jan

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Yes, this kale fad is beginning to hit Germany, although I do wish it would speed up a bit. At the moment, to find kale I have to order it in advance from the produce guy down the street or hope that the bio shop in town carries it, or in a lucky moment find it at the Viktualienmarkt. I know that I am only singing the chorus in a many-versioned opera that has resounded in the US in the last years over kale. Although I was informed that there is a backlash now against it. (A backlash? Why? People don’t like the taste anymore? They are resentful of the health benefits? They feel forced to express their individuality by *not* liking kale? I don’t get it. ) It’s such a versatile vegetable, you can eat it raw, saute it, juice it…endless variations. And as one of these “superfoods” I have to just shake my head and ask…why ever not?

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Yes, a bit over the top on the kale. But most of it was for a dinner party on Friday night. One last bunch went into last night’s dinner.

I have a variation on a theme salad that I make fairly frequently, and decided to use the kale for that last night. Rather light, incredibly satisfying, a good salad when you are still recovering from the drinks the night before and you want to feel like you are doing good things for your body.

It’s essentially a light Asian-styled noodle salad. For the noodles I can recommend either a soba noodle – although they are quite delicate and you have to be careful not to overcook them – or in my case last night – a whole grain spaghetti. You could even go with a rice noodle, although not vermicelli, or also good is a yam noodle, harder to find, but much less delicate than the rice noodles. And then I just riff on the rest:

Noodles
Protein – can be leftover cooked chicken or duck breast, can be raw or cooked tuna or salmon, or alternatively you can go with strips of firm tofu lightly sauteed in a bit of peanut oil.
Mushrooms – I like the funky crunch of tree fungus mushrooms, but I could recommend anything – shitake, oyster, even simple button – also lightly sauteed in oil. With the tree fungus mushrooms, I just reconstitute a few of them in hot water and chop them up roughly. Enoki are also really lovely. You don’t even need to cook them. Just pull them apart and sprinkle them in.
Greens – here I went for a combination – par boiled kale, reconstituted wakame seaweed, arugula. But spinach works, as do other dark greens
Herbs – last night there was cilantro and green onions, but I’ve also used mint and shiso leaf. Stick with the asian flavors – I wouldn’t do anything like parsley and certainly nothing like sage or thyme, etc.
Optional – other veggies – like halved sweet cherry tomatoes, slivered sweet red bell peppers, matchsticks of cucumber with or without skin, and avocado is always really nice – ripe, cubed.

For dressing, I try to stay as simple as possible: I like olive oil, although I know it’s not an asian flavor – but I mix it with sesame oil and some chili oil to give it some aroma. I usually put in ginger (1 inch or more if you like, peeled and processed in your garlic press – it works!), 1 clove of raw pressed garlic, a few squeezes of lime juice or lemon juice, salt to taste – perhaps start with a half a teaspoon and then add more, a bit of freshly cracked black pepper is also good. For a little heat, be generous with your chili oil or sprinkle in some cayenne. I mix it up, adjusting proportions and amounts based on how many I am cooking for – and rather go light on dressing, adding in a little more of this or that after tasting.

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So the recipe last night – serves 3-4 – we have leftovers in the fridge – was approximately this:

  • 200 grams noodles, cooked until just barely al dente in salted water, drained and rinsed with cool water
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, par boiled for about a minute or two in salted water, drained, squeezed of water and chopped (about two cups after processing)
  • a small handful of wakame seaweed, reconstituted in boiling water, drained and chopped (a cup after processing)
  • a large handful of arugula (a cup or so)
  • a half of a leftover roasted duck breast, cut into strips
  • a half of a sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • two or three green spring onions, chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped (about a quarter cup)
  • about 5 or so tree fungus mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and chopped (3/4 cup when done)
  • half of a ripe avocado, cubed – toss this in last because it is delicate and you want it to stay somewhat whole
  • a heavy shake or three of my japanese furikake mix (seaweed, salt, sesame seeds) to give it some crunch, but some toasted sesame seeds – perhaps a tablespoon or two – is a nice touch and works just as well.
  • Dressing was just as described above. I had perhaps a third of a cup of dressing when I poured it on, but I added a bit of this or that to correct flavors afterwards.

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Mix all your ingredients  above, making sure to coat everything evenly with the dressing. You want the salad to glisten with the dressing, a just barely there feeling. Correct for salt – you may likely need to add some.

For a wine pairing I would go with a dry Riesling. Alternatively, a dry French cider could be nice as well.

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