Market Matters: Tuscan Kale, Raw and In The Slaw

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It’s the dead of winter most places. But here in Hollywood, our Farmers Market is going strong. Sure, we may not have a lot of the same sorts of fresh produce we enjoy during the other three seasons. But just look around the Hollywood Farmers Market and you’ll see lots of seasonal things to love. Citrus, carrots, and fennel thrive here in the cooler months.

Catching my eye today was kale. Where I live kale is a great winter green. I love it in braises and I love it in soups. But for a brief time each winter a slightly different sort of kale shows itself.

Tuscan Kale

Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s developing a bit of a cult status among chefs in the past decade or so. It has a more delicate leaf with a less fibrous stem than the curly stuff you may be used to seeing.

When I was at the market this morning I was attracted to it right away. It has a pebbly leaf and is dark greenish-blue. It’s an Italian variety that thankfully grows very well in our “Mediterranean” climate in Southern California. In a nod to its origins, it’s most commonly called Tuscan kale, but I have seen it referred to also as black kale, lacinato and dinosaur kale (presumably due to it’s reptilian, crenulated texture).

Tuscan kale has all the great qualities of its sturdier cousin. Most recipes suggest blanching the kale, then reheating it in olive oil or braising it further with a little stock. Which is a great way to go because typically kale is so chewy and so “green” tasting that it really requires a lot of wet heat to be perfectly palatable.

 

chopped kaleNot Tuscan kale. It has a terrific texture and a nutty taste that is great raw. So today I am bringing it to you raw and in a slaw. Tuscan Kale with Lemon, Parmesan & White Anchovies. It’s a nod to a Caesar salad with all the same flavors you would expect from that classic. I made my version a bit lighter by omitting the egg.

I got the idea from Melissa Clark who makes a very similar salad with raw kale. But I think it works better as a slaw so that the chewy texture of the Tuscan kale doesn’t become too large a chore. Besides, the best parts about slaws are their dressings. And this lemony, garlicky “light Caesar” dressing deserves a lot of attention. And like a traditional Caesar, I did not forget the anchovies. I used marinated white anchovy fillets. They are a bit milder than the tinned variety or salt-packed styles. They have a great slippery texture, which works well with the heft and crunch of the kale. They are well worth seeking out at specialty stores.

Lastly, I topped this slaw with the simplest of toasted breadcrumbs. In case you haven’t guessed I am a texture freak. I love salads with all sorts of textures. These breadcrumbs start out as slices toasted in the toaster, then torn into chunks and roughly processed in the food processor so that you can get a variety of sizes and shapes. They are the only part of this recipe that takes a bit of doing.

But I should note that this vegetable has a thin central rib that should be cut away in all but the most tender of leaves. It’s a simple process. Best handled with a small sharp knife run down either side of the rib. Throw the leaf portions into a bowl of cool water and rinse them well. Their nubbly nature leaves all sorts of nooks and crannies for grit or bugs to hide. Dry them well and slice the leaves into very thin ribbons. Can you say chiffonade?

Tuscan Kale with Lemon, Parmesan & White Anchovies serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

 

  • tuscan kale salw with anchovies1 bn Tuscan kale
  • 2 slices rustic sandwich bread, with crusts
  • 1 clv garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1⁄4 c parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnish
  • 1⁄4 c olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1⁄4 t kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 t red pepper flakes (or to taste) optional
  • 12 marinated white anchovy fillets
  • lemon slices, optional

Trim bottom 2 inches off kale stems and discard. Remove the center ribs by running a small, sharp knife down either side of the rib of each leaf. Discard the rib and throw the leaf portions into a bowl of cool water and rinse them well. Their nubbly nature leaves all sorts of nooks and crannies for grit or bugs to hide. Dry them well and slice the leaves into very thin ribbons chiffonade style. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.

Toast the bread slices in a toaster until golden. Tear them into small pieces and pulse them in a food processor until mixture forms coarse crumbs in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Using a mortar and pestle to pound garlic into a paste. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, red pepper flakes and pound them together further. Spoon the dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly combine, it will be quite thick and will take a lot of tossing to coat leaves.

Let slaw sit for at least 5 minutes and up to overnight, then serve topped with bread crumbs, marinated anchovies, additional cheese, a drizzle of oil, and optional lemon slices.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

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