November 3, 2007
My husband and I are having a delightful time eating our way through the various types of greens at our vegetable market. The other day they had kale and the leaves were young and tender to the touch. They taste was slightly peppery with a base note of savory. I served the kale for our dinner salad topped with a rich fig & grape must vinaigrette and sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts.
Kale is a variety of cabbage that doesn't form a head and is a cousin to broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Kale has a long history, it was eaten by the Greeks, Romans, Russians and was the most prevalent green vegetable through the Middle Ages. The Dig For Victory campaign during World War II, encouraged home gardeners to grow kale as it would provide many nutrients that might be missing from the diet due to food rationing. Kale is high in Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Vitamin C and Calcium. It rich in protein, fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.
The recipe for the vinaigrette is a variation on one from Emeril Lagasse at the Food Network. For the dressing I chose to sweeten it with an earthy sweetener called grape must, Saba syrup, petimezi or vino cotto. Nancy Gaifyllia at About.com describes how to make your own grape must syrup or petimezi, which has been used by the Greeks as their sweetener until sugar arrived. The Guerzoni company makes a SABA biodynamic traditional grape syrup that is available at some Whole Foods, natural foods markets, or fine food stores. If you cannot find grape must syrup, you can substitute honey instead.
One of the spices used in the recipe is called grains of paradise, a member of the ginger family. This West African spice provides a peppery bite, but savory aftertaste. Throughout Europe and other parts of the world during the 14th and 15th centuries, grains of paradise were once a favorite. Now however, grains of paradise are typically found in the cuisine of Morocco and Tunisia. In the countries that grow grains of paradise plants, the grains are chewed and used warm up the body on a cold day. In the United States, Alton Brown likes to use them in his recipe for okra and tomatoes. Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, writes about grains of paradise in her book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, and says that they tasted far better than black peppercorns. You can find grains of paradise at your local Whole Foods or online from The Spice House.
1 Tb grapeseed oil
1 tsp minced shallots
1 tsp minced garlic
5 fresh figs, stemmed and chopped
2 Tb grape must syrup or honey
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
Optional: Pinch grains of paradise
kale, washed & destemmed
sliced Comte cheese
1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk together.
2. Serve over a bowl of chopped kale greens topped with thin slices of Comte cheese.
What did my family think of the kale and fig & grape must vinaigrette? My children would only try small bites of the kale, which they thought tasted like a leaf. My husband and I thought the salad was wonderful on a chilly fall night. It was rich and savory punctuated by the crunchiness of the hazelnuts and the smooth slightly sharp taste of the cheese. Simply divine.