Friday, January 21, 2011

Potatoes and Kale with Tahini Dressing

Kale is probably the best thing that happened to vegetables since the tomato. Let's face it, tomatoes are the undisputed king of the veggies. They're juicy, they come in all colors, most prominently red, they're sweet and they have umami, and they're even more delicious because you can only get good tomatoes for a few months out of the year (we won't talk about those sorry, good for nothing excuses for tomatoes that sit blithely like toads on logs at the supermarket--sort of like eating musty water). I realize that I'm taking a chance by even mentioning kale as second to the tomato.

But every time I eat kale I feel like a brand new person. I feel like the Green Goddess herself sipping on a cup of pure chlorophyll in the sunlight of all things wholesome. In the summer when everything is growing and blooming, opportunities to feel this way are plentiful. In the winter, you have your potatoes, winter squash, canned things you might have put by during the summer, and whatever the supermarket offers. We won't go there. It's really depressing. Actually, the last time I went to the grocery store and saw the produce department looking more like an old wrinkly man than a young lithe veggie damsel, I turned around and didn't even bother picking among the ruins. It was that bad.

That's where kale delivers. Green and hardy, ready to be your nutritious dinner even on the darkest of days. I don't have a concrete recipe for you, but that's because this dish is really easy, and you can build it from step one to suit your dining needs. Cube some potatoes (or sweet potatoes, or winter squash) and bake at 400 until fork-tender (try 20 minutes to start). About ten minutes before the potatoes finish baking throw in some thinly sliced garlic.

Meanwhile, steam a big bunch of kale, curly or lacinato (a.k.a. dinosaur kale; you could also use mustard greens or collards, but be prepared to cook those longer) until the color turns brighter, but not so long that it loses its texture (about 6-10 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, make a dressing. I used tahini (sesame seed paste; most grocery stores have it nowadays), soy sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, and a little honey to round out the acidity of the vinegar. You could use anything you have on hand--peanut butter instead of the tahini, tabasco instead of sriracha, fish sauce instead of soy sauce, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar... The thing I try to remember when making a dressing like this is to have a little bit of the tasty flavors--sweet, salty, sour, and umami. Mixed properly, these flavors will make a darn good dressing that is infinitely mutable.

Toss the potatoes (I like to bake them until they start to get brown and crispy) and kale with the dressing and serve over basmati rice.

Now, here's a tip for peeling garlic. I know you can buy jars of pre-minced garlic, but I defy that sort of thing. It doesn't taste like real garlic. I also love the smell of garlic on my fingers if you can believe that. The peeling part can be monotonous, though, especially if you have really short fingernails. What I like to do is lay the garlic cloves, one at a time, on the cutting board and whack them with a heavy knife. A quick whack is all that's needed. This may take a little practice because there's a fine line between getting the skin to loosen and smashing the clove to a pulp, but it only takes a couple tries to get it right. The peel should slip right off.


Cynthia S. said...

What about rainbow chard?!!

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about kale - it's like it makes up for any mistakes you've made that day.
Great recipe and description of the dressing!

meg said...

Rainbow chard is sort of in the same family as kale for me. When I can get it I eat it happily. The problem is that since moving to Tennessee I haven't seen a single bunch of it.