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kale Lacinato "trees" in my garden

 

Kale. Three years ago I had heard of it, but really didn’t know what it was. Knew that it was a vegetable, but not much beyond that. Brendan encouraged me to plant it a few seasons ago, and it did remarkably well in my not-terribly-sunny garden plot.  It has done so well that this year, we had a plot of what we called “kale trees”! The stalks were at least four feet high and have surrendered countless pounds of produce!

If you’re not familiar with kale, give it a try. It is one of the healthiest vegetables around.  High in fiber, it’s been found to reduce cholesterol, reduce risk of at least five different types of cancer, and is off the chart in levels of vitamins K, A, C, manganese, and more. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable (part of the Brassicaceae family) whose cousins include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. But unlike many of it cousins whose leaves simply frame their fruit, kale’s leaves are its raison d’être. Think spinach, but on a mega scale. The very young leaves can accent a salad nicely, but the larger, older leaves can be a bit tough and need a long marinade to work in a salad, but make a great kale soup, see recipe below. I love to include kale in a mixed vegetable stir fry, or steam it and serve like spinach. 

While I love kale for its high nutrition value, I love it equally because it’s a flexible and hearty species. I planted it once in the spring and it grew all summer (after a somewhat rocky start, which I’ll explain). It loves cool weather and can withstand cold weather and a hard frost, but also survives a hot, dry summer. The trick to making it last through the summer is to pick only the outside leaves and let the center leaves grow. The trick to making it last through a frost is let the sun thaw it completely before picking. It won’t make it through the dead of winter — at least not here in New England — unless you try a tunnel cover or cold frame. Check out Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook
for details.

 

typical curly leafed kale

 

This year, I planted both Winterbor and Lacinato varieties, but only the Lacinato survived. The Winterbor, which is a traditional, curly-leafed variety, was the target of an as-yet-unidentified pest that insisted on demolishing the emerging plants before they could establish themselves. The reason the Lacinato survived is because I started it in a cold frame; grew it there until it reached a couple inches in height, then planted in garden. After planting, I kept it covered with a floating row cover to keep off the pests until it reached a size that allowed it to withstand the predators. I sewed the Winterbor directly into the garden and it never made it to the critical size.

 

kale "trees" on left side of garden, winter squash and chard on right

 

Now it’s nearly the end of October; there’s not much left in the summer garden, but there are still kale “trees” that we’re harvesting, as shown in the picture. I can count on them to yield the makings for salad, steamed kale, and kale soup until nearly December. During that time, there will also be enough kale to freeze for the winter months. Kale is the gift that keeps on giving!

The next time the weather forecast is cold and dreary, make some kale soup: it’s a soup star that ticks a lot important boxes: comfort food, healthy, tasty, and local.

Kale Soup

3 T. olive oil

1 large onion chopped

6 C. water

1 teasp. salt (or to taste)

1 teasp. freshly ground pepper

4 large potatoes, scrubbed (not peeled), diced

1 lb. Portuguese sausage (linguica or chourizo) or Polish kielbasa sliced into 1/4 inch circles

1 large bunch of kale, center stem removed, and thinly sliced to make 8 cups chopped

3 T. white vinegar

In a large soup pot, sauté onion in olive oil until golden brown. Add water and diced potatoes; bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft (about 30 minutes). While potatoes are cooking, place prepared kale in colander; rinse well with cold water; blanch by pouring 2 qts. boiling water over kale in colander; drain well, set aside.

Using an immersion blender, puree broth, potatoes, onions until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a potato masher (texture will be slightly more chunky) to mash. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning. I like to use very little salt, but more vinegar (total 4 — 5 T.) Simmer for another 30 minutes — longer for a thicker broth. Serve with crusty bread. Or better, put in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat and serve the next day when the flavor has developed even more. Delicious!

 

Dottie's blueberry cobbler baked

 

It’s mid-October and, yes, blueberry season is over in Connecticut, but if you’ve squirred away a supply in your freezer, blueberry cobbler makes a great dessert for a fall or winter meal. Pair with a squash soup and a hearty bread, you’ve got an easy, delicious, and local meal!

I’m including two recipes here. For years, Dottie’s blueberry cobbler has been my go-to cobbler year round.  This past summer I was introduced to Jeni’s blueberry cobbler, an equally delicious and easy-to-prepare dessert with a traditional crumb topping. Technically, I’d probably call Jeni’s a “crisp,” and Dottie’s somewhere between a buckle and a slump. I’d also call both yummy!

fond memories of a dear friend

Dottie and I became friends in 1978 when I was pregnant with my third daughter. Her oldest daughter was the same age as my second daughter.  We raised our babies together and through the years learned inventive ways to support each other in those challenging child rearing times. One was to exchange meals and kids. We’d take turns giving each other a break. The “On Duty” couple would prepare a meal for the “Off Duty” couple, and would also take the “Off Duty” couple’s children for a few hours so that they could enjoy a meal in peace and quiet. On one of these date nights, Dottie brought over her blueberry cobbler. I loved it that night, and have made it more times than I can count over the years. It has been shared with countless folks over the years, and I’m sure Dottie (who passed on over a decade ago) would be pleased to have me share with you.

new recipe from a new friend

Didn’t think that anything could woo me away from Dottie’s cobbler. Then, after a meeting with a church board, Jeni served her cobbler warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Wow! Jeni’s is equally simple to make, is probably a bit more nutritious than Dottie’s since it has oatmeal and walnuts, and gives you the option making a double recipe of the crumb topping and storing it for later use.

So, I’ll let you be the judge. Try them both and let me know what you think. Either way, it’s definitely a win/win situation.

Recipes

Dottie’s Fruit Cobbler

Serve 4 to 6

1 C. flour

1/2 C. (1 stick) butter or margarine — I use only 1/4 C. and it’s still great

1 T. baking powder

1/2 teasp. salt

1 C. sugar

1 C. milk

2 C. fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) blueberries*

 

cobbler batter -- do not overmix

 

 

pour batter into melted butter

 

 

pour fruit into batter

 

 

Don't worry about mixing in the fruit!

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put butter or margarine in a 9″ x 9″ baking pan and place in the oven. While the oven is heating and the butter is melting, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add milk to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour batter into center of melted butter in hot baking pan. Pour fruit into center of batter. Return pan to oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Crust will be puffy, golden brown and pulled away slightly from sides.

Serve immediately. If desired, top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

* works well with other fruits such as peeled and chopped peaches, strawberries, blackberries, black raspberries.

Jeni’s blueberry cobbler

Serves 4 to 6

2/3 C. flour

1 C. rolled oats

1/2 C. light brown sugar

1/2 C. butter or margarine at room temperature

1/2 teasp. ground cinnamon

1/4 teasp. salt

1/4 C. chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds) — I use a bit more

2 C. fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) blueberries

zest from one lemon

aerosol or pump oil spray

 

grate one lemon for zest

 

 

sprinkle zest on blueberries

 

 

unbaked crump topping on berries

 

 

Jeni's blueberry cobbler, baked

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make topping: Mix together oats, flour, butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nuts. Knead as necessary until topping is soft and crumbly.** Spray an 9″ x 9″ baking dish with baking or oil spray to reduce sticking. Add blueberries. Grate one lemon for zest. Sprinkle zest on blueberries. Sprinkle topping on blueberries. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven. Serve hot or warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

** Double the crumb topping recipe and put half in freezer for another time.

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