Alice Bacon, Brentwood Bay Village Emporium | Photo by Janis Jean Photography –
There is a meme about kale going around – that if you cook it in coconut oil it makes it easier to scrape into the garbage. Love it or hate it, it is really good for you (it’s very high in vitamins A, K, B6 and C, as well as calcium, potassium, copper and manganese) and when treated well, can be a wonderful addition to your recipes.
I personally enjoy it best when it takes the place of spinach in Italian- and Greek-inspired dishes. The texture holds up well, and the slightly bitter leaves combine well with the richness of sauces, cheese and other delicious guilty pleasures.
March is a great time to find fresh, local and organic kale at Saanich Peninsula markets, farm stands and in delivery boxes.
CHICKEN & KALE LASAGNA
1 box oven-ready egg lasagna noodles (we use Preferisco Lasagna all’Uovo)
6 cups béchamel sauce
3 cups white cheese blend (we use aged white cheddar, asiago and mozzarella)
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 large bunch fresh
kale, stems removed and blanched*
4 cloves garlic, cooked until soft
100 grams feta cheese
2/3 cup cream
Prepare béchamel according to your favourite recipe – you will need to adjust measurements in order to make six cups. Set one cup aside for later use.
While still warm, add 1.5 cups of white cheese blend to the 5 cups remaining sauce; whisk in until melted and smooth.
Using a food processor, pulse 1/2 the blanched kale with 2/3 cup cream, the feta cheese and the garlic.
Spray a 6×9 pan with non-stick spray and pour 1/3 cup of cream on the bottom of the pan. Line with an even layer of cheese sauce, slices or shreds of chicken and a sprinkling of cheese. Repeat for two additional layers. For the centre layer, cover lasagne noodles with the kale/feta/cream mix and top with the remaining blanched kale. Finish the top two layers in the same method as the bottom layers.
Separate two eggs and whisk the yolks into the remaining 1 cup of bechamel and pour over top of assembled lasagna. Bake in a 350° oven until cooked though and the noodles are soft, approximately 45 minutes. Cover pan with tinfoil towards the end of baking if the top layer starts to get too brown. (For a vegetarian option, omit chicken and include additional kale, or slices of firm tofu or roasted zucchini.)
TUSCAN KALE & WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH SAGE
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
2 cups of shredded carrot
1 cup minced celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
8 cups of vegetable stock
1 small can tomato paste
3 cans of white beans (or 4 cups of soaked and cooked dry white beans)
1 large lemon, juiced
1 large bunch of fresh kale, stems removed
1 bunch of fresh sage
crispy bacon for garnish
salt & freshly ground pepper
Sautée onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil with salt. Add hot stock and bring to a simmer and add white beans Remove half of the vegetables and then purée the remaining soup with an immersion blender until smooth, then return the other veggies to the soup. Add tomato paste and finely chopped fresh sage. Add fresh lemon juice and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Minutes before serving, add the fresh kale to the soup and allow to cook until tender. Serve with crispy bacon as a garnish and a wedge of lemon.
KALE & FETA SPANAKOPITA
1 box frozen phyllo dough
1 large bunch of fresh kale, stems removed and blanched*
200 grams feta cheese
2 egg yolks
1 large onion, sauteed until transparent
4 cloves garlic, minced and sauteed with onions
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp dried basil
1/4 cup butter, melted
Allow one box of phyllo pastry to thaw while you prep the filling ingredients. In a bowl, combine finely chopped blanched kale with feta, egg yolks, salt, pepper, onions, garlic and basil. Once the phyllo is thawed, prepare your work surface with a sheet of parchment and a slightly damp tea towel.
Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into thirds lengthwise. Take one layer of dough, brush lightly with melted butter and place 2 tablespoons of filling at the bottom edge. Fold the phyllo back and forth in alternating directions, folding away from your body to form a triangle of pastry that has each edge covered with pastry. Lay the finished triangle on a second strip of pastry and repeat, Follow this method using a total of 4 strips of phyllo for each triangle, being sure to brush each layer with melted butter which is essential to achieving the flaky layers during baking. Cover the unused dough with the damp cloth while working to prevent it from drying out.
Once the triangles are completed, bake at 350° on a parchment-lined cookie tray for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Rotating the tray in the oven halfway through baking will ensure even colouring. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn! Serve warm on their own or add a side of tzatziki.
*To blanch kale, bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, immerse kale and allow to return to a full boil before quickly draining and then plunging the kale into an ice bath. Once fully chilled, drain through a colander and rest on a clean cloth to absorb excess water. This method will make the kale tender yet crisp and preserve a bright green colour.