Kale

native to: Asia Minor and the Mediterranean
in season here: all year, except maybe late summer
f1450_8Jul15_KaleStrip
Let’s look at one more brassica as we move into the bounty season. Kale is one of the “superest” of the super foods, with more vitamin C than an orange and more calcium than milk. It can help cure or prevent just about everything, from hair loss (vitamin A helps keep hair moisturized and iron deficiency can cause hair loss) to death (getting plenty of potassium is associated with a 20% lower risk of death from all causes). In fact, there are so many things kale is good for, I won’t go into all the details here. Check out any of the “Read more” links below for the full story. What it all boils down to is, as the old phrase goes, kale is “good for what ails you.”

Kale does best in cool weather and is generally considered a winter crop; like with most brassicas, a light frost makes it sweeter. However, northwest summers are usually cool enough that some variety of kale is probably going to be available at the farmers’ market whenever you want it. This is good because kale tends to hang onto its pesticides when grown conventionally, so this is the time to insist on organic produce.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw kale
label-style nutrition information for cooked kale
medical and nutritional article from Medical News Today
short overview with recipe ideas from Web MD
Nutrition And You

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Squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and herbs

12 large squash blossoms, pistils removed but stems left on (for small blossoms, use more)
1 egg, lightly beaten
all-purpose flour
olive oil to fill pan to the depth of 1/2 inch

stuffing:
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or crushed
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
3/4 cup (about 3 oz.) fresh goat cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack, shredded if appropriate
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
pepper to taste

Mix stuffing ingredients. Carefully open the petals of each flower and tuck about 1 Tbsp. of stuffing mixture into the base. Twist the tops of the petals together and dip each bundle in egg, then roll in flour. Shake off any excess and fry bundles in oil over medium heat 3-4 at a time until golden, 2-4 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve immediately.

Adapted from Rombauer, Irma S.; Rombauer Becker, Marion,; Becker, Ethan, Joy of cooking.[Revised ed.] Scribner, 1997. ISBN: 0684818701

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Golden leeks and onions (Blaunche porre)

1 tsp. saffron threads
2 Tbsp. boiling water
6 med. leeks, white part only, sliced into thin rings
3 med. onions, peeled and chopped
1 pint chicken broth
1/3 tsp. light brown sugar
sprinkle of “pouder douce” or a pinch each of white pepper, cinnamon, and cloves

Soak the saffron in the boiling water until the water is a deep golden color. Place all ingredients in a large pan and cook, uncovered, 6-8 minutes. Drain to serve as a vegetable dish or add more broth to serve as a thick soup. For a brighter golden color, add a drop of yellow food coloring.

The original medieval recipe called for the addition of small birds such as blackbirds or finches, so it would not be inappropriate to add some chicken pieces to the dish — just make sure they’re small enough to cook through in the 6-8 minutes the vegetables will take.

Adapted from: Black, Maggie, The Medieval Cookbook. British Museum Press, 1992. ISBN: 0714105562

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Honey candy

Here are a couple of honey treats from the ancient world, as recreated by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger in The Classical Cookbook (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996. ISBN: 0892363940).

Delian sweets (Greek)

3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
olive oil for deep frying
2 Tbsp. warm honey
poppy seeds or ground black pepper for sprinkling

Vigorously beat flour in water and let cook for a few minutes. Turn out onto a large plate or, if available, a marble slab. Let cool completely; it should be firm but a little sticky. While the oil heats, cut flour mixture into cubes. Test the oil with a little of the mixture; when it rises and colors, the oil is ready. Cook cubes 2-3 at a time in the oil for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper, then drizzle with honey and sprinkle with poppy seeds or pepper.

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Alexandrian sweets (Roman)

1 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup (total) chopped almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts
3/4 cup honey

Roast sesame seeds and nuts at 350F until they begin to color. Bring honey to a boil, skim, and simmer 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds and nuts. Spread in a greased baking tray or shallow dish to cool. When cool enough to handle, form into small balls; wrap in pieces of paper to store.

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Cabbage

native to: Mediterranean region
in season here: summer-winter
f1447_8Jul15_CabbageStrip
Cabbage is another brassica, or cruciferous vegetable, related to the broccoli I talked about last week and the kale I’ll get to pretty soon. In fact, “brassica” actually means “cabbage” in latin. It comes in three main types: green, red, and savoy. Some “red” cabbages are actually purple, while most of the ruffled savoy varieties are green or even yellowish. It was developed from wild cabbage, which doesn’t form heads and looks more like collards or kale. Historians mostly think it was brought to Europe by wandering Celts around 600 BCE, and it was highly regarded in ancient Greece and Rome as being generally good for whatever ails you. Later, fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut was carried by Dutch sailors as an antiscorbutic (a source of vitamin C, eaten to prevent or relieve scurvy).

Cabbage is another good cancer fighter and also helps lower cholesterol (for that particular feature, steaming is your best bet). Savoy cabbage is particularly good for cancer prevention, while red cabbage is the best choice for all-around nutrition. Cabbage juice is a long-standing remedy for stomach ulcers, and more recent research is finding that cabbage itself is just generally good for the whole digestive system.

It’s most nutritious raw or only lightly cooked, with a quick sauté being the current favorite.* Once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its vitamin C content, so precut cabbage isn’t the best choice. However, it contains enzymes that convert its glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (which fight cancer), so it’s not a bad idea to let chopped cabbage sit 5-10 minutes before cooking.

I have to admit, most of the debate over raw vs. cooked, steamed vs. microwaved, or whatever tomorrow’s hot research topic is — eaten with the right hand or the left, for all I know — is kind of lost on me. I like to keep it simple: the way to get the most nutrition out of your vegetables is to eat them, so the cooking (or not cooking) method that gets the things inside you is the one I’d go for. Cabbage is a quarter calorie per gram, so it’s not like you have to limit yourself.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw cabbage
label-style nutrition information for cooked cabbage
whfoods.com

*I suspect the kind of sautéing they recommend is not the method I use, which includes a lot of butter or bacon grease and results in a fair amount of caramelization. Actually, the healthy-cooking arbiters would probably call what I do to it “frying.”

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Penne with beet greens and garlic

6 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
16-20 oz. beet greens in 1-inch pieces
1 lb. dried penne or rigatoni, cooked
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil, add garlic and stir about 2 minutes. Stir in greens and cook 5-10 minutes until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in remaining olive oil. Pour over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese. Toss quickly and serve with extra cheese.

Adapted from Peterson, James, Vegetables. William Morrow, 1998. ISBN: 0688146589

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Pickled garlic scapes

1 lb. whole garlic scapes
3 cups vinegar
5 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
fresh basil leaves
dried red pepper flakes to taste

Boil water, vinegar, and salt to make a brine. Pack hot, sterilized canning jars with whole scapes, 1 fresh basil leaf, a pinch of pepper flakes; fill jars with brine. Close lids, cover with water, and boil for 45 minutes. Keep at least 2 weeks before serving to get best flavor.

From: 2 Sisters Garlic

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