Friday, October 18, 2013

Kale Makeover - Kale & Coconut Salad + Garnet Yams

Dinosaur Kale, Photo: NK
Some will tell you that kale's been done to death. 

They aren't entirely wrong. 

It's probably one of the most popular vegetables of the past decade (except maybe for the formerly un-cool brussels sprout's astonishing rise to fame).

In the midst of all this potential kale fatigue, it's important to keep things exciting. I'm always on the lookout for new ways to prepare it (like our Kale and Parsnip Panzanella), because, in my humble opinion, kale deserves the hype. This nutrition-packed green is hearty enough to stand up to all types of preparations. As far as flavor, kale plays well with a wide variety ingredient pairings - even some you wouldn't expect! To learn more about the many benefits of Kale, click HERE.

For me, kale's appeal comes from the fact that there's just something very elemental about it, especially the Dinosaur variety (aka Tuscan or Lacinato). Its amazing texture and large blackish-green ripply leaves look like something out of a prehistoric forest. When I eat kale, I feel good immediately. You could argue that's because I know that it's healthy for me, but I swear, I always end up feeling that surge of incredible, sustained energy that only the most hyper-healthy veggies can give. So me and Kale...we won't be breaking up anytime soon. You might even say we got a thing goin' on. Confession- I've also turned my affections towards the yam lately as well. Luckily,there's enough room in this veggie-loving tummy for them all. And on today's plate too!

Striking Garnet Yams, Photo: NK
This (exciting!) kale recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook called Super Natural Every Day. It pairs shredded dinosaur kale with a very unexpected dose of toasty coconut and finishes with an Asian-inspired dressing over it all. The kale and coconut bakes up quickly and is perfect served piping hot over some stick-to-your-ribs grains like farro, or my favorite, barley. As for the coconut, you may think it an odd match for kale, but I happen to be a coconut lover so I was all about it. I know a lot of people that don't like coconut -- some of whom may live in my home. For these folks, I like to challenge their taste buds a bit by working the dreaded fruit into savory and not sweet recipes first. History has shown that, more often then not, I convince them that they're missing out. After all, I have yet to see anyone push aside this coconut shrimp

Kale and Coconut, Photo: NK
Heidi Swanson's recipe is definitely popular. It's been seen in various adaptations on Shutterbean and subsequently, on her BFF Joy The Baker's blog as well. All this left me thinking - there must really be something to this kale and coconut combo. So off to the kitchen I went to put my own stamp on this delicious and energizing recipe. 
My changes would include using 2/3 less oil to try to keep things lighter, and less coconut, even though I love it, for the same reason. To amp up the flavor and color that much more, my current obsession, gorgeous orange yams, would make a sweet cameo. 

In keeping with the Asian flavors of this recipe, I decided to add some toasty, black sesame seeds atop the pretty orange yams. The result is a dish that's a little salty, a little sweet, slightly nutty, and overall, surprisingly satisfying. Make this for yourself as a filling vegetarian lunch or pop it alongside your main course at dinner for an Asian-inspired side that's sure to please.

Kale & Coconut Salad + Garnet Yams With Asian Flavors, Photo: NK

Kale & Coconut Salad + Garnet Yams With Asian Flavors
Adapted from the Super Natural Every Day Cookbook by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Low Sodium or Regular Soy Sauce
1 medium Garnet or regular Yam, well scrubbed, skin pierced with a fork
1/2 teaspoon Black Sesame Seeds (optional)
1 head Dinosaur Kale (aka Tuscan or Dinosaur) ribs removed and cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
1/2 cup Medium or Large Flake Unsweetened Coconut (we like Bob's Red Mill)
2 Cups Prepared Barley or other grain (we also like this microwaveable brown rice)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and set aside two large baking sheets.

2. Pierce the Yam all over with a fork, wrap with damp paper towel, and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Allow to cool and then peel and cut into a large dice. Sprinkle Yams with the optional Black Sesame Seeds. 

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the Sesame Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Soy Sauce.

4. Toss the Kale with the Coconut and drizzle in the dressing, taking care to toss well and fully incorporate. Spread the Kale and Coconut evenly on to two cookie sheets. Cook for 12-13 minutes until the Coconut becomes golden, tossing a few times throughout the cooking process. When finished, remove kale to a heatproof bowl and cover for a few minutes. This will further soften it. 

5. To serve, plate about a half cup of warm grains and top them with the kale and coconut mixture and some yams. Serve warm and enjoy!  

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