As most of you now know, I’m the sort of wierdo for my stance on food amongst my family and peers and I’m often tolerated. It’s not easy to have a ‘me’ around if you want to a) eat crap and b) stay ignorant about what the crap you’re eating actually is.
In fact if you want to live in blissful ignorance about what you’re eating, I’m rubbish company and I will likely irritate you. Lifting the veil on what we’re actually eating is just part of what I do and as much as a part of me as my hair, I can’t be any different, don’t want to be and so people have their various ways of dealing with me.
My husband and son are prone to hiding evidence of junk food escapades in the side doors of their cars. Of course, I check there every now and again to get a handle on what they’re eating when away from home…and I’m always horrified….and my daughter handles it by going moggy for junk food whenever we’re in an environment where it’s there or at parties.
I tread very delicate paths in trying to keep my family feeling ‘normal’ when many ‘normal’ parts of everyday living for everyone else – like white bread and fizzy cold drinks – don’t and won’t ever feature in our home. Sneaking them in is your only option really. It’s not easy and I can’t control it all and my family is probably as dysfunctionally ‘normal’ as the next.
In fact just this Friday, my husband ordered himself a pizza! Not a great pizza mind, I’m talking from a chain – the type you wouldn’t catch me dead in and his defense – when I kicked up a predictable fuss and gave him ‘that look’ – was that it was Friday night and he wanted ‘normal’ food!
There’s that word again. The most back to front word ever used. I wasn’t actually well on Friday evening so I couldn’t cook anyway so he was left to his own devices, my daughter was at her grandmother, my son at varsity and me upstairs in bed feeling wretched with some odd 24 hour stomach issue that passed as swiftly as it had arrived.
Anyhow, so even at close, close quarters, the definition of what is and isn’t ‘normal’ can produce lengthy and difficult debates but the bottom line is that if you want to think that industrial food with it’s chemical props, hormones, cruelty and factory fillers is ‘normal’ and you don’t want to know why it so damn isn’t – then I can be a pain to be around. A right blinking kill joy really.
If you want great food though, you’ll enjoy meals at my house:) You’ll leave having eating fantasticaly tasty ‘real’ food – and I’m beginning to learn that ‘real’ is far more valuable than ‘normal’ and you probably won’t be on a sugar high. Unless you drank too much champagne which is possible….
That probably isn’t going to change. In fact, the more I discover the ‘worse’ (better) it gets and the more I’m prone to activate and get verbose in my outrage.
So outright rebellion (my family) is one way of dealing with it and another which is probably easier to deal with is making me the butt of every joke there is about health (my family and mates). I quite like that approach because making me laugh is the key to my heart, all tension dissolves around humour and humour makes me want to get out of bed every morning – I don’t think life would be much worth it without it.
A day where somebody has made me laugh from deep within my belly is a good day and I want to laugh everyday. If you asked me what was more important – laughter or great food, you’d have me vexed.
So, I’ve got one particular friend who is known for sporting an extremely dry sense of humour. I met him through school rowing when Daniel was rowing for KES and we all got together again this week to camp over the SA rowing championships. He is the cheekiest person I have ever met and he’s loved for it. He can get away with things other people can’t. In fact the first time I met him, his opening line to me in front of my husband was ‘where have you been all my life’! ? I’m not sure who laughed harder his wife or my husband and that’s Russell…harmless, funny, cheeky with a heart of gold but an intolerance towards fresh produce. To put it kindly. To put it mildly.
So he calls me ‘kale queen’ and there’s been an on-going volly of jokes amongst this particular bunch of friends to this effect. The teasing is particulyar humorous if you get Russell. Russell smokes, has very little interest in healthy food and thinks that slap chips and viennas is a hearty meal. So this potential for a row gets managed through humour and it gets very funny.
In the lead up to this week’s camping evening on Saturday, I threatened Russell with a kale salad and he agreed to finally taste a green vegetable. I suspect that he has probably only ever smoked green leafy vegetables in the past, so this was a monumental event.
I actually forgot to order kale this week and called Francoise from Chartwell Veggie Patch in a panic on Saturday morning asking if I could come past and pick some. I had to take a kale salad to this camp and I had to photograph Russell actually swallowing it.
I also had an obvious agenda of wanting it to taste just stupidly fantastic. If it tasted awful, then I’d lose the argument about healthy food being tasty.
It just wasn’t worth it. I had limited time though, so ended up throwing this together in a rush late afternoon Saturday before we left and as it happens – it turned out to be the best kale salad I have ever eaten.
In fact it went around everybody at the camp site and I quickly ran out of it!
I will make this again and again and again…
It was GORGEOUS and Russell liked it enough to admit that it was nice and to bark at his son for taking it away from him!:)
In fact I walked up to him yesterday talking to friends and he didn’t see me coming up to join the group and he was saying ‘that kale salad was really nice but don’t tell Debbie I said so’, I had the greatest joy busting him!
This salad is quite sweet and does contain 2 less than ideal characters that you may want to omit – non-organic parmessan and cranberries. The reason the cranberries are less than ideal is that you won’t be able to find them anywhere without corn syrup. I have scoured every packet and they seem to all add corn syrup to sweeten – damn. If you do find any that aren’t, please let me know.
The point is that if you’re converting people whose palettes like Russell’s are accustomed to refined food and sugar, you need to change things by degrees. So while this salad had an undesirable in it – it made ‘normal’ people wolf it back easily and with pleasure.
If you’re converting a family this way, you could just get them used to it and then start gradually reducing the sweetness of the salad by reducing the amount of honey you use in the dressing and changing the cranberries to raisins perhaps or some similar unsweetened dried fruit. Cranberries just provide such amazing contrast here, I’ll keep looking for unsweetened ones or ones sweetened with something less dodge…let me know.
In them meantime – enjoy this and replace the parmessan with any cheese really – goat’s chevre or something creamy works well…
You could also replace the pine nuts with any other nut, walnuts or pecans toasted would work well but pine nuts first prize here…
Please note that I didn’t take a picture when I made ours. This salad looks mighty similar to how it turned out but uses curly kale which isn’t what you would be getting from us this week. The kale you’ll get from us isn’t as green, it’s much lighter in colour and has flat rather than curly leaves and a far lighter sort of taste than hard core kale. Best way to describe it. It’s so gentle on the palette and makes best friends with cranberries.
The measurements here are also rough – I threw it together, tasting it as I went along and I’d love it if you do the same, it’s so much more rewarding to cook that way, using a base template and then letting your senses dictate the way….
- 1 Tablespoon boekenhout honey – you can use any honey but boekenhout has a very particular caramely sort of taste and is first prize
- 1/4 cup olive oil (roughly)
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (roughly) – I want you to adjust this as you make it – I’ll explain below
- Salt and Pepper
- Large bunch of kale – chopped up – as much as you fancy and enough to fill a large salad platter – people are going to want more – seriously – you’re likely to underestimate here, it’s that tasty
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup (to taste) pine nuts – toasted – just toss them about in a frying pan dry – let your nose tell you when they are ready. There is no better way to know with nuts and seeds, you need to stay with them and smell, when they smell toasted, you’re in the right place, if that toasted and roasted nut smell starts turning – take them off!
- 1/4 cup cranberries – or goji berries or raisins
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated parmessan or cheese of choice
Mix your dressing ingredients altogether. Boekenhout honey has a thick toffee type of texture usually, so put a large blob in a jug start softening it with a whisk, it will heat gently and start becoming easier to work with, then add in the olive oil and then the vinegar, salt and pepper – whisk, taste – would you like it sweeter? Add a bit more honey. Does the olive oil over-power? Add more vinegar. Does it taste too bland? Add more vinegar. I hate giving specific directions like this because I want you to trust your senses:)
Right – so then arrange the chopped up kale – again use your eye sight here – make the kale look gorgeous on a platter – I find uniformly sliced vegetables or leaves boring and a bit sort of too organized but that’s just me. I love rustic looking plates because it makes me ‘feel’ farm food and ‘family’ and ‘home cooked’ whereas perfectly diced things make me thing of factory efficiency and I don’t want to think of that when I eat, so ‘rustic’ is meangingful to me.
What do you like? Maybe you like green leafy things to look delicate and that’s what you like – then cut the leaves smaller.
If messy makes you feel miserable and rustic isn’t your thing and you want your salad to look more sort of controlled because that’s how you are – then that’s how you must handle the leaves – cut them perfectly then – the point is by cooking this way – getting in touch with the way you like it – you inject and infuse yourself into your food and trust me if you do that – it will come across and people will enjoy being at your table.
That is the ‘X’ factor – your ability to communicate the essence of you into your food.
When we follow recipes to the lettter, it doesn’t help to develop our own confidence so I just prefer to communicate this way and encourage you to trust your senses when you cook.
Back to the recipe:
- So you’ve decided how you want to handle the leaves – arrange them on a pretty salad platter or bowl.
- Toss over your roasted pine nuts.
- Scatter over the cheese.
- Throw over the cranberries.
- Toss through the dressing about 15 minutes before serving.
- If you pre-make this – do NOT refrigerate the dressing, it’ll ruin it – promise!
- Serve and enjoy!
Enjoy watching ‘normal’ people love this…