How to Eat Yer Greens

[media-credit name=”La Petite Vie” align=”alignnone” width=”500″][/media-credit]Greens are such a pain in the ass. Every time you wanna be healthy and awesome and feel like you’re a passably competent steward of the flesh, you gotta spend half yer day washing, drying, chop, chop, chopping.

Fuck, it’s endless.

Greens are a pain in the ass.

Now, a bell pepper, same thing, right? Wash, dry, chop. But. A bell pepper is a solitary unit. It’s super easy. You can multi-taskingly wash n’ dry yer solitary unit vegetables while washing your hands to make a meal.

Clean hands, clean veggies.

Chop for 3 minutes and voila.

A head of lettuce is not the same thing. Each individual leaf must be washed and if you don’t pat each one dry, you end up with watery, wilty salad, which defeats the whole purpose of enjoying fresh, crispy greens.

You can minimize this chore if you want to invest in a plastic space hog of a single use item called a salad spinner, which you will use for one reason and one reason only, as you fortify the plastic/petro-chemical industry and meanwhile you require far too much cupboard space. The only single use items in my kitchen are a lemon juicer and a rice rinser, but the rice rinser doesn’t totally count because I use it to wash berries, mushrooms and other small, fragile things.

So the lemon juicer.

Some might argue that a salad spinner is an important single use item. Having owned one before, I can say I assessed the space-hoggedness vs. pain in the ass of cleaning vs. usage ratio and chucked it. A salad spinner may be the golden goddess walking on earth for you, but even with a salad spinner, washing and drying greens is still a time consuming, tedious production.

Chopping them is a whole other nightmare. They wander all over the cutting board unless you are a professional kitchen knife weilder, which most of us are not. The moments it takes to halve 35 brussel sprouts is but a mere preface to the long interminable slog involved with chopping a head of lettuce.

Okay, so the answer is to buy pre-made salad in the bag, right?

Wrong.

Even organic pre-made salad in the bag tastes tastes like the bio-engineered clones of the homeopathic ghosts of good greens. I went that route for a while and it’s a bad road with rundown E-coli tourist attractions. Plus, the salad keeps for like 2 minutes after you open the bag.

The answer, my friend, after many years of blowing in the wind of this dilemma, and which I now share with you, is this:

Hale Fucken Kale Salad.

[media-credit name=”sisterbeer (via Flickr)” align=”alignnone” width=”500″][/media-credit]
Kale is heartier, arguably healthier and has a lot more versatality than lettuce. It is so good for you, you almost become a pristine naked hippie doing yoga on the beach in Maui after just one bite. And it’s magically delicious. Flavor can’t be beat. Alas, Kale salad is also total pain in the ass to make, but, and here’s the crucial selling point: it keeps for a week . That’s right: one hour of your time = one week of delectable healthy greens at your fingertips. That’s the clincher for me. I don’t mind the time investment, just so long as it is time I only hafta take once a week.

So yes, this is a major production. Bear with it. It pays off in endless dividends because this isn’t salad to just sit and eat as a lonely side dish. Oh, no, No, no, no. During the week, you will throw kale salad into pretty much every single meal you cook.. It can be served warm, with rice. In an omelet. In guacamole. Toss is on all your sandwiches, burritos, pizza and pasta. There is virtually no savory dish on the planet that you can’t incorporate kale salad into.

Hale Fucken Kale Salad is the only thing ever in my life that has got me eating my greens on a regular basis.

I got a salad similar to this at the PCC deli, figured out the ingredients and started making it. Then my fabulous neighbor gave me the recipe for her kale salad and I kinda melded them into one.

Here’s yer shopping list:

Rice, kale, carrots, parsley, cilantro, oniony item (shallot, green onion, scallion, onion, garlic), lemons and olive oil. I’ll assume you have salt and pepper at home already, but you could also use some coriander, basil, thyme or pretty much any other herb. The basil can be had for free if you grown your own or know where it’s growing in your neighborhood. Toasted sesame oil is also a nice addition.

Don’t worry too much about the seasonings. In time, you’ll develop your own, and it may change according to the season.

I like a nice nutty rice in my kale salad and use either wild or red jasmine rice. Rice holds in the flavor of the dressing you’ll be making, and also absorbs some of the vegetable moisture, keeping manky-ness at bay.

If you don’t know how to make rice, here’s a tutorial:

For wild and red jasmine, you need a bit more water than for the white rices. However, it’s better that your rice is under-cooked than over-cooked, as it will be soaking up the aforementioned flavors and moisture for a week.

Cook your rice up first, take it off the heat and then let it get to room temperature. You won’t need it for a while.

Chop your head of kale. I’m into Lacinto kale right now, but any kind does well. Yes, this takes forever. Cut the middle stem out. It is too tough to eat raw. Chop the leaves into very small pieces. Test the size by eating bits of it. If you can’t macerate it easily, chop smaller. Wash the kale in a colander, shake out the excess water and then lay it on top of a clean, dry dish towel. Put another towel on top and then set about the rest of the salad. The kale dries up a treat while you’re doing everything else.

[media-credit name=”Keith Survell” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Go and stir your rice. This gives the remaining heat a chance to escape and fluffs things up nicely. Put the lid back on and leave it alone. Rice is like a Cancerian lover. It needs you when it needs you and it doesn’t when it doesn’t. Don’t mess with it when it doesn’t need you or you will get into a spat and you will always lose.

Give the parsley and cilantro the same treatment you gave to the kale, but wash and dry the bunches before chopping.

Chop the oniony vegetable you’ve carefully chosen. I prefer 4 green onions to impart flavor, as I’m not the biggest onion fan. You might want to go with more. Chop them pretty finely. You’re not making burritos here. Your objective is to spread the oniony flavor far and wide, all over the salad.

Throw the chopped parsley, cilantro  and onion into whatever bowl or baking pan you own that has the maximum bottom space. The wider, the better. Your salad is going to be sitting in the fridge for a week and if you keep it in a deep bowl, the bottom will be all manky by the end of it. So keep it in something with a lot of bottom space. I use a small wash basin and the bottom is almost as wide as the top.

It might not even be a bad idea to keep your salad right in your produce drawer in the fridge. You’d need to line the bottom with produce bags or plastic wrap, but it’d otherwise be the heighth of convenience. If you go this route, you’ll still need a big bowl to mix it in.

Peel the peel off the carrots and throw that away, Oh, how many carrots, you ask? I use 4 or 3 or 6, you might want more or less. Keep peeling the carrots so the strips land on your cutting board. Peel them down to their hearts. Eat their hearts, you Mayan warrior. You will end up with a gorgeous pile of orange strips. Chop this into happy confetti.

Throw the carrots in the bowl and then throw the kale in too. Mix this well.

In another small bowl or glass measuring cup, pour in some olive oil. Probably 1/4 cup. Juice 2 lemons. Grate the peel off one of the lemons. Pour in some salt and pepper. Freshly crushed coriander. If you decide on basil, finely chop or even puree it. A few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil. Whip the fuck out of this in the blender. Or whisk it by hand. Congratulations, you just made salad dressing. Pour it over the greens and mix everything well.

If you eat it immediately, it might taste a little bland. The flavors get all meldy after they sit together for a while. Don’t add a bunch more seasoning (probably salt) until it’s been in the fridge for a day or so. If yer gonna add more salt add it to the individual servings rather than the whole. Salt = moisture, and moisture is not your friend.

I use a produce bag to cover the salad, nestling it right on top of the greens. This keeps air out better than plastic wrap over the rim of the bowl and is also easier to manipulate.

For our next installment: Tens of Things to Make with Hale Fucken Kale Salad.