If, ten years ago, you asked me whether I saw myself falling in love with or even visiting St. Louis, chances are I would have shook my head and said no. This is only my second visit, and although I can’t say I’ve been here long enough to accurately describe the place, there is a sense of familiarity and comfort that I associate with this sleepy city. It almost feels as if it could be my second home- the people I have met so far have been nothing short of lovely. I’ve been gifted with beautiful, homegrown, peak-of-the-season tomatoes and peppers (including a ghost pepper, which is the spiciest and hottest pepper on planet earth…), and I came home with a bag full of apples after a visit to a local garden yesterday. I firmly believe that great ingredients are key and make a world of difference when you are cooking, and I am super excited to work with the produce I have been so generously provided with! You’ll probably see the results in the upcoming weeks in my blog posts and Instagram photos.
I haven’t been able to cook as much as I’d like to, as my hosts are currently re-constructing their kitchen. There are nights when we’ve been able to squeeze in simple meals involving the stove and the oven, but it’s difficult to make more complex dishes when construction tools are still lying around and half the kitchen is covered in dust. A lot of planning has gone into making this kitchen, and I know it’ll be perfect when it is done. Even though it isn’t my own kitchen, I love walking in at the end of each day to see the progress that’s been made. There are only two more weeks until I have access to a fully equipped kitchen again! In the meantime, a close family friend of my boyfriend’s family, KeeKee, has generously allowed us to use her kitchen. KeeKee is someone who is super fun to be with, and you can tell that she’s just naturally good at conversing with people and being social. She also has impeccable taste when it comes to interior design and decoration. It feels like her entire house should be on Pinterest, and I’m surprised it isn’t already!
That night I made a massaged kale salad with pea shoots, summer squash (yellow zucchini), oven-roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and cannellini beans. It’s very similar to the recipe I posted earlier this summer for a dish with kale, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, and wild rice, but this dish feels much more vibrant and fresh than the other one. Many people have confessed to me that they dislike kale because of its slightly bitter flavour and chewy, rubbery texture. To those afraid of the great, leafy kale, have no fear! All you need to do is massage it. It sounds exhausting, but the process only takes five minutes.
Why massage kale? Massaging kale helps to break down the hard fibers of the vegetable, making it easier to digest. Although massaged kale is still relatively chewy, it is much softer and the vegetable will begin to wilt within a minute or two of massaging. Massaging kale will also make it less bitter.
How do you massage kale? Just grab bunches of it and squeeze. The Los Angeles Times likens the process to kneading bread dough, which is exactly what your hands should be doing with the kale. I like to massage with extra virgin olive oil, but feel free to use whatever oil you prefer. It’s not as messy as it sounds, and it does leave your hands feeling silky soft afterwards. If you don’t like to get your hands dirty, steaming also works, and takes only a few minutes.
Why eat kale? Kale is full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and vitamin K. In addition, kale’s high fibre content makes it a heart healthy food that helps to lower cholesterol. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk, making it an ideal vegetable for individuals who suffer from anemia or osteoporosis. One cup of kale alone has 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and 684% of vitamin K. If kale doesn’t sound like a true superfood to you, I don’t know what will! (Side note: my birthday is coming up, if anyone wants to send me this kale sweatshirt or tank top… I will love you forever.)
Summer Kale Salad
*yields 8 servings
6-7 cups curly kale, chopped
2 cups cannellini beans, cooked
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup pea shoots
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
2 large yellow summer squash, sliced
5 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
2. Grease a baking tray with coconut oil, and place the sliced squash on the tray.
3. Drizzle coconut oil over the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, until the slices turn golden brown.
4. Grease another baking tray with coconut oil, and place the chopped tomatoes on the tray. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until the skins of the tomatoes begin to blister.
6. While the squash and tomatoes are roasting, heat up two tablespoons of coconut oil in a large pan on medium heat.
7. Add the garlic to the pan. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the mushrooms, cooking until they are soft. Add the beans, and cook for another five minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
8. In a large mixing bowl, drizzle three to four tablespoons of olive oil over the kale. Begin massaging the kale. Use more oil if necessary, and massage until the kale has wilted.
9. Toss the pea sprouts into the bowl of kale and mix.
10 Mix in the tomatoes, squash, mushrooms, and beans with the kale. Drizzle the lemon juice into the salad, season to taste, and toss to mix.
Enjoy : )
Wishing you much love and happy kitchen adventures,