Sautéed Kale with Imperial IPA mustard sauce

If you ask me what I want for lunch or dinner, most of the time, I would say a lot of yummy vegetables. Vegetable is my motto!

In fact, I have learnt to cook veggies here in Toronto with two of my best friends, Wendy and Peihong, both from China. In France, we cook a lot, and we love veggies, but most of the time we boil them before to sauté them in olive oil or butter: mushroom, spinach, green beans, peas… This is the way I was trained.

Here in Toronto, I have discovered the technique of stir fry, and I cannot go back to the “boil everything” technique I have learnt in France. When I don’t make salads or vegetable soup, stir fry is my number one technique when I cook veggies. Rapid, tasty… We are enjoying our vegetarian meal… me for sure!

I have already talked about the nutritional and healthy benefits of kale in a previous blog. Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. It is extremely high in vitamins A, C and K, all antioxidants known to help protect against cancer and heart disease. Kale is also very high in lutein which promotes healthy eyes. And for sure, kale needs to be part of your weekly food intakes.

I try to eat kale two times a week and this is one of my favorite side dish. I love how a combination between three simple ingredients can bring so much flavors. Imperial IPA beer jelly/mustard balances marvellously the peppery taste of Kale.

After my first try, I have made some research and I have found that hop flavors (as found in the Imperial IPA) pair amazingly well with green leafs like kale. This is a winner combination… a real alchemy.

To say the truth, this is now how we cook kale at home. Each time, we say the same thing… again and again. This is so good, this combination works so well…. mummmm.  I hope you will try and enjoy this recipe with your family and friends.

It is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Servings: 4          Preparation time: 10 minutes      Cooking time: 7 – 10 minutes

 Ingredients

! slice bacon, finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, stems removed (optional), leaves finely chopped

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard like Originale Maille mustard

2 generous teaspoons of Imperial IPA beer jelly

If you don’t have access to an IPA beer jelly, try an apple jelly or apple cider jelly. The key point is… the jelly need to be a little savory (not too sweet!).

½ tsp Sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Preparations

In a skillet over medium/high heat, add olive oil, onion, shallot and bacon. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute

Add kale, stir well and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly

Mix together the mustard and the beer jelly, add to the kale , stir and cook for 3 minutes

You can cook your kale for a shorter or longer time. It really depends how you like your kale – crunchy or well cook

Add salt and pepper, stir and cook for 1 minute

Serve hot

Bonne Appetite!

A Nutritious Smoothie – Kale, Cucumber, Banana and Honey

Kale is not the kind of vegetable that I was used to eat when I lived in France. In fact, I have never seen a leaf of kale at the farmers’ market of Beaune (the city where I was born in Burgundy) until recently. This green leafy vegetable was not part of the French culinary repertoire that includes among others spinach, parsley, green cabbage, lettuce, chicory, dandelions and Swiss chard.

I have discovered kale here in Canada, but I was quite skeptical. Its dark green color and the texture of the leaves have been for me a “no, not at all” signal. It was difficult for me to bypass my own inhibition.

Like a child, I have rejected this vegetable for many years because of its two physical aspects: dark color and thickness. They were synonymous in my subconscious of strong flavor, too many fibers and as a result: difficulty to swallow. This was my gripe! I was conditioned by my past experience and own boundaries. I adore bright green vegetable with tender leaves. They are so delicious. Kale was far different from the vegetables I have learnt to enjoy when I was younger. This kale might be just another food that I haven’t tried and liked yet; but it was not won in advance.

Appetite for a specific food is not simply a response to physiological or nutritional needs. It has also a psychological and emotional component. In fact, our relation to food is largely a function of expectation, emulation and adaptation. It is why it can be so challenging for people to modify their food behaviors. I went through this kind of challenges.

Interestingly, “our attitudes toward, and responses to, certain foods can be altered enormously by the contexts in which we encounter them, the number of other people we see eating them, the way they do or don’t dovetail with the diets we mean to maintain” (Frank Bruni, New York Time). And it is exactly what happened to me.

During the first few years in Canada, I have tried to keep my French way to eat (homemade food, a lot of veggies & fruits). But over time, I have gradually changed, not only because of the people I worked with and my new friends, but also because of my busy professional life. I have adopted the North American diet because it suited my new life style and social group: a lot of restaurants, eating on the go, all the time on the road – sandwiches and muffins almost every day, a lot of sugar, very little fruit and vegetable intake.

And one day, I woke up. I said no, not anymore. I needed to be more watchful of my weight and energy. I needed to reconnect with the French culinary practices, my family’s farmer roots. I needed to learn again to enjoy vegetables & fruits and more simply, to reconnect with good healthy food. I went to the farmers’ market here in Toronto where I met kale again. This time it was inescapable. I needed to try it, I needed to like it!

Kale is what we call the “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse”.  It provides an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.  Kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.

Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, and we can experience a metabolic problem called “oxidative stress.” Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation — and the combination of these metabolic problems — are risk factors for development of cancer.

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3 to 4 bananas

Now I try to eat kale 2-4 times per week, and I like to have a smoothie for my breakfast or during the day as a snack. It is a great way to enjoy kale. I have read a lot about kale, I have reviewed a lot of smoothie recipes that contain kale. One of my major issues, there was not enough kale. I wanted to boost my kale consumption, and consequently, the nutritional and health impact of this powerful vegetable. I have tried different combinations: kale with berries, pineapple, pear, yogurt, almond…Too much kale was a challenge, it does not necessary interact well with other ingredients. At that point, I didn’t like the color and/or the taste.

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Half a cucumber

Making smoothies, it is a constant learning process. I try new combinations. I try to be creative, I learn and move on.

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200 g of kale

After many weeks of experimentation, I came to the conclusion – simplicity is the best! My smoothie contains banana, kale, cucumber and honey. Each cup brings 40 to 50 grams of kale. The bitter, peppery flavor of kale is counterbalanced by the sweet combination of banana, raw honey and bee pollen. Cucumber is here to add water but also its refreshing flavor that balances appropriately the sweetness of banana and honey. An interesting alchemy! I always keep one cup in a thermos for later in the day. The various ingredients have time to settle down and to develop new flavors. It is so yummy! I discover each time a new alchemy of flavors that was not necessary here when the smoothie was just ready to drink. You really need to try.

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One table spoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of bee pollen and 6 ice cubes

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe:

Serving: 4 to 5 cups

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Add 2 to 3 cups water

Ingredients:

3 medium or 4 small bananas (mature or well mature)

Half a cucumber (medium size)

6 to 8 leafs of kale (200 g)

If you are using a Vitamix, do not remove the stem. If you are using another kind of blender, remove the stem but increase the number of leafs (10 to 12).

1 tablespoon of raw honey

1/2 teaspoon of pure bee pollen

2 to 3 cups of cold water (depending if you like the consistency more liquid or not)

5 to 7 ice cubes

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Purée until smooth

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. With my Vitamix, I increase gradually the speed and mix at maximum speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Simple and easy to do! Your smoothie is ready.

Bonne Appetite!

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Ready for my snack

 

kale 1

kale 2

 

French Cabbage Bacon Salad with a Twist

 

With my first post, I have shown you that we like to enjoy good food but we try also to be health conscious. In a weekly basis, we try to eat 40% of our diet raw, which means a lot of salads, smoothies, slow juices and fruits.

The first time I have tried this salad I was at my friend’s house in San Diego, Guillermo. He learnt this recipe from one of his French friends when he was doing his postdoctoral studies in Lyon. He explained me that this is one of the culinary specialties of Lyon, the food capital of the world (see the article in the Guardian).

What characterizes this salad? The bacon for sure but more importantly the vinaigrette, which needs not only to have a strong mustard and vinegar taste, but also needs to coat generously each piece of bacon and cabbage! It was so delicious. A discovery for me, I never ate raw cabbage before.

I have prepared this salad using the same recipe several times. But over the years I have adapted the recipe. I gave it a modern twist that fits better my taste. 

Cabbage can seem boring or not tasty enough for our modern era. It is one of the rare locally produced vegetables that we can find during winter season. Having a hand full of yummy recipes that use winter veggies is a prerequisite when living in Canada.

Cabbage is also good for health. During many years, the nutritional science has explained us the importance of eating 7-10 vegetables/fruits per day, mostly the colorful ones (red, orange, dark green, purple…). Recently, we have discovered that eating white vegetable is also important because it contains specific micronutrients important for our health.

White foods such as onions, garlic, celery, pears, cabbage and white wine contain flavonoids and allicin, which is known to inhibit abnormal cell growth. White foods also contain sulphur compounds which assist in raising levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and lowering dangerous levels of blood fats called triglycerides. Another benefit of white foods is that they can ease the inflammatory response of asthma and can break up catarrh secretions caused by colds and flu. Cabbage, among other white foods is good for you, and we need to enjoy each bite of it.

Cabbage dishes can be sexy. My salad contains not only cabbage and bacon, but also kale and pomegranate seeds. When you crunch a pomegranate seed, the sweetness and tartness of the pomegranate is an interesting tone that balances well with the savory flavors of this salad. The vinaigrette is not over powerful such as the classic version but still complex and aromatic through its mild combination of maple syrup and Dijon mustards, malt vinegar, olive and sunflower oils, fresh ground black pepper. The vinaigrette speaks by itself, but not as the tenor. It makes the liaison between the different elements that compose this salad and helps to create the alchemy that reveals the sensual harmony between simple foods such as bacon, cabbage, kale and pomegranate seeds.  Hum, I think it is time to prepare this salad, this is my recipe: 

 Ingredients

200 g of bacon (3 thick-sliced double smoked artisan bacon), diced

600-800 g of green cabbage (a medium one)

200 g of kale (4 to 5 leaves, remove the stem)

Seeds of a pomegranate

1/4 cup IPA beer (like the Amsterdam Boneshaker beer)

4 tablespoons of mustard (2 tablespoons of maple syrup mustard and 2 tablespoons of Maille Dijon Originale mustard)

1 tablespoon of malt or apple vinegar

 6 – 8 tablespoons of oil (a combination of extra virgin olive and sunflower oils) 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional for sprinkling on the top of the salad

Salt (optional)

Preparation

Clean and slice the cabbage and kale into thin strips, and mix them together in a large bowl

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon into the large bowl and mix together with cabbage and kale

Deglaze the juice in your skillet. Carefully pour in the beer along with 1/4 cup water. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits in the bottom of the skillet, bring the liquid to a boil and reduce until you get two to three tablespoons of liquid

Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing mustard, pepper, salt (optional), beer reduction, vinegar and oil

Add the vinaigrette to the salad. Mix well and serve immediately

N.B: You can reserve the salad in the fridge for at least 2 hours so that the cabbage really absorbs the sauce but it won’t be as crispy

The leftover (if any) can make a great lunch for the next day

Bon appetite!