Monday, November 3, 2008

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #4

I think I could summarize this meal as "a bale of kale" (actually my husband Dick came up with that great phrase). I did try to incorporate kale into every course and was originally successful. Regretfully, this post comes without photos for two reasons: our dog ate the spoonbread while it was cooling (yes, my dog ate 3/4 of the 9x13 pan!! - arghhhhh) and then we actually ate everything else before I got photos. I've learned my lessons: leave nothing on the counter to cool if I am out of view and take photos before we eat!

Here is what we ate or should have eaten:


3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 onion, chopped (about 1-1/2 cup)
1-1/2 cup chopped carrot 
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
12 cups vegetable stock (homemade if possible) 
7-8 cups or so of chopped kale (de-stemmed)
freshly ground pepper
sea salt (optional) 

Put the first five ingredients into a large soup pot (it will have to be able to hold the kale too), bring to the boil, cover and then simmer until the root vegetables are cooked - around 20 minutes, but test to make sure. Puree the contents of the pan in a blender, in batches if necessary (or use an immersion blender). You may want to or need to add extra stock or water - it all depends on the size of your cubed veggies, the size and shape of your pan, and the heat at which you choose to simmer, but extra liquid will come out of the kale when it is added.

Return the partly made soup to the cooking pot, add the chopped kale, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the kale is tender (be sure to not overcook to keep the leaves bright green).

Taste for seasoning and serve with a salad and some whole grain bread.


Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Ingredients
1 pound kale (about 2 bunches), thick ribs and stems cut away
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 cup white corn (about ½ of a 15 ounce can), drain and rinse off the salty liquid (freeze the rest for future use)
1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar (or roast 1-2 fresh red sweet peppers, or use some that you roasted and froze yourself during the summer)
1 garlic clove, minced (optional, depending on what else you are serving - I omitted this since the soup had garlic added as did the bread slices for the kale-bread salad I served)

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)
1 teaspoon salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 large eggs
½ cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used ~¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes)

Recipe Direction
Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; cool. Squeeze dry. Finely chop kale (I chopped the kale in my food processor).

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, corn, red peppers, and garlic; stir 3 minutes. Mix in 1 1/2 cups kale. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F at this point. Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick spray (I use a small piece of wax paper to evenly spread the non-stick spray over the bottom and sides of my baking dish).

Whisk 2 cups water and cornmeal in bowl to blend. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in cornmeal mixture. Stir until mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Be VERY careful at this stage. As the mixture thickens, it will start to “pop” and a splatter of batter may just burn you! Cool slightly (I only let it cool for ~1 minute).

Whisk eggs in large bowl to blend; gradually whisk in warm cornmeal mixture. Stir in kale mixture, cheese, and hot pepper sauce. Transfer to prepared dish; smooth top. Bake until set and golden, about 35 minutes. Test with a toothpick in the middle of the dish. Serve warm.

Trust me! This spoonbread is (was!) BEAUTIFUL. Boo-hoo (I confess I was both heartbroken and mad to come home from the Farmers' Market to find this major "oops".)


1 head romaine lettuce - wash and tear into bite size pieces (7-8 cups)
Kale - wash, remove tough steams and cut into thin ribbons to make 3-4 cups
Add other fresh, raw veggies such as various colors of cherry tomatoes, red pepper pieces, cucumber pieces, etc.
Add ~2 cups cooked dried beans, rinsed and drained (I used flageolet beans, which I soaked and cooked the day before I made the salad.)
Rub garlic over dry bread slices (whole grain baguettes, cut into 1 inch thick slices) - toast, cool, then cut into 1-inch cubes. (1 small baguette or whatever you have on hand - 3-4 cups)
Combine all ingredients except bread. Toss. Add 4 Tbsp. olive oil, then 2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar. Toss all.
Then add bread cubes about 15 minutes prior to serving. Toss all.
Add a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss again prior to serving.

(4) Kale Chips

Without the spoonbread to serve, I quickly and easily made a tray of kale chips to serve as a little appetizer for my friends to try while everyone arrived. Most had not tried these before, and I remember finally saying "WAIT! Leave some for xxxxxx (I forget who)." Yes, they are that good. Give them a try. Fresh kale will be available for many weeks yet, and locally grown kale will taste even better than usual if you live in an area that has had a good frost like we have had in Michigan. :-)

For this book and journal club discussion, we took a break from reading a major book and instead viewed and discussed both a DVD documentary entitled "What will we eat?", made by a Michigan film-maker Chris Bedford who produces advocacy films and videotapes to help farmers and consumers promote the transition to a humane, sustainable local food economy in addition to reading and discussing the research article by the Cornell scientists who are evaluating how much land is needed to optimize local production of diets containing various amounts of meat, dairy, fat, and calories from plants and plant products.

Two points of hearty discussion revolved around the fact that this research study did not evaluate the land required to produce a healthy and nutritious vegan diet nor did it take into account any factors related to the costs associated with conventional agriculture or food product production (i.e., where do the soybeans need to be shipped to be processed into soy milk or soy oil and what are the costs involved with that production and shipping to the consumer?). Still, this type of research is a necessary first step in the complex process to develop an understanding of the methods that are really necessary to produce a local/regional sustainable food system that is able to provide both access and affordability of a healthy diet and foods to all citizens in any particular geographical location.

Inspired by the The Ethicurian blog and its definition of an "ethicurian" as someone who seeks out tasty things that are also produced in a manner that is sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical — SOLE food, for short, we have officially named our dietitian book and journal club The SOLE Sisters Book Club.

I read two short food blessings that evening:

Oh Lord, that lends me this life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

~~William Shakespear (1564-1616)
From The Second Part of King Henry VI, act I, scene I, lines 19-20

To all else thou hast given us, O Lord,
we ask for but one thing more:
Give us
grateful hearts.

~~George Herbert (1593-1633), a clergyman in the Church of England

Try your own meal using a "bale of kale" and let me know what you made!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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