The Handoff: Warm Kale Salad with Beets & Feta
by Sarah A. Maine
Living in New York it is not often that I am jealous of food in other places. A giant metropolis boasting residents from every corner of the earth, New York lives up to its reputation as a place where you can eat almost any kind of food you want, at any time of day. As a resident of Queens I am particularly spoiled – it is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the entire United States and we have the food to prove it. Restaurants we have, abundant produce dripping from trees on every street corner we do not – especially not at this time of year (there are always exceptions – check out this article about an intrepid NYC scavenger and the product of her city harvest). I have to admit to being a little nervous about what I could come up with to relay off of Brianna’s Fruits of Winter salad. Fortunately, with a little footwork I was able to cobble together a tasty collection of local goods for a wintery salad of my own – a warm kale salad with beets and feta cheese, topped with addictive croutons and caramelized onions!
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As I mentioned in my Tuesday post, eating local seasonal food in New York City in the winter becomes something of a scavenger hunt. To assemble the materials for my salad this week I first headed to the Union Square farmers’ market – the largest outdoor market in New York City, it is also one of the few that operates year round. Hoping to find some greens, I kept my fingers crossed. I was fortunate: the display of greens at D&J Organics stood out among a sea of earthbound root cousins. I reached for a curly bunch of kale to use as a base for my salad. Kale is a leaf that is not afraid of the frying pan – a quick sauté intensifies its color and flavor without diminishing its robust leafiness. I was curious about how D&J was still able to bring piles of greens to market in the dead of winter, back at home later I found this article detailing their operation. I also purchased red onions and beets from Madura Farms. I was counting on the beets to bring color and sweetness to my salad, a distant quotation of Brianna’s pomegranates.
My next stop was the Essex Street Market, an indoor market on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that features an array of independent food vendors including Saxelby Cheesemongers, a boutique cheese shop dedicated to American farmstead cheese. As a complement to the hearty kale and sweet beets, I chose a crumbly goat milk feta made by Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken, NY. I felt that homemade croutons would add a crunchy and comforting layer to my salad so I purchased some mini-baguettes from the Pain D’Avignon bakery. Next to the cash register they had a pile of bite sized cheese danish that were calling my name, I couldn’t resist having one – it was a delicious morsel of doughy cheesy goodness. I was ready to head home and get this salad in the works!
Warm Kale Salad with Beets and Feta
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 lb. curly kale (1 large bunch)
- 2-3 medium beets
- 1 medium onion
- 1/4 lb. feta cheese
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 3 (9 slices) mini baguettes
- 6 Tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Note: Steps 1, 2 and 3 can be done a day in advance.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Wrap the beets in tin foil and bake for 1 hour.
- Caramelized onions – Slice the onion. Place the slices into a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring infrequently, until they are dry and almost sticking to the pan. Add 1 Tbs olive oil and a pinch of salt, turn the heat down to medium-low, cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more oil as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a big batch (6-8 onions) and use them in your dishes all week! For more information about caramelizing onions see How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (pg. 329).
- To make the croutons, heat 4 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet with 1 clove of crushed garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle place the bread slices in the pan in a single layer. Brown each side for about 5 minutes, adding more oil if the pan dries out. These croutons can be made the day before and stored in wax paper.
- Remove the thick ribs from each kale leaf and tear the leaves into small pieces. Rinse and drain the kale, set aside.
- Crumble the feta cheese and set aside.
- When the beets are done, remove them from the tin foil and allow them to cool before peeling. Slice or cube the beets and set them aside.
- Right before you are ready to assemble the salad, heat 1 Tbs of oil over medium heat. Add the kale and toss it so that the oil is evenly distributed. Sauté, stirring frequently for 2-4 minutes. The kale should be bright in color and slightly wilted but not dried out.
- Remove the kale immediately to a bowl and toss with the feta cheese. Serve topped with caramelized onions, beets and croutons. Think warm colorful thoughts while you eat.
Obviously we think a lot about seasonal recipes here at RecipeRelay, and the arrival of winter has got me thinking about it even more than usual. One thing I have learned is how little I know about seasonal produce in other places. Tools are popping up online to help people learn more seasonal availability. One that you may have had a chance to play with is Epicurious’ seasonal ingredients map. The other day I spent some time clicking on every state to see what was in season right now across the U.S. and I think I actually came away more confused. According to the map, Louisiana’s growing season is dormant, while in Mississippi collard greens, peas, scallions and turnips are still available; the map indicates a similar situation in Arizona (lots of things growing) and New Mexico (dormant). I find myself needing more information – what are the factors that would cause adjacent states at similar latitudes to have such different growing seasons – is it elevation? Wind? Rainfall? I’d love to hear any thoughts on the how and why of winter produce in your area. What is available and how are you using it? Do you change your recipes to fit the seasons? What gets you through the cold months? I can’t pretend I’m not already excited for spring, but in the mean time I’m making the best of it!