The ideal summer evening should be warm and bright, with the sweet and salty ocean smell wafting through the open windows on a light breeze, The ideal summer dinner? One that comes together in a flash, to allow you to relax and make the most of a beautiful evening? The first idea that comes to my mind when I think of all this would have to be a vibrant and colourful crisp salad, bursting with fresh flavours and interesting textures.
So far this summer, most evenings have fallen well short of the ideal standard described above. In fact, humid, rainy and bleak weather has been the norm rather than the exception lately. However, Chef Gerald and his Mummy can see no reason why less-than-perfect summer weather should stand in the way of perfect summer food.
The star performance this time comes from one of our all time favourite green leafy vegetable. Our entire household is in love with the velvety leaves, the incredible shade of dark green and the wonderful flavour. As a truly respectable star, this one likes to maintain a certain level of mystery surrounding its true origin and age, and consequently has many stage names, such as black/Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, cavolo nero, or even dinosaur kale. Being a member of the brassica family, black kale comes from a long line of illustrious relatives, which includes broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. They all pride themselves in their antioxidant properties and their high nutritional value, which can only mean that we should invite them to be part of our daily menu more often.
We have previously experimented with black kale in many soups, stews and pasta dishes, but a major breakthrough came the other week thanks to the most recent addition to the Bistro cookbook collection: The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman. Chef Gerald and his Mummy are long time fans of Bittman’s simple approach to cooking, with its emphasis on flavours and good ingredients. This book is even closer to our heart though, as it’s teaming with brilliant ideas for including even more vegetables and wholegrains into our daily menu.
One such marvellous idea is Bittman’s Black Kale and Olive Salad, a basic combination of black kale, olives and Parmesan, which makes a perfectly satisfying light lunch. This was the first recipe we tried from this book and along with it came the realisation that it’s perfectly OK to enjoy black kale without cooking it at all. The beautiful fresh flavour and crunchy texture are maintained in their entirety, and the wonderful nutritional benefits are probably better preserved as well.
This time, the addition of different vegetables introduces more colours and textures into the salad, while the goat cheese and pine nuts make it more substantial and better suited as a light dinner option. Needless to say, very fresh, good quality black kale is a must here.
Black Kale and Goat Cheese Salad
1 large bunch black kale, tough stems removed, well rinsed and thoroughly dried (we wrapped the leaves in a tea towel to achieve this)
1 small red capsicum
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1/2 continental cucumber
50 g lightly toasted pine nuts
100 g goat cheese, preferably feta
12 black olives, pitted and chopped
3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white balsamic condiment
Shred the kale leaves as finely as you can.
Slice or chop or dice all other ingredients according to your preference.
Mix everything in a bowl, together with the olive oil and white balsamic. If using goat feta, crumble this slightly and add to the salad bowl before tossing. If using regular soft goat cheese, crumble this as well, but only add to the salad after tossing so it doesn’t clump together.
Toss well and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. Serves two as a main course, accompanied by some fresh crusty bread if you prefer.