Last year, I complained to a friend that I would like to eat more leafy green vegetables, like kale, and I'd surely do so if they weren't virtually inedible.
Despite its many health benefits, I wasn't a fan of kale.
Impossible to cook or chew into submission and cheerfully green no matter what you do to it — I had pretty much decided kale was permanently off my menu. But then I heard about kale chips. People kept telling me how much their kids loved them so, not to be outdone by a pack of preschoolers, I decided it was time to belly up to the kitchen counter and try my hand at kale chips.
My husband has always been a healthy eater so, in our kitchen, buried in a cupboard somewhere, was a food dehydrator. This is a bonus. If you have a dehydrator, by all means use it. (if not, your kale chips will still be delicious if they're done in a very low oven.)
A dehydrator will dry the kale without your having to pay any attention to it and even better than that, dehydrated kale chips are considered raw food — a whole other subset of healthy eating. You can get really smug about your kale chips if they're dehydrated. When I started out, I figured that would be about all I got out of the exercise. Boy, was I in for a shock.
If you like the seaweed on the outside of sushi, you'll like kale chips, in fact, sushi's harder to develop the taste for than kale chips. They melt in your mouth and they taste, mostly, of whatever it is you put on them before you dry them out.
The preschoolers are right, kale chips are yummy. They're healthy, low-cal, low fat and high in every nutrient you can think of. They taste great, they're full of fiber, they have a satisfying crunch and if you like cheese puffs, there's a kale chip you'll love. Just think, the next time you want to sit down with nothing but a bowl of chips for dinner, you could actually be doing your body a favor. What could be better?
Here are two ways to make kale chips. When you've done it once, you'll quickly think up your own.
"Cheesy" Vegan Kale Chips
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) — available in the natural foods section of your grocery store or at your local food co-op.
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast — available at health food stores or the food co-op.
3 tablespoons soy sauce — I use kikoman or organic shoyu. It's important to use a light soy that is authentically made, the stuff made by American companies is too thick and syrupy, it won't work.
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Put all of these ingredients in the bottom of a big bowl. Then wash a bunch of kale and strip the leafy part off the stalks. Tear these into chip-sized pieces. Dump them into the bowl with your mixture in the bottom. Wearing rubber gloves, massage the dressing into the kale. Kale is sturdy. Really work the stuff in. Pretend you're kneading bread and massage the leaves until you've reduced the size of your kale pile by about half.
Arrange the dressed leaves on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake in a very low oven (200 degrees maximum) for 3 hours or until your chips are crispy.
If you're using a dehydrator, arrange these on the dehydrator trays and set the dial to "vegetable" leave it overnight or all day while you're at work.
Plain Kale Chips
2/3 cup olive oil
1/8 - 1/4 cup salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Large bunch of kale
Follow the instructions above but substitute this mixture for the "cheesy" dressing.
See? Easy. Eat your vegetables. Make your Mom happy.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thursday night it started to rain. Driving home from Lee to North Adams, stopping somewhere for a quick, inexpensive dinner seemed like a pretty good idea. On the advice of a friend in Lenox, we decided to try Lucia's Latin Kitchen.
Convention has it, you should not make up your mind about a restaurant until you've eaten there at least twice. However, as it turns out, my partner-in-life and I had already tried Lucia's delicious "home-cooking" at last year's Northern Berkshire Food Festival. Thursday night was actually our second time trying Lucia's cuisine.
Open for just 18 months, Lucia's Latin Kitchen specializes in Ecuadorian food but Lucia also makes plain "Latin home cooking." If you're in the mood for handmade tortillas, this would be a great place to go.
It was very hard to decide what to order on Lucia's menu. There's a lot offered, from paella-like rice dishes to roasted pork or lamb, to breaded shrimp, but we both chose beef dishes and were not disappointed.
Lucia's cooking is homey in the best way. Perfectly cooked rice accompanied my wonderfully seasoned, grilled sirloin. The rice was topped with four pieces of fried plantain, a staple in the countries where it grows. Plantain tastes pleasantly like a mild, less-sweet banana but holds its shape well when cooked and is generally considered a starch. The beans beside the rice were delicious as well, tiny pieces of roast pork floated in the savory sauce surrounding perfectly cooked navy beans — all of it obviously cooked from scratch. The beans and rice alone would have made a great weekday meal, especially accompanied by Lucia's citrus, greens and onions salad, a piece of bread and some plantains.
My partner's dish included french fries and rice, and also came with two fried eggs on the side. His steak was also cut thin, seasoned and grilled but unlike mine, it was topped with stewed onions and tomatoes. I'm not sure he would have ordered it under any other circumstances but as we came into the tiny room, a table full of joggers were tucking into this dinner and it looked too good to miss.
As we began our meal, our server brought a little dish of hot sauce to the table. It looked innocent enough, a little watery with visible herbs and onions floating in the dish, but if you go, (and you should) a little of this sauce goes a very long way. I had a little dab of it on my rice, it was tasty but a bit over my hot tolerance. I was glad I hadn't slavered my steak in the stuff.
Top, a belly-filling steak and eggs for supper. Left, enjoying a meal.
Prices were extremely reasonable. Our meal for two came in at just under $30. You'd be very hard pressed to spend more than $50.
We accompanied our meal with Mexican soda, his in tamerind flavor and mine in apple. Happily full, we set off on our way north without dessert but I am saving up my appetite for next time, which will be sooner than later given the quality of the food.
Lucia's is tiny, the kitchen is wide open to the rest of the room and the whole place seats maybe 15 on a very busy night. As people discover this place (where you can get a whole roasted chicken with all the trimmings for under $20.) it is guaranteed to become more and more crowded. So get there before the summer people arrive and don't blab it all over the place, OK? I'm kind of attached to the corner table by the window.
Lucia's Latin Kitchen is located at 239 Onota St., Pittsfield; 413-442-4440
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Adam Zieminski of CafeAdam served up a spring recipe on NBC's "Today Show" on Tuesday morning.
The Berkshire native and graduate of Johnson & Wales University was tapped to appear on the program's "What's on the Menu?" segment thanks to one of his favorite customers, "Today's" weatherman Al Roker.
In the video, Zieminski shows how to prepare seared scallops with parsnip puree and wilted vegetables and talks about how he uses fresh Berkshires produce whenever possible.
Find the recipe here; the clip runs after a commercial.
EGREMONT, Mass. — The Outstanding in the Field bus is making its way to Indian Line Farm in South Egremont on Sept. 15 in its first trip to the Berkshires since 2004.
Executive Chef Brian Alberg and his crew from The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge will be manning the field kitchen and presenting a five-course meal to 130 to 150 guests at the nation's first community-supported agriculture farm.
The dining experience on wheels has traveled around the nation for more than a decade promoting local food and agriculture, reconnecting diners to the land and the origins of their food and honoring local farmers and food artisans. The organization donates to a number of farm- and food-related groups whose missions align with those of OITF.
"We are so fortunate to live in an area where our community is connected to the land, and our chefs are interested in supporting local farmers and food producers," said Alberg, who is well known for his efforts in promoting and showcasing locally grown produce and is president of Berkshire Grown. "This dinner is a perfect forum to showcase our efforts and we are psyched to see the bus stop here on Sept. 15."
Farmers Elizabeth Keen and Al Thorp have been growing Certified Naturally Grown produce on the 17-acre Indian Line Farm since 1997 primarily for the CSA but they also sell to the Great Barrington Farmers Market, restaurants and some local stores.
OITF organizes as many as 90 events a year and traveled to Europe last year. Ingredients for each OITF meal are almost all local and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region.
Tickets to the four-course, family style dinner on Saturday, Sept. 15, are $220 per person and includes hors d'oeuvres, farm tour and dessert. They go on sale on March 20; more information can be found here.
Beginning at noon Sept. 15, a team from The Red Lion Inn and Berkshire Farm & Table will be streaming live behind-the-scenes coverage, offering a backstage pass to this celebrated event. Media coverage will include blog posts, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter updates.
The sign at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock. Below, mini corn muffins and maple butter, and the entrance to the Calf-A.
HANCOCK, Mass. — Have you been out the the sugar bush yet? That’s the Canadian term for a maple farm.
At the rate the weather’s been going you’ve got about a week left to get out and see one in full swing.
That’s because making syrup requires specific conditions that are closely tied to weather patterns in the Northeast.
In order for the sap to run, daytime temperatures need to be above 40 degrees and at night the mercury needs to dip to freezing or below. You may have noticed, in the last few days we’ve had no trouble hitting the 40-degree mark but that freezing level seems to be fading pretty fast.
Once the trees begin to bud, the sap may still run but it becomes bitter and unfit for syrup.
If you want to get out to the bush, have some pancakes and watch the syrup being made, you’d better move fast. Our region has a few choices of farms offering maple breakfasts (or “maple meals”) and of course, if you’re feeling flush, there’s the Berkshire Grown Maple Dinner coming up on March 26 at the Red Lion Inn. Tickets range from $65 to over $100 per person. Contact Berkshire Grown for details.
For the basic maple breakfast here are a few choices:
Mill Brook Sugarhouse is located in Lenox, call 413-298-3473, for information.
Ioka Valley Farm serves “maple meals” until 3:30 in the afternoon. Perfect if you like to sleep late and take your time on weekends. Their corn muffins and maple butter are super-yummy. They have a website, too: www.iokavalleyfarm.com..
South Face Farm is open until 3:00 until Easter Sunday. Their webpage is here. They serve whole wheat pancakes as well as the usual white flour, making South Face a good choice for the health conscious among us.
You can’t have breakfast at Blue Heron Farm but there’s probably somewhere near Charlemont that will serve you a pretty dandy breakfast and Blue Heron makes certified organic maple slurple, (syrup) that’s a steal at $52 a gallon (a gallon contains 11 pounds of syrup — check your local market and do the math, best I’ve seen is around $7 a pound.) Their website is here.
In Shelburne there’s Gould’s, open until 2 p.m. and right on the Mohawk Trail (they have a website but it’s not terribly helpful; you’re better off calling 413-625-6170). And also in Shelburne there’s Hager’s, also on the Mohawk Trail and while I’ve never been, their menu looks like a real bargain, you can see it here.
Hager’s thinks like real farmers, so if you want breakfast, you’ll have to get there before 11 a.m.
I can’t vouch for Davenport Farm but they’ve been tapping trees for 99 years so they must be doing something right. They serve breakfast but don’t have a website: call 413) 625-2866. They’re not on the Trail either, you’ll find them at 111 Tower Road, Shelburne.
So there’s a sample of what’s on offer. A trip to a maple farm is a great way to get up close and personal with springtime but it doesn’t last long. Get ‘em while they’re running.
Hoses full of sap run straight into the sugar shack at Ioka Farm. Right, enjoying a maple meal; the kettle inside the shack.