Kale is dead. Long live kale!

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I have never been able to fathom the popularity of kale. Look, I get it. It’s super easy to grow and it’s healthy. But Americans have eaten (and juiced) so much of it lately that there’s a worldwide kale shortage. And babies? Hundreds have been named Kale in the last several years (along with other food names like Olive, Coco, Pepper, Maple and Chitterlings. Okay, I made the last one up.)

And I like kale well enough. I mean if I eat it, I can swallow it without making too much of a scene. It helps to massage it thoroughly, breaking down the fibers with olive oil and salt. Well disguised with other goodies, and tossed in a honey-mustard-lemon dressing, it’s even quite good.

Other vegetables are getting defensive. They think of kale as the Donald Trump of vegetables. It gets all the media coverage while the others just go quietly slogging along. But “The Donald’s” trajectory will inevitably return to the days when I couldn’t sell his autographed autobiography for three dollars at a garage sale. So will brassica oleracea go the same way?
Kale’s popularity is showing signs of leveling off, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. Along with Brussels sprouts, these two vegetables are dominating the restaurant scene — from trendy hipster bistros to roadside cafés. And now, thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, kale and Brussels sprouts are actually getting married.

Yes, meet the kalette: a kale-Brussels sprouts hybrid that looks like kale’s mini-me. According to www.kalettes.com, it can be “sautéed, roasted, grilled, or eaten raw.” It’s too early to tell how popular these will be.

Food trends are notoriously hard to predict. The Wall Street Journal wrote recently, “A decade ago … the notion of [kale] becoming the next hot ingredient was, frankly, ludicrous.” The article examines how yesterday’s garbage may become tomorrow’s sexy thing. Manhattan restaurateur Jonathan Wu recalls how butcher shops would give away veal bones for chefs to make their stocks. “Now veal leg bones cost more than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. How crazy is that?”
For his part Wu is using a food that vegetable markets still routinely discard – broccoli stalks. Will broccoli stalks surpass kalettes? Try his recipe for Beef and Broccoli Stalks with Oyster Sauce and judge for yourself.

Beef and Broccoli Stalks with Oyster Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup Amontillado Sherry

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons potato or corn starch

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 (1-pound) flank steak, cut against grain into ½-inch-by-1-inch strips

(tip: semi-freeze for easier cutting)

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces broccoli stalks, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick coins (about 2½ cups)

8 ounces broccoli florets, separated into 1-inch diameter pieces (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons oyster sauce


Directions

1. Make marinade: In a small bowl, mix Sherry, soy sauce, starch and sesame oil together. Add beef to marinade, place in refrigerator and let marinate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove beef from marinade. Blot lightly with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a wok over high heat. Once wok starts to smoke, lay beef into pan, toss and let cook in a single layer, 2 minutes. Toss once more and cook until medium rare, another minute. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Heat remaining canola oil in wok over high heat. Once wok starts to smoke, add ginger and garlic, toss once, then add salt and broccoli stems and florets.
Toss again, then add water. (The water vapor will steam broccoli stems and florets.) Once water has evaporated, add beef and oyster sauce to wok and toss to combine. Serve beef and sauce over rice.

I’m sure you could substitute kale for the broccoli, if you insist.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com.  His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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