Thursday, July 22, 2010

Massaging the Kale

Sounds kinky doesn’t it?

One thing I have learned this week is that cooking healthy is a lot of work. The other thing I have learned is that Joan is a master of the cooking healthy art.

When she told us she wanted to make cheesy kale for dinner one night and would need our help, I had no idea what a multi-step process that would be or that the process would take two days – one for assembly and one for dehydrating.

But, before the preparation could begin, it was time for one (or two) of Mike’s Industrial Strength Long Island Ice Teas. While we were imbibing, Joan was washing the kale. Then she prepared the “cheesy” mix of cashews soaked in water and drained, red bell peppers, and nutritional yeast that was put into a food processor and rendered into a smooth paste. (There may have been lemon juice in this mixture but, after one of Mike’s Ice Teas, I don’t remember.) And then it was time for Chuck and me.

Step One: Drying the kale. Armed with clean cotton dish towels, Chuck and I were tasked with removing all vestiges of water from the kale leaves. Do you see those crinkly edges? Yes. All water had to be removed from between those crinkles.

Step Two: Removing the thick stems and veins from the kale leaves. This is necessary to insure a uniform dehydrating process.

(Before and after.)

Step Three: Massaging the “cheesy” mixture onto both sides of the cleaned kale leaves, insuring that the mixture is pressed into all of those tiny little veins and between the crinkles along the edges. See how professionally Joan does this.

See how inept Chuck and I look performing the same procedure. See Mike not in one of these photos.

Step Four: Placing the leaves on the dehydrator sheets allowing room between the leaves for adequate air flow.

Step Five: Enjoying the cheesy kale twenty-four hours later. These were amazing. If I hadn’t been a part (O.K., a small part) of the process, I would have sworn that the kale leaves had been coated with a mixture of parmesan cheese and red bell pepper. The pureed cashews and the nutritional yeast when mixed and dried had the nutty flavor reminiscent of good Italian hard cheese.

It’s our final night in Billings, and Joan and Mike pulled out all the stops. Dinner that night began with the kale and another round of Mike’s Long Island Ice Teas. And then it was time for the main event – a wonderful Caribbean-inspired dish of chicken breasts that had been seasoned and baked until moist and tender. These were served over split baked sweet potatoes. The assemblage was covered with a slightly sweet flavor from chopped mango and potatoes and a slightly tangy and spicy flavor from the tomatoes, peppers, and seasonings.

Served with the chicken was a light and refreshing side salad of greens, tomatoes, straw-berries, and jicama.

And for dessert, wonderful baked apples that Joan had stuffed with nuts and raisins and served with their baking juices.

The memory of this meal, along with the Bodacious Buffalo Burgers, Curry Lime Chicken Salad, and Sizzling Steakhouse T-bone Steaks, will stay with us until we return again to Billings. You read that right, Mike and Joan. We’ll be back. Back for more of your 5.0 Addie hospitality, 5.0 Addie meals, and, especially, your 5.0 Addie friendship.

And as the sun sank slowly in the West . . . . We viewed this sunset from Mike and Joan's backyard, said our good-byes, and headed back to our home on wheels.

And prepared to leave for Canada.

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