Sweet, Spicy, Savory Kale Salad

kale salad
Organic Kale with Dried Cherries & Shirataki Noodles
Garlicky Chili Lime Dressing

I’m not usually a fan of those free food samples at the supermarket. Seen too many “grazers” with poor manners and questionable hygiene, I suppose. But every once in a while, when there is a conscientious host passing out tastes of a unique offering, I might give it a try, as was the case this past weekend at Whole Foods.

A charming older woman was enthusiastically portioning out little cups of this interesting raw kale salad. It turned out to be an outrageous combination of flavors and textures, so fresh and bright, with an unexpected umami note. I put a bag of her shirataki noodles in my cart, and went home to create a salad inspired by that sample.

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Tuscan Kale Soup with Artichoke & Chicken Sausage

tuscan kale soup
Tuscan Kale Soup
Artichoke Hearts & Chicken Sausage
Chicken Broth with Flavored with Fennel Seed & Red Chile Flakes
Served with Toasted Ciabatta

Back in January, a recipe for “Italian Chicken Sausage and Artichoke Soup with Chard” in Sunset magazine caught my interest. Over the past months I’ve added onion, garlic, fennel seed, and red chile flake to the original recipe. And sometimes substitute kale for chard. My procedure is quick and easy, and the synergistic result far exceeds the expectation of boxed chicken broth and canned artichoke hearts.

In less than a half hour, this soup is on the table. I’ve served it as an everyday meal, as a starter to a rustic dinner topped with ricotta salata, and as an elegant first course. This year my Thanksgiving menu has a lighter aura, so this Tuscan Kale Soup will replace the heavier puréed soups of the past.

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Mushroom, Barley, Kale, Carrot

Mushroom, Barley, Kale, Carrot in a Rich Roasted Turkey Stock

The weekend after Thanksgiving is always bittersweet: memories of a magical week spent with family mix with a bit of sadness that we won’t be seeing each other for a while. Over the past few years it has become a ritual to make a comforting soup with the rich turkey stock while I wash piles of sheets and towels, store all the huge pots & platters, and put away the turkey decorations including “Albuquerque the Turkey” and “Plymouth Rock” until next year.

See ya next year Albuquerque!

The stock was made by simmering the turkey carcass in filtered water with rough chopped carrot, onion, celery, and a couple bay leaves. Two and a half hours later, the stock was strained, cooled, and refrigerated over night.

Remove any fat from the stock then add rinsed pearl barley and cook until the barley is al dente, about 45 minutes to one hour. Meanwhile sauté sliced mushrooms in olive oil with thyme until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, sauté 2 parts sliced carrot with 1 part each diced onion and celery in olive oil with some minced rosemary until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables to the barley soup and simmer another 15 minutes. Add torn pieces of Tuscan kale (center ribs removed) and simmer until the kale is tender. Adjust seasoning and serve with red pepper flakes on the side.

Since the kids have already left by the time I boil the carcass, I save this year’s wishbone for next year’s wish. I let it dry out then tuck it into a plastic baggie and store it with the rest of the turkey decorations, to come out at our next Thanksgiving meal.

Wishing you wonderful holiday memories…