by Jane Rodmell for All The Best Fine Foods, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter

As the new year begins, we at All The Best have strengthened our resolve to provide lots of new, interesting dishes for our customers. We’re always looking for foods that taste delicious , of course, but also foods that offer good nourishment and help us feel good too.

We know that as far as nutrition goes, fruits and vegetables provide huge benefits – they’re essential for maintaining good health and protecting against disease. We’re recommended to have 7 to 10 servings every day. This can be a challenge, especially during our Canadian winter, when fresh local produce is in short supply and popular imports can be expensive.  All The Best can help. You’ll find that our weekly menus are packed with tasty vegetable options. This month we include our spicy tofu and spinach curry, maple roasted squash, sautéed garlic rapini, sesame-glazed bok choy, a dynamite roasted butternut squash risotto with walnuts, curried beet and apple salad, kale braised with tomatoes… and more.

Dark green leafy kale is one of our favourite vegetables at this time of year. A simple pan-steaming with olive oil and garlic quickly wilts the vigorous greens while preserving their hearty texture and assertive flavour.  A slow braising of kale with additions of such flavourings as onions, garlic, pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes yields greens that are tender and milder in flavour. Chopped kale is a delicious addition to a hearty bean soup.

To tempt you into more healthy kale enjoyment, we include here a recipe for a tasty winter salad of beets and kale. This dish is part of the seasonal menu of Cava Restaurant in Toronto. Chef Chris McDonald, creator and owner of Cava, was kind enough to share his recipe with us.

Cava Roasted Beet Salad with Kale, Currants and Montforte Toscano Cheese
Fresh, crinkly, deep green leaves of Lacinato kale (also called black kale ,’cavolo nero’) are ideal for this salad.

For each serving:
11/2 ozs (40g) kale, well washed, trimmed and cut in fine slivers
1 tsp (5ml) finely chopped shallots
1 tsp (5ml) currants that have been plumped in caper brine
Honey Vinaigrette (see below)
4 ozs (125g) roasted, peeled beets, sliced
1 tbsp (15ml) coarsely grated Toscano cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine kale, shallots and currants. Drench with well-whisked vinaigrette. Allow to sit for 5 to 15 minutes to allow the vinaigrette to “cook” the kale.

In the mean time, drizzle beets with vinaigrette and arrange on individual plates or on a platter. With a slotted spoon or fork, lift kale and garnish out of the vinaigrette and distribute evenly over the beets. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the salad and serve.

Honey Vinaigrette
1 ¼ cup (300ml) extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup (175ml) red wine vinegar
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 pinches salt kosher salt
1-2 tbsp honey, to taste

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together until blended. Set aside. Store vinaigrette in a covered container in the refrigerator: it keeps indefinitely. Makes approx 3 cups (750ml)

Tip: To trim kale, place each curly leaf flat on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, slice down on both sides of the stalk and central rib with a sharp knife. Or fold leaf in half and rip out the stalk and central rib. Discard. Roll up the leaf. Cut across the grain into fine slivers (chiffonade).

Stay well and all the best for 2012,