For the Love of Kale: Part I

The vegan overstatement of the decade: We Love Kale.

We love kale so much, t-shirts have been created to honor kale's superior live-saving superhero qualities! And everyone knows that if something's printed on a t-shirt, it is the truth.

Kale's easily my favorite leafy green vegetable and is chock full of some of the most beneficial vitamins and nutrients known to humanity: antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, beta carotene, vitamins C and K to name a few. Kale's bitter-sweet leaves fare well under an assortment of cooking techniques, making it the ideal addition to just about everything (except for cake, maybe); you can steam, saute, broil, braise, bake and blend it!

 Sweet Sesame-Miso Tofu with Sauteed Shiitakes and Kale

Kale doesn't have a regional preference, and works well in a wide range of foreign feasts. Why, just the other day I added Kale to my latest Asian-inspired meal! After sauteeing some juicy shiitake mushrooms, in went the kale with a couple of tablespoons of mushroom broth (or water) and on went the lid. In no time, the kale leaves were wilted without being mushy. They had absorbed a lot of the mushroom broth and juices, resulting in what can only be described as delicious.

Sweet Sesame-Miso Tofu with Sauteed Shiitakes and Kale
Serves 4

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced into large triangles
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
water for thinning, 1 teaspoon at a time
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 medium shiitake mushrooms, slices
1 medium bunch of kale (I used red Russian variety)
3 tablespoons mushroom broth, or water
cooked white or brown rice, enough for four (1/2 to 1 cup per person)

For the sauce:
1 cup water
3 tablespoons miso paste (I like red, but a mellower version would also work)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Mix the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, brown rice syrup and water (if necessary) in a shallow dish. Place tofu slices in marinade and let absorb for atleast half an hour, flipping half way through. Once tofu is marinated, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add tofu. Cook for 7 minutes or until brown and lightly crispy. Flip tofu and cook another five minutes, until brown and crispy. Set aside.

Heat toasted sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet. Remove kale leaves from stems and roughly chop into bit-sized pieces, set aside. Chop kale stems into 1/4 inch pieces and add to hot oil. Sautee for 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Sautee for another minute, careful not to burn the garlic. Add the shiitake mushrooms, stir and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes. Once mushrooms are tender, add the kale and mushroom broth. Cover skillet with fitted lid and allow kale to steam for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, add all the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until sauce has thickened.

To plate, scoop rice into a wide bowl and top with vegetables and tofu. Drizzle as much sauce as you like and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.