Many varieties of beautiful green vegetables become available in the late spring and early summer. Often, the issue with these vegetables is that they can be bitter, overwhelmingly so if not handled properly.
To manage the bitterness, we can borrow a simple technique from classic Chinese cuisine. It involves quickly boiling the greens in salted water, adding a pungent sauce, and then pouring hot oil over the sauce to gently cook and aromatize the vegetables. There are multiple reasons this works so well. The quick boil removes some of the bitter flavor. And since the vegetables aren’t sliced, the cell walls aren’t damaged, which also limits the release of bitter flavors. Lastly, the pungent sauce and hot oil release sweet and spicy flavors that balance out any remaining bitterness.
KALE AND SHREDDED CARROT
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 pounds kale (lacinato kale or baby kale is best — Chinese kale, AKA Chinese broccoli, is great as well)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons salt
1 large carrot, grated/shredded
2 large chile peppers, diced (Fresno or serrano are best)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon sugar
Fill a large stockpot with 4 quarts of water, 4 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, combine the grated/shredded carrots, diced chile pepper, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.
Add the kale whole to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes — if you choose to use Chinese kale, increase the cooking time to 4 minutes. Remove and strain thoroughly. Place in a large serving bowl.
Top the kale with the chile pepper and fish sauce mixture.
In a small saucepot, add the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat just until there is a wisp of smoke. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully pour the vegetable oil on top of the kale. Mix thoroughly and top with peanuts.
This is a flavorful warm salad that is a fantastic meal and a wonderful side dish.