Three Very Good Things: A Fennel Salad, Not Enough Kale, and Pedal-Powered Chocolate

I am writing this installment of the Three Very Good Things series from Canada, where I’ve been for a week now, as the Gastronomic Writer in Residence for the Stratford Chefs School. I’m having a wonderful time, the weather is unseasonably balmy, squirrels are running around everywhere, and I am eating very well. Here are a few highlights from this past week:

~ A salad of shaved fennel, frisée, and slim artichoke wedges, topped with fresh herbs and crispy prosciutto.

This exceptionally well-balanced and well-dressed salad was served at the “restaurant lab”, where second-year students of the chef school cook and serve dinner every weeknight. It was served as an appetizer-sized portion, but I could have eaten a bucket of it.

~ Kale, kale, and more kale. Kale is an elusive ingredient in France: it is grown essentially as an ornamental plant (I’m told the name is chou vert demi-nain) and not commonly sold as a vegetable. So I took the opportunity of being in Canada, and having access to a well-equipped kitchen in Stratford, to get organic dino kale from The Gentle Rain, the local health food store.

I turned to twitter to hear your best kale ideas, and from the outpouring of responses, I think it’s safe to say that kale is much loved in Twitterland.

I ended up making kale chips, which had always intrigued me in a how-can-this-possibly-work sort of way, and was blown away, as so many cooks before me: you wash and dry the kale, slice off and discard the spines, cut the leaves into bite-size pieces, dress them with a touch of olive oil and some salt (I kinda overdid it with the salt, so beware), spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about ten minutes at 175°C / 350°F, until lightly golden. The resulting chips are thinly crisp, with a flavor halfway between potato chips and popcorn, and really: they are blow-away material.

The rest of my kale I sautéed in olive oil with some garlic, tossed with spelt pasta (from Maria’s Home Made Noodles in Toronto) and sheep’s milk ricotta (from Shepherd Gourmet Dairy in Southern Ontario), and showered generously with freshly ground black pepper. (I’m getting more kale later this week, for my kale hunger is nowhere near sated.)

~ Pedal-powered chocolate. I got a bar of Chocosol raw chocolate from Revel Caffe in Stratford, and the woman who sold it to me explained that it is made by a Toronto-based, bean-to-bar, eco-conscious chocolate company that sources cacao beans from southern Mexico through what they call “horizontal trade,” and uses pedal-powered stone grinders to process them.

The bar I got is called Hemp Gold: it is a dark chocolate studded with hemp seeds, sweetened with maple butter, and lightly seasoned with sea salt. It is very good.

(More information on, and photos of, the Chocosol operation can be found here; from what I understand, their chocolates are sold chiefly at local farmers markets.)

  • Janet

    Hey, you are in my neighbourhood! I live near Stratford. I did my initial chef training at Stratford – which was before they had the writer in residence program. How are your writing classes going there – what are you teaching, and are the students keen on this aspect of their training? Are you able to observe any of the cooking labs in the restaurant kitchens? How long are you at the chef school teaching?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m there for two weeks, working with the students on writing assignments and helping them understand how to craft stories around their food experiences, background, inspirations, etc. The students are wonderfully responsive and engaged, and it’s a real pleasure to work with them. I am also able to attend a few of the cooking classes, which is a treat in and of itself!

  • http://www.lericettedellamorevero.com/ Claudia Annie

    caspita che piatti golosi! complimenti, un bacio e buona domenica!

  • Allison

    I spend long spans of time in France for work, and I always miss kale! It’s one of the first things I purchase at the grocery store upon my return. That said, I am currently missing French cheese, especially Beaufort. Merci pour un excellent blog et bonne continuation!

  • http://hppt://flavourfoodandwine.wordpress.com Elaina Samardzija

    I completely agree with you on the Kale Chips. I just made them for the first time this weekend and was shocked at how ridiculously delicious they were!! So I was thrilled to see your post on it as well :) Enjoy your time in Canada, we’re happy to have you!

  • http://todrownarose.blogs.com rose

    I suspect kale to be what is called «cavolo nero» in Tuscany – if so, a nice soup with your favourite pulses is definitely in order!

  • Susan

    On my regular trips to Paris I always try to leave room in my carryon for a big bunch of dinosaur kale. It’s surprisingly sturdy, and I don’t think there are restrictions on bringing plant matter into the country (there is with meat).

  • Alexis

    Kale chips are amazing! (and they were what convinced my kids to eat kale). We seem to have an abundance of kale in southern Ontario this year.Hope your enjoy your stay in Canada – fall is a great season for eating here. Enjoy the glorious weekend weather (trust me – November isn’t always like this!)

  • Djuana

    Crispy kale on the grill dressed with olive oil, salt, (watch the salt on this preparation as well) and pepper takes the flavor to a whole new level, so if you have not tried that version please consider it before you leave Canada.

  • http://thegreedyfork.blogspot.com Gary @ The Greedy Fork

    I first tried fennel in a salad with bresola and egg ribons. Was sure if I liked it or not because I’m not a fan of the aniseed flavour.

    And, in response to one of the other comments, I’d always thought that kale and cavolo nero were too different, but similar, types of the cabbage family.

  • prilla

    Easy fix for a kale shortage … take back some seeds for Tuscan Kale (Cavolo Nero) and grow them on your balcony. The pot doesn’t have to be too deep, the plants grow easily, and you can pick the outer leaves and let the rest keep growing.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the gardening tip, I will definitely try that in the spring!

  • http://www.blog.parispaysanne.com Emily

    I too am a fan of Kale- I’ve planted some seeds on my Parisian balcony- if they grow well I’ll hook you up with some home grown sprouts!

    I’m definitely going to try making kale chips- thanks for the recipe!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thank you Emily, I would love that!

  • http://skinnyfatgirls.com/ Becky @ Skinnyfat Girls

    The salad sounds divine! Shaved fennel…artichoke wedges…oh, heaven. And I’m in complete agreement about there never being enough kale. Recently I had friends mocking and voicing their disgust at my favorite leafy green friend, so it’s nice to be reassured that others value it as much as I do!

  • http://bakersnook.wordpress.com/ Melanie

    Kale is also a hard to find ingredient here in Japan–so elusive, in fact, that I haven’t once come across it in all my grocery store travels! I’ve been missing its wonderful dark green color and slightly bitter, tangy taste very much. Back at home I could eat garlicky satueed kale all day every day :)

  • Adele

    We got tons of kale in our farm share this year, and though it’s hard to believe, it really is possible to experience kale overload.

    Kale is terrific as the main attraction in a salad. Wash well, then massage coarse salt into the leaves (I kid you not) for a few minutes, then rinse well again and dry. Shred or tear into bite-size pieces. I like to add some thinly sliced red onion, slivers of apple and a handful of currants. Dress with a light or neutral oil (extra virgin olive oil tastes too heavy) and lemon juice, sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar. A squirt of honey or maple syrup adds a nice touch of sweetness and a pinch of cayenne pepper is great, too.

    Enjoy the rest of your adventure in Canada!

  • Jerry

    Glad you are enjoying your trip to Canada so far. After you have experienced the markets in Toronto, etc I am curious what you will decide to bring home with you to Paris from Canada food wise….

  • http://sharingourfoodadventures.com Astrid

    Living in Yorkshire(but holidaying in Tuscany) I have great success in growing Cavolo Nero (Kale) and its pretty sister, the deep pink Redbor. They grow brilliantly in big pots, throughout winter, and look great on a patio (although I’ve got a Kitchen Garden, lucky me). Just written an article on Kale on website, and about to write loads of recipes using it. Love the site, and also would love to go to Canada – just found 4 families I am related to!! Enjoy your trip.

  • http://www.threecleversisters.com Sara

    How funny about kale in France–when we travelled to Florence, I learned it was one of Tuscany’s favorite vegetable (and it then became on of my favorites too).

  • http://www.milsabores.net Maria Luisa

    I want your book “Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris”. I’m wondering if you’re going to publish it in Spanish any time soon…

    Best regards from Venezuela,

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      There are no plans to publish the book in Spanish for now, but perhaps you can order the English version from Venezuela?

  • http://www.kulinarnawyspa.pl Moje Desery

    The salad looks tasty. The chocolate intrigued me a little bit too. I must research it further. ;-) Have a good trip back home.

  • Georgia

    I was so wowed by your description of the Hemp Gold bar that I asked friends if they were in Toronto or traveling there soon to buy a bar for me.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Hope you like it!

  • http://thepedestriancooks.wordpress.com Valerie

    Kale chips are a surprising winner! They’re so simple and it’s unbelievable how nutritious a crispy cousin to the potato chip can be.

    Excited to have you in Canada. I’ll be attending your talk on food blogging in Toronto! As a fellow food blogger, definitely looking forward to it :-)

  • http://design-writer.ca Elsa

    Chocosol is a great little enterprise. They will also deliver (by bike in Toronto) if you put together a substantial enough order. I got 50 truffles and 2 kgs of assorted chocolate bars for a recent party (which turned out to be a ridiculously large amount – way too much for the party, but it kept me and my friends in chocolate for a few months after).

    Enjoy your trip to Canada! Get in touch if you need any tips for Toronto!

    • Jerry

      Yeah, Chocosol is a good recommendation. They also sell it at a few stores like About Cheese on Church Street.

      BTW, it was great hearing you speak last night at George Brown. I am amazed by the quality of your English. I have french friends who are translators and linguists, and you English is better than theirs!

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

        Thanks a lot, Jerry, I’m glad you enjoyed the talk!

  • Susan

    Greetings from this Canadian in Paris to you, The Frenchwoman in Stratford.

    Balmy weather in Stratford sounds lovely – lucky you.

    It seems I have some new goodies to check out the next time I’m back across the pond. I’ve had lots of root veggie chips before but I never thought of using kale. And maple syrup with chocolate! Yum.

    Enjoy the rest of your visit. :)

  • Eleanor

    Stratford and its chef students are in withdrawal or “post-Clotilde” state after two wonderful weeks of immersion into getting one’s food memories, passions, ideas down on the page / screen. We miss you Clotilde, thank you for sharing your talents with us in Stratford & Toronto!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thank you Eleanor, that means a lot! It’s been such a wonderful experience for me too.

  • Andie

    It’s best to salt the kale after you’ve baked it. You’ll have less problems with it being overly salty. I don’t usually like nutritional yeast, but on kale chips, the flavors combine to make something amazing… You’ll have to try it!

  • http://easelarts.blogspot.com/ Eileen

    And now ideas for kale! We get this with almost every organic home delivery this time of year and I never thought of kale chips. I did once almost achieve that. I did a pasta bake dish with kale and cheese and the kale got crispy on top which I rather liked!

    I think I bought your book in Paris at Shakespeare in Company. I read through it before each visit.

  • gluhtzee

    Clotide,
    i remain fascinated and amazed ow C%Z has evolved and grown, so this drop in the ocean response is merely a suggestion for your next visit to Spadina/Baldwin Street in Toronto, get Kenny of Xam Yu to recommend three or four of his daily specials from the Blackboard on the Northern wall. his seafoods are amazing. Meegwetch

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Cheryl

    Clotilde,

    You may already have this–but my favorite way of eating kale is sauteed garlic & ginger, add sliced/diced kale (incl. spines) to steam, add flax seeds and 1/2 cup peanut butter, soy sauce and honey to taste. Serve w/brown rice and it’s delish!

    Thank you for all your inspiration….
    Cheryl, a fan on Cape Cod (MA)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That sounds wonderful, thank you!

  • Zita

    Oh Clotide! You have confirmed my fears – kale is indeed elusive here in Paris. I am a Canadian moved here a couple of months ago and I’ve been scouring markets in search of my beloved vegetable. I have found some leafy greens – bette à cardes is the closest I get. Have you seen it anywhere since your return? Glad you enjoyed your visit to Canada.

  • Svetlana

    I live in New Jersey (Northern US by the New York City) and I grow Kale in my pot outside my window almost year round. So far they have survived our snows and 20 degree weather.
    Hope that helps.

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