Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Monday, 16 January 2012

What to Eat after a Wedding Feast

It is not uncommon to take a few days to recover one's appetite after indulging in a wedding feast.

In the jubilant spirit of mingling and merry-making –– seeing old relatives all grown up, and old friends all dressed up, and in my case, a whole lot of new people –– one eats and drinks freely and unhurriedly.  Restraint is exercised only in the interest of having sufficient stomach-space to enjoy everything brought to the table ... being sure to save room for the cake.  And why should there be any reason to refrain, especially when there are such delightful options available?  Beginning around noon, the guests were entertained with fat bacon wrapped scallops, dainty cubes of butternut squash topped with dollops of arugula pesto, and balls of coarsely chopped root vegetables encased in a breadcrumb crust, fried lightly enough that each one melted in the mouth and left but a touch of sweet oil on the thumb and the forefinger.

For Philip Miller, vegetable
cultivation was no laughing matter:
The cover of "The Gardener's Dictionary"
These gastronomical amusements, of course, constituted a mere fraction of the sundry wedding appetizers served.  And let it be known, voracious reader, that the main fare was equal if not superior in flavor to the above-mentioned dainties, even though I have neither the time nor the space to describe them all.

But what might one like to eat after such a feast (and two slices of rich pumpkin cake frosted with three layers of buttercream)?  Reader, I wanted a kale salad.

Were such concoctions available in 18th century Britain, I wondered?  (I admit that I often wonder about such things.)  It is likely that they were; the chief gardener to the Chelsea Physic Garden, Philip Miller, listed six of them in his chef d'oeuvre of 1731: The Gardener's Dictionary.  (Actually, he admitted that there were many additional varieties in existence, but claimed that they are not "cultivated for culinary use, being fit only for ornament or curiosity.")  However, he seemed to value kale (which he called borecole) primarily for its hardiness in bad weather rather than for its flavor, although he had some nice things to say about the Buda, or the "Russian Kail."

Lacking a bona fide historical recipe, I considered my 21st century options.  Perhaps I could replicate the blanched Lacinato conception (dressed with a blend of olive oil, lemon, dijon mustard and all the fresh rosemary and thyme I had on hand at the time) that I had tinkered with the week before?
Attempt #1: Blanched Kale and Shaved Parmesan
But there are many ways to love a kale salad, and last night I desired nothing but the one I had tasted for the first time at the rehearsal dinner.  The kale was served completely raw, but was chopped so finely that its texture –– light and ethereal –– betrayed none of the kale's natural fibrousness.  Sort of like tabouleh.
At Last: Travel-Weary and Salad-Happy 
"Before and After a Wedding" Kale Salad
- Lightly toast one cup of quinoa in olive oil over medium heat, and cook through (making sure to retain a little crunch).  Add generous amounts of parmesan cheese and a little olive oil and mix it up.
- Remove the stems of a large bunch of red kale, and chop very finely.  Do the same thing with half of a (large) bunch of Italian parsley.  Toss around in a bowl, and add a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, one or two garlic cloves, and about a tablespoon of lemon juice (and a little zest if you like).  Add the quinoa and mix it up again.
- Cook a handful of pumpkin seeds in some olive oil and add to the salad, along with some dried currants and more parmesan cheese.  

The whole thing takes about 20 minutes and 90% of the work is in the kale and parsley chopping.  It's hearty enough that the salad can be a dinner on its own if you wish, but it is particularly tasty when complemented with beer and pizza.