In Season: Brussels Sprouts with guest illustrations by Jessie Kanelos Weiner

I'm very pleased to feature Jessie Kanelos Weiner's beautiful illustrations in this week's In Season. Jessie's blog, thefrancofly.com is an illustrated journal of her French adventures in her adopted home. The blog is a series of visual and culinary delights that document Jessie's daily life, her experiences as an illustrator and food stylist, and the beauty and charm that Paris has to offer. Illustration by Jessie Kanelos Weiner, thefrancofly.com

What I particularly love about Jessie's illustrations is the way she captures the beauty of a simple market scene or seasonal vegetable. I'm honored that Jessie was kind enough to share a sampling of her lovely tributes to simple, seasonal produce with us this month. If you love Jessie's work as much as I do and want to see more, be sure to become a fan of thefrancofly.com on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and visit her Pinterest page.

Illustration by Jessie Kanelos Weiner, thefrancofly.com

This week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving and American expats in Paris didn't miss a beat, declaring a day of thanks whenever it would fit in to their holiday-free French week. Celebrations were held on the weekends before and after as well as throughout the week- extended this cherished holiday over a prolonged period of food-filled time.

I participated in two Thanksgiving dinners- a festive gathering of 30 plus people and then a more intimate dinner with friends. For both, I volunteered to make brussels sprouts, because they are the best vegetable.

Illustration by Jessie Kanelos Weiner, thefrancofly.com

Okay, maybe there's no sense in getting superlative about vegetables, and one thing I love about writing this blog is seeing how excited readers get about different vegetables at the markets (Can I see a show of hands, Leek Geeks?), but brussels sprouts are truly among my favorite vegetables and, given their reception at holiday tables, it seems I'm not alone.

This simple recipe embraces the brussels sprout's flavor paired with roasted walnuts and adds a touch of Thanksgiving with the addition of dried cranberries, which I found at my local coop.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

3 cups brussels sprouts, washed and halved

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 tbsps olive oil

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Set oven to broil and heat to 350° F (200°C)
  2. Arrange brussels sprouts and walnuts in a baking dish. Cover and brush with olive oil and add a dash of salt and pepper. Place on top rack of the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Add dried cranberries and roast another 5-10 minutes, until brussels sprouts are golden and the outer leaves are slightly crispy.
  4. Serve hot, as a side dish or as a main with couscous.

Guest Post: In Season with Kristen from The Kale Project

Kale Spotted! Kale can now be found in a number of Paris markets. I first met Kristen over a year ago when she reached out to me to participate in her For the Love of Kale series. That was almost a year and a half ago. Since then, our friendship has grown and enriched my life and The Kale Project has flourished and touched many people, kale lovers and kale newbies alike, along the way.

I still remember our first meeting, when Kristen was diligently tracking down kale sightings and potential kale growers at the market, all with the goal of making the leafy green accessible to anyone who wanted it.

Kristen with a fresh harvest of kale from "Madame Mustard's" Ile-de-France garden.

Since then, Kristen has developed an ever-expanding map of where to find kale in France and has worked with local, organic growers in a partnership that exemplifies the spirit of the locavore movement.

Not even two years in to her kaleventure, Kristen is able to say with certainty that kale is now officially in season in France!

Congratulations Kristen on this impressive feat and happy kale hunting to everyone!

**** one of many kale varieties

********************************************************************************************************************

Enfin, kale is back. After almost six kale-less months, the Queen of leafy-greens has been spotted again and this year in more markets, organic stores and now even in towns outside of Paris.

While kale is back in-season in France, I'd like to talk a little about kale and seasonality. I’m pro eating seasonal vegetables. I won’t buy tomatoes in the winter (much to my husband’s cravings for tomato and mozzarella salads) and will not buy peppers until I start to see that they are grown locally. The same goes for a variety of vegetables and fruits. I was raised with the knowledge that you should eat cold-weather foods when it is cold (like squash and root vegetables) and warm-weather foods when it’s warm (like salads, zucchini and cucumbers).

 Yet kale is something that pretty much grows and survives all year-round, which is what I grew up with in my parent’s garden. They plant a new crop of kale in the spring and we have it through most of the winter so I ate kale almost year-round.

 Across the pond in the Old World, cabbage is traditionally considered a cold-weather vegetable since it is one of the few that can resist cold temperatures and frost. Did you know that the first frost actually makes the taste of kale a little bit sweeter? In fact in the Netherlands, they will only eat kale after the first frost and never before.

A kale crop in °°°

 So when the majority of French farmers – minus Madame Mustard – told me that there would not be any kale between April to September, I was disappointed but understood their reasoning (even though I don’t like it!) Just remember that kale doesn’t need to be seasonal but it is in France so let’s take extra advantage of the wonderful kale season we’re given.

If you do find yourself buying kale somewhere, there is a little secret that some of you may already know but if not it’s the key to the Perfect Kale Salad.

The Kale Massage.

Yes, this action requires capitalization. It’s that important. Kale is naturally a tough leafy-green and that is why it is so chock full of fiber (which most of us do not get enough of each day). That is also why massaging kale takes the raw kale salad from something people might think a crazy person eats to the favorite dish at a dinner party.

Nicolas Thirard's Picardy-grown kale

As kale is a highly alkaline vegetable, it has the perfect base taste for adding whatever flavors and ingredients you want. You can choose to massage your kale with the basics like olive oil and lemon juice. Sometimes I opt for lime juice. Or sometimes a tahini, tamari and ginger mix. For a group of kale-virgins, I do a simple but delicious kale Caesar salad.

Once the kale is dressed, the fun begins. I don’t worry about getting my hands dirty, dig-in and massage the kale, avec amour bien sûr. Finger-knead the chopped greens breaking down the fibrous leaves, marinating as you go.

Kale never fails to take care of me, cleansing my blood with each bite and providing the detoxification and antioxidants I need to stay healthy. It keeps my bones strong with more calcium than a glass of milk. And if I have a day where I do not want to eat meat, I know kale will give me the iron I need.

The least I can do is give my kale a good massage in return.

*For more information on what kale is in French, read on.

*This post was adapted from a previous The Kale Project article from December 2011.

Kale + Baguette, together at last.

Kale-Virgin Caeser Salad

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale (many prefer the Tuscan variety for Caesar salads)

2 lemons (buy organic so you can use the zest as well)

3 garlic cloves

6 anchovies (finely chopped)

1 egg yolk

2 cups of olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Parmesan cheese (grated)

-De-stem & finely chop kale. Add to large bowl.

-Add all dressing ingredients into a jar with secure lid.

-Shake dressing until creamy.

-Add to salad and Kale Massage for 60 to 90 seconds.

-Add grated cheese on top (if desired).