Lettuce is not only green good in salad

Published 12:18 am Saturday, March 2, 2013

We have been eating in New Orleans (again) and really like Cochon, which I have mentioned before. I was happy to see it listed as one of the 20 most important restaurants in America by ‘bon appétit’ in their March 2013 issue. They did not choose their restaurants by the fanciest, trendiest, or even the ones with the most stars. These places define how we eat out. These are the restaurants that matter right now.

Cochon’s food is innovative and inspiring. Every time I go I am impressed with their new ways with salads. Their roasted oysters and fried boudin are excellent, but then there is stuffed pig’s foot and rabbit and dumplings for an unusual twist to the menu. Cochon has been open for seven years in the Warehouse District in New Orleans, and Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski have made their mark with playing with all the nasty bits of Nose-to-Tail cooking.

Link is from south Louisiana. He cooked for a while in San Francisco but came back to New Orleans in 2000 to open Herbsaint with Susan Spicer of Bayona’s. It is not my favorite of his restaurants. I prefer Cochon and also like Butcher which serves a bar menu and sandwiches. Link won the James Beard’s Best Chef South in 2007, and Cochon was nominated for Best New Restaurant. In 2012, Link was nominated for outstanding chef. And his first cookbook, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana, won for Best American Cookbook.

I really liked a raw sliced zucchini salad I had there a couple years ago and have added it to my repertoire. (See my Sept. 10, 2011, column.) Speaking of the salads – I had a kale salad on my last visit to Cochon and it was so wonderful. I really hadn’t thought of using raw kale in a salad. Kale is in season now, from November to March and all the cooking magazines have recipes for it cooked or steamed and it seems to be the green of the moment.

Kale has all kinds of health benefits. It can provide you with some cholesterol-lowering benefits and more benefits if you steam for 5 minutes. Kale also has risk-lowering benefits for cancers and this now includes five different types of cancer. Researchers have identified 45 different flavonoids in kale with koempferol and quercetin heading the list. Kale’s flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

I have grown kale in the garden but not really well. My best greens are collards along with turnip greens and mustard. But I shall try again. I have added this kale salad to my repertoire. We have had it numerous times since discovering it. I think it a great hearty salad for the winter. So come fall, I shall plant kale again and try harder.

This is my version of the kale salad from Cochon.


Kale Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

1 bunch of kale (you can use the curly type)

4 oz. of feta cheese (crumbled)

1 shallot (chopped fine)

2 sprigs of tarragon (chopped) (A little tarragon goes a long way.)

1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (could use lemon juice)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Tear the kale from its stem and chop into thin strips. (Cochon really chops thin.) Take the feta cheese and mash into the chopped kale so the leaves are coated with the cheese.

Mix in a small bowl the shallot, mustard, vinegar, tarragon and olive oil. Mix and let sit for at least five minutes so the flavors mesh.

Pour the dressing over the feta and kale mixture and mix carefully.

Serve immediately.

I initially bought some tarragon for the dressing since it grows very poorly in our climate. I did the salad so many times I ran out of the tarragon so I have been doing the salad without – still very good but try it first with the tarragon.

Even if you do not try this salad, try and include kale in your weekly meal planning. Just sautéing with some olive oil for a few minutes will help in adding some good nutrition to your meals.