If it were possible to inhale kale, Californians would be in to it. In just the few days we’ve been on holiday in Los Angeles I’ve seen this vegetable superhero served more ways than I thought possible – they put it in every blessed thing, from juices and shakes to salads, burgers, toasted snacks and fried egg sandwiches.
At the wonderful Wednesday farmer’s market in Santa Monica there’s also an abundance of the stuff, and varieties I’ve never seen before: curly, dinosaur, Russian and redbor just to name a few. The market’s been going since 1981, bringing urbanites and Californian producers together over gorgeous stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables. The produce is so good that lots of LA chefs come here to buy goodies for their restaurants. I love it because it’s affordable and unpretentious, and even by US standards, the choice is amazing.
My lot weren’t remotely interested in kale, preferring the heavenly-scented citrus stalls selling everything from pommellos to football-sized satsumas and manned by cheery producers passing out samples that went down well in the warm April sunshine.
It’s impossible not to want to cook with such amazing produce. I wasn’t going to win a popularity contest with kale, so I opted for a vibrant beetroot salad served with the leafy beetroot tops and some labneh, and dressed with a vinaigrette made with Myer lemons. I’ve never been able to find these lemons in the UK – they’re sweeter and much more favourful than standard lemons – and really do taste full of Californian sunshine.
Beetroot & labneh salad with Myer lemon dressing
About 3 each small red and golden beetroots, tops trimmed and reserved
A few tablespoons labneh (goat’s cheese, feta or buratta would also work well)
6 tablespoons mild olive oil
3 tablespoons Myer lemon juice (sherry vinegar is also good)
A squeeze of floral honey
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper
First put the beets on to cook. I boiled them (in salted water until tender, about 1 hour) simply because I didn’t have any foil to roast them. For the fullest flavour, drizzle them with oil, wrap them in foil and roast in a hot oven for about 1 hour, or until completely tender. Either way, cook them with the skins on and when they’re done and cool enough to handle, peel away the skins. They should slip off easily under cold running water. Chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.
While the beets are cooking, pick over the leafy green tops, discarding the tough stems. Wash in cold water, drain in a colander, then place in a pan with the lid on. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, shaking the pan now and then, until the leaves are tender. They will cook in just the water clinging to the leaves, so don’t add more.
Whisk together the olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, the garlic, honey and salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice, honey or salt and pepper to taste.
In a shallow serving dish gently combine the beets and beet tops with some of the dressing. Dot with spoonfuls of labneh and then drizzle over a little more dressing. Serve with some fresh sourdough or good quality bead. And a kale smoothie if you have one to hand.