It is quite heartening to realize kale, a healthy, wholesome vegetable, is currently enjoying a popular high at a time when lotsa and lotsa junk food is also on its own high. Many first heard about kale from the early TV days of Emeril when he frequently referred to a favorite dish, Portuguese Kale Soup. It is a delicious soup with savory sausage, garlic-laced potatoes, a touch of hot peppers and fresh kale added shortly before serving. From there, we’ve learned newer ways to take our kale, from roasted chips to minced salad greens.
This low-calorie, healthy food craze can grow with green or purple leaves, and it doesn’t like to grow in a rounded, layered head. Rather, each of it broad leaves tend to cluster unto itself, away from its strong stem. It has cousins in its line from the families of broccoli, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.
As a member of the cabbage family and available year ‘round, kale comes in a curly variety which is deep green, an ornamental one which can have lighter green leaves, along with white or purple ones. Then, there is dinosaur or Lacinto Tuscan kale with leaves showing a bluish-green cast.
Its ancestor, cabbage, originated in Asia and arrived in Europe around 600 BCE. It was important to early European nutrition and gradually spread to the Romans, then the English, then over the pond to the New World. Dinosaur kale was discovered much later in Italy, and Ornamental kale was originally a decorative garden item and developed quite recently in California.
All kale is rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, lutein, potassium, iron and calcium. It is also a valued source of beta carotene and sulforaphane.
A word of warning, however, kale contains measurable amounts of oxalates which can overwhelm some peoples’ livers or kidneys. Therefore, because kale is generally very good for you, eating constant, large amounts of it may not be wise.
Kale should look brisk and perky in the store and not be displayed in a warm place. Its leaves need to be deeply colored and stems vigorous, large at the base, blending into the leave near the top. Never buy kale which has yellowed or have tiny holes in the leaves. Smaller leaves tend to be milder in flavor.
Never wash kale until ready to use it. Store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and it will keep for several days.
When preparing kale cut the outer leaf away from its base where the stalk is heaviest. Further up the stem, it is tinier, more tender and okay for eating.
Kale leaves, once removed from the stalk, can be torn or cut, julienne-style, with a knife.
Kale can be cooked by slow simmer, sautéing, blanching, steaming or microwaving. Unless you want the stewed-down, Southern greens, kale should be cooked minimally, for it can be eaten raw. Frequently julienned strips can be placed in the base of a large soup bowl uncooked, and the hot soup ladeled over it. It gets “cooked” but ever so slightly.
Kale is tasty with these additional ingredients.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Coconut milk
- Feta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Pine nuts
- Roast as kale chips
- Stir frying
- Sweet potatoes
Below are foodsites which feature kale recipes.