Eat More Kale!
December 3, 2008 32 Comments
It’s Works-for-Me Wednesday!
Kale is an affordable, nutritious vegetable that many people know only as the garnish on restaurant plates–and based on my experience washing dishes in a restaurant, 99% of people receiving a kale garnish don’t eat it. I grew up knowing kale as a notorious vegetable used by my maternal grandmother’s family, seasoned with cloves and cayenne pepper and cooked “until the wallpaper peels,” to frighten away people unworthy of joining our family.
Then we got a farm share, which has blessed us with approximately 7 pounds of kale a year since 2000, and I started to figure out new ways of eating kale. Now it’s a staple of our diet, and I actually buy it on purpose when we run out of frozen kale in the late winter! Kale is quite low in oxalic acid, an acid which can inhibit your absorption of minerals from food and can aggravate kidney stones. (Spinach has much more oxalic acid.) Kale is very high in Vitamin K, which is good for most people but can be dangerous to people with excessive blood clotting. It’s also got a lot of Vitamins A and C, manganese, and copper.
Fresh kale can be eaten all by itself or dipped in salad dressing or hummus, if you like it. I personally find it too chewy. I learned that many kids like it, though, when I was an assistant Brownie leader: One of our troop members had visited a restaurant, eaten her garnish, and loved it, so she asked her parents to get her more of that. When it was her turn to bring the snack for a troop meeting, she brought a pound of raw kale, and it was devoured rapidly!
Fresh kale works well in a mixed greens salad.
Add a few leaves of kale to a batch of coleslaw. It livens up the appearance, as well as having different vitamins than cabbage.
Once you’ve used as much as you want to use fresh, here’s how to freeze kale: Wash it and roll it up in towels to dry it as much as possible. Remove the thickest part of the stems. Chop leaves into small pieces. (I usually pile them on the cutting board, chop with a large knife in many parallel cuts from one side to the other, chop again perpendicular to the first set of cuts, then rearrange the pile so remaining big pieces are in the middle and chop again. For a big batch, the food processor’s slicer attachment does a nice job.) Put into a plastic bag the amount of kale you’ll use in one recipe–for me, that’s about 1 cup, but if you have a larger family you may use a larger amount. Pack kale tightly into corners of bag, then roll the bag and squeeze out all the air. Zip top of bag all but 1 inch, use your mouth to suck out remaining air, then seal completely; if your bags don’t have zip-tops, close with a twist-tie. Put all the small bags into a larger outer bag and remove air from it. I’m convinced that double-bagging helps prevent freezer burn.
Kale frozen this way cooks quickly even if you don’t thaw it in advance. Just smack the bag against the counter or crunch it with your hands to break up the frozen kale into small chunks, and then press them against the pan with the spoon to break them apart.
All the following ideas work with either fresh or frozen kale:
Add it to prepared spaghetti sauce. You can just mix it into the sauce while heating, or if you prefer the kale thoroughly cooked, saute it in a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot before adding the sauce. Kale is a great ingredient when you make spaghetti sauce from scratch.
Add it to pretty much any soup you’re making from scratch or heating up from a can. I like to saute the kale and 1 or 2 cloves crushed garlic in olive oil just until kale is thawed, then add a can of cream-of-mushroom soup, a can-full of milk, a pinch of rosemary, and a pinch of white pepper.
Cook it with ramen noodles. If you put frozen kale into the water while you’re waiting for it to boil, it’ll take a little longer to boil, but the kale will be pretty well cooked by the time the noodles are done–quick and easy!
Saute kale with garlic or onion in olive oil, with a little oregano and black pepper if you like, and:
- serve over pasta with diced tomato.
- fill a baked potato and top with grated cheese or nutritional yeast flakes.
- add a couple eggs and scramble it, or use it as an omelet filling.
Cook it in the oil for Improved Pasta Salad.
Sneak it into Honey Baked Lentils along with 1/4 cup extra water.
Finally, my favorite new kale idea: crispy kale topping for Potato-Turnip Thing or similar baked savory dishes! If using frozen kale, heat it in a pan, stirring constantly, to remove excess moisture. If using fresh kale, just shred it. Mix up some seasoned oil, complementary in flavor to the food, a couple tablespoons per cup of kale. (With Potato-Turnip Thing, use the oil remaining after coating the potatoes and turnips.) Toss kale with oil. 15 minutes before food is done baking, spread the kale on top of it and return to the oven, uncovered.