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Kool Kale

I’ve been somewhat into kale for a while, but two new recipes got me crazy for this wonderful vege. Before, I thought it had to be cooked for a long time. And if you’re cooking it in watery substances, it does. However, kale can be prepared with a variety of methods to very different effects.

Kale is excellent in almost every way. High in vitamin A and C, calcium, and lots of other good stuff. It is easily grown. In fact, it’s a weed, so when I see it priced like it’s some sort of boutique vege, it makes me mad. I challenge you not to be able to grow kale. I can do it in my redwood-shaded yard, so I bet you can, too.*

Personally, I think lacinato kale, which you seldom see for sale, is the best. But I’m happy with pretty much any kind, and these recipes are successful with whatever you’ve got on hand.

Kale chips

The first time I had kale chips, I paid an exorbitant price for a small bag in a health food store. Then my sister brought some she’d made, and I went crazy for them. They are easy, they are cheap, and if your kids are like my kids, they’ll love them, too.

Take a bunch of kale and rip the leaves off the stems. Discard the stems. Wash the leaves then spin them in a salad spinner or put them out to dry. They should be pretty dry before you proceed. Rip them into mouth-sized chunks (they will shrink a bit, but if you leave the chunks too big, they will get crumbs all over the place when you bite them). Put them into a bowl and dribble a little bit of olive oil on them. (Not very much at all.) Toss the leaves so the oil is distributed, then arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. It helps to use parchment, but it’s not necessary. Sprinkle them with sea salt. Put them into a 300-degree oven, on convection if you have it. They will take about 15 minutes to dry out. You may need to turn them or spread them part of the way through. If the leaves are at all limp when you take them out, put them back in. They must be really dry or they’ll get soggy very quickly.

There are lots of variations possible: Make them Asian-style with sesame oil and tamari. Make them Italian with some herbs and parmesan. Get more creative if you’d like. I find that I never get around to the creativity because they’re so darn good with plain old olive oil and sea salt.**

Bruised Kale Salad

You don’t have to cook kale to get that deep color and nicer texture. Take kale leaves, sprinkle them with sea salt, and pound them  with some garlic till they get a brighter green color. This breaks down the cell walls, similar to cooking, but leaves all the nutrients. Put them in a bowl with some sort of acid and accompanying ingredients. Here are some good combinations:

balsamic vinegar
olive oil
parmesan
black pepper

rice vinegar
sesame oil
soy sauce

Here are my sister’s more adventurous combinations. Again, the simple version is so good I haven’t gotten around to doing anything this complicated:

rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, edamame, arame (soak for 15 minutes before adding)

balsamic vinegar, red onion, olives, leftover chicken w/garlic or chick peas, feta cheese, leftover polenta or brown rice

lemon, red onion, leftover salmon, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, goat cheese

Beans ‘n’ greens

This is actually a cooked recipe, but it’s a big favorite in our house so I’m adding it. Cut kale (or chard) into strips. Saute garlic in olive oil just a bit until it releases its scent. Add the kale and sea salt and saute until limp. If you want the kale significantly more cooked than it is now, add a small amount of water or white wine, cover, and cook until almost done. Then add cannelini beans and cook until they start to break apart, about 5 minutes. Pepper vigorously and serve. Great with pasta.

Notes:

*Years ago, I read an article about the urban gardening movement that pointed out a huge problem that most people don’t know about. If you’re starting a new garden in an urban environment, or anywhere near a road, you should either remove the dirt and truck in “clean” garden dirt, or you should grow a couple of crops of dark-leafy greens and throw them away. That’s right, don’t compost like the good earth-person you are. Dark, leafy greens are fabulous at leaching heavy metals out of soil. If you’re in an urban environment, your soil is full of bad stuff. So don’t eat or compost your first couple of crops. Put them in the garbage!

**About sea salt: My dad the chemist tried to tell me that it’s just plain ole NaCl, no matter where it comes from. I agree, but there’s something different about sea salt. It has a brighter taste, and you need less of it to liven up your food. Try it, I dare you.

Posted in Health, Parenting.


2 Responses

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  1. Viva Harris says

    I need to grow kale in our garden. I wonder if I could plant it now, with some kind of frost cover? With your beans & greens recipe, are you referring to pre-cooked cannelini beans?

  2. Suki says

    I have some baby kale in at the moment, and though it’s not growing, it seems to be surviving. Theoretically you should be able to grow it year-round in our climate. As to beans, yes — I should have been specific! Pre-cooked beans. This article says which canned varieties come BPA-free: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/7-companies-you-can-trust-to-use-bpa-free-cans.html . My husband uses a pressure cooker, which is convenient, but I’m so afraid of it I long-cook them if I’m going to do them myself! (I know, I’m a wimp.) Cannelinis cook pretty quickly. Also, occasionally the kids and I plant cannelini beans and they are great fun in the garden. You need lots of space, though, to get enough of them. You leave them on the plant to dry in the pod, and picking/shelling them is very satisfying work.



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