Kale is both trendy and popular, but also bitter and chewy. So what do you do with it?
Kale is really tough compared to other greens. It might look like lettuce, but you cannot make a garden salad out of this stuff, so forget that. Think of it more like cabbage. You can eat or raw or cooked, but it has it’s own rules and recipes.
Here’s a little run down on the varieties that I’m most familiar with and my favorite ways to eat it.
Start with Soup
The first recipe I ever had that called for kale was a Mushroom and Barley Stew that had a carrot juice broth. I love that soup. For years, it was the only way I knew how to eat kale. If you’re new to kale, soup is a great place to start. Kale will not disintegrate into your soup like spinach will. It remains kind of soft and chewy, and it adds heartiness and nutrition to your soup. You can use any kale in soup, but I prefer the curly variety.
The ribs are extra tough and will not soften, so I suggest cutting the ribs out of the large leaves before you start chopping. You can save them: for a stir fry, homemade vegetable broth, fresh green juice, or the compost bin… if you like.
Kale can be made into a delicious salad, but it needs to be massaged! Basically, you start with a bowl of washed and chopped kale. You salt it. Drizzle an acid on it (like lemon juice or cider vinegar). You might drizzle a tiny bit of oil on it (like sesame or olive oil). Then you stick your bare hands in the bowl and start working it, using your fingers to massage all the leaves, which will break down the tough cell walls, making it easier to digest and even slightly sweet. I love adding dried fruit (like golden raisins or dried cranberries) and seeds (like sunflower or pepita) to my kale salads. You can use curly kale or lacinato (dinosaur) kale to make massaged salads.
Lacinato (Dinosaur Kale)
It looks like what you might expect dinosaur scales to look like. It’s a little easier to tame (or massage) than curly kale, and it’s a deeper darker green.
Juice your Kale
This is one of the easiest ways to get a nutrition boost from kale. Although you can juice any variety, I often choose the dino kale for juicing because it fits down the shoot without chopping. It needs to be paired with a strong acid: lemon, green apple, or pineapple are good choices. A taste for green vegetable juices is somewhat acquired, so if you’re new to green juices, I suggest ordering one at a juice shop first and let them know that you’re new to green juice. They’ll be able to suggest a sweeter blend to ease you into it and give you a positive experience.
Cook Your Kale
This is probably the easiest way to get kale on your plate. I remove the ribs, chop and wash, and toss it into a hot, non-stick frying pan. I usually drizzle a little more water over it to let it steam and cook down quicker. It just takes a minute, and then… add a strong acid (lemon or lime juice, cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar) and a little salt.
My favorite plant-based meal recently is this warm kale and potato salad with cilantro-tahini dressing. The recipe calls for purple potatoes, but I’ve used every color of potato. I prefer the potatoes roasted (rather than boiled). I’ve even made this recipe with red kale and white potatoes. It doesn’t matter how you make it, it’s delicious comfort food.
Another delicious way to eat sautéed kale is in a sandwich! Drizzle that cooked kale with balsamic vinegar, add some slices of roasted red pepper and a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese, and stuff it all between two slices of rustic bread. Then grill your sandwich like a panini. I just put it in a hot pan and press something else down on top of it until the filling starts oozing out the sides. Let it brown, and then flip it over to brown the other side. It’s so good.
Roasted Kale Chips
Finally, you can make kale chips. I think the homemade version is much better than the store bought. I have only successfully done this once with the help of a friend, and they were crispy and salty and addictive, but it’s a bit of work. If you do decide to give a it a try, make sure your kale is super dry. Any water left on the leaves will steam the kale; and if it’s not completely dry, you’ll end up with a soggy, greasy mess rather than crispy chips.
Let me know if you try any of these tricks in the comments below.