From Stephanie Willis. Email her at stephanie[AT]borderstan.com, follow her on Twitter @shaw_girl.
I did not grow up liking kale. In fact, I didn’t know the first thing about kale when I was a wee one running around the playground. This is probably good, because I was a picky eater. Had I been forced to consume it as a youngster, I probably would have never given it a chance as an adult.
Now that would have been a sad omission in my culinary arsenal. Kale is a power packed green — both in its nutritional value and its versatility. Are you lactose intolerant, but need to satisfy your calcium intake? Kale is a great dairy-free source of calcium. Do you find yourself battling one cold after another? Boost your Vitamin C intake with kale! It really is a nutrient rich green and if you haven’t already, it’s time to make room for it in your diet.
When I first learned about kale, a friend suggested I sauté it in good olive oil with garlic. I cannot tell you how much sautéed kale I consumed that first year with this simple recipe. And while I loved the extra energy I felt kale gave me (I call it the “Popeye Effect”), I quickly grew bored with simply sautéing it.
Through the years, I have collected a vast array of kale recipes that delight my inner finicky five-year old. Here are some fantastic ways to include kale in your diet. Pick up some fresh kale from Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sunday and get cooking!
- One of my favorite ways to eat kale has also been one of my biggest sources of frustration: kale chips. The first time I made them, they turned out soggy. The second time I made them, in an attempt to remedy the sogginess, I burned them. I have vague memories of an oven fire … don’t ask. Then I learned a few tricks for making kale chips crispy without having to brandish a fire extinguisher in the process. This step by step guide for kale chips by Steamy Kitchen will help you avoid my kitchen disasters as you pursue this healthy alternative to potato chips.
- A traditional Japanese beef roll gets a green update in this recipe for kale and scallion negimaki. Roll marinated strips of beef together with scallions and blanched kale, then grill. This is a fun way to get some greens into your system. For those leery of sushi, this recipe is also a great way to dip your toe in the pool of rolled foods. For those of you who love sushi (like me), let this recipe be the inspiration for twists on sushi rolls. Use the blanched kale in place of nori sheets or chop it up and add it to your favorite spicy tuna roll recipe.
- Kale is a great accompaniment to pasta and I often add it to my favorite carb packed dishes. I love this pasta with black kale, caramelized onion and parsnips recipe, because it includes another winter staple: parsnips, and is satisfies my undying love for caramelized onions. If you can’t find black kale, don’t worry. Any type of kale works beautifully in this dish.
- It may not feel like winter outside, but don’t let that stop you from making this Rustic Chickpea and Mushroom Soup with Farro from Domenica Cooks. Farro is a nutty grain that everyone should eat. Adding farro, mushrooms and chickpeas to this soup gives it a hearty depth that will please even the most ardent meat lover in your life. Vibrant strips of dark green kale float in the bowl, beautifully punching up the otherwise monochromatic look of this soup.
- I love a good savory tart, especially one that includes sausage. This sausage and kale tart has a very simple crust for those who fear the words “pie dough” (which, by the way, is nothing to fear). Get a good quality sausage from one of the many meat vendors at Dupont Circle Farmers Market and ricotta from Keswick Creamery or Blue Ridge Dairy to make this tart extra special. Add a side salad of fresh greens for a great lunch or light dinner.
- Savory hand pies are always a crowd pleaser (the delectable ones at the Whisked! stand at the 14th & U Farmers Market always sell out quickly), so this chicken and kale hand pies with cheddar crust recipe is sure to be a hit. Yes, you’re required to make a pie dough, but trust me when I say pie dough is nothing to fear. If you haven’t tried putting cheddar cheese in a pie crust, do it! Now. You will thank me later.
- When I was in college, I had a friend who drank a shake consisting of spinach, bananas and peanut butter… every day. It looked like it had been scraped off the bottom of an old row-boat and smelled just as unappetizing. She, however, was convinced it gave her a special punch of energy and always tried talking me into trying it. Being a visual eater, I could never bring myself to try one of these shakes. How wrong I was, to refuse! I now often make a smoothie using kale in the place of spinach, and I can never detect the kale in that mix. I use a variation of this recipe from Skinny Taste, using whole milk instead of almond milk and Greek yogurt from Blue Ridge Dairy. Play around with the combination of fruits and dairy in this recipe until you find the flavor you like and voila’, blend your way to health!
I hope I’ve convinced you that kale is a versatile ingredient, to be used in everything from drinks to pie. I humbly suggest you stop overlooking this green wonder and embrace its leafy goodness.