Kale is a relative of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts that is high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, and calcium. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and blocks the growth of cancer cells. It tastes awesome.
See that wrinkly looking bundle at the top of the photo above? That is Tuscan kale. It's also called dinosaur kale, black kale, lacinato kale, and cavolo nero. It's my favorite kind of kale.
This type of kale is less common in big-box type grocery stores. I buy it at the farmer's market, co-op, Kowalski's, Whole Foods, and Lund's/Byerly's but they don't carry it at my closest local grocery store Bergen's SuperValu. In more rural or large stores you will probably be more likely to find curly kale in the produce section by the rest of the lettuces and cabbages. It's not quite as rich and sweet as the Tuscan kale, but it is still good.
You should always rinse and dry your kale when you bring it home from the farmer's market or grocery store. If not using it right away, I wrap it in a kitchen towel and store in a ziploc bag in the fridge. It will last up to 5 days like this before getting wilty.
The thick stems are rarely edible so you should always peel the leafy parts from the stems before eating. One exception is this Warm Lentil Salad recipe that calls for you to saute the stems separately from the leaves.
You can eat kale leaves raw. I like this Hippie Salad recipe with apples, onions, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
You could also use raw kale in your Green and Lean Smoothies.
Kale goes great in soup to add a burst of beautiful green color and cram extra nutrients in each serving. This Cabbage Dumpling Soup pairs cousins kale and cabbage together for a super nutritious bowl of germ-fighting goodness.
I use the orange and green combination of sweet potatoes or squash and kale quite often. First in this Sweet Potato Kale Soup,
and in Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie,
Kale pairs nicely with pasta in this Summer Pasta Toss. That's another cool thing about kale - it works with both summer and winter dishes. It would be fun to re-make this pasta toss with roasted winter vegetables like broccoli and carrots.
If you want to get fancy, try the Mushroom/Kale Ravioli that I made with wonton wrappers and added to squash soup.
Another awesome kale recipe is Kale and Chard Panade (chard is similar to kale, just more delicate leaves and closer in texture to spinach). Topped with a poached egg....yummmm.
And I can't forget my new discovery, Stir-Fried Kale, seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and ginger.
But my all-time favorite, favorite way to enjoy kale is to simply saute it with onion, balsamic vinegar, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. I do this to a couple of bundles of kale and can eat it all in one sitting. This balsamic kale is the perfect sidekick to eggs, with or without a thick slice of grilled bread.
There you have it, practically an entire book's worth of kale recipes that I love. If you have never had kale and are feeling adventurous, I dare you to seek it out next time you're at the grocery store and give it a try. If you do, make sure you tell me about it - or invite me over to eat it with you!