For some years, kale was pushed to the culinary background as an overlooked frilly garnish. Recently, this member of the cabbage family has moved into the spotlight as a “superfood” due to its powerful nutritional attributes. Kale has been harvested for over 2,000 years, and today, these dark leafy greens are sprouting up just about everywhere.
Kale is considered one of the healthiest foods around. Packed with vitamins and minerals, this under appreciated green proves to be one of the most beneficial and versatile produce items available. Like many other rich, leafy greens, kale is full of vitamins A and C. What makes kale so “super” is its impressive amounts of vitamin K, iron, calcium, fiber and folic acid. Its mild, earthy flavor is similar to cabbage, and its hearty texture adds complexity to a variety of recipes.
Kale can be stored in a plastic bag in the coldest section of the refrigerator for up to three days. Before preparing, discard any stalks with limp, yellowing leaves as their flavor may be strong and bitter, then rinse in cold water. The center stalks should be removed as they are tough. To do so, fold the leaves one side on top of the other with the spine of the stalk at the crease. Using kitchen shears, trim the leaves away from the stalk, then slice or chop as desired.
Kale is delicious cooked or raw and makes a wonderful addition to many dishes. While it is often prepared in combination with other greens, such as mustard or collard, it is splendid as a side dish on its own when sautéd with shallots and olive oil. It can be stewed in soups, braised with beans, layered into lasagna, roasted with root vegetables or used in your favorite salad. Kale adds impeccable flavor and nutrition any way you eat it.
For a simple kale sauté, chop about six cups leaves into large bite-size pieces. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one thinly sliced shallot and cook three to four minutes or until tender. Stir in the chopped kale, and salt and pepper to taste; sauté the mixture for about three to five minutes, or until the leaves are soft. Kale will not shrink as much as spinach, and it should retain some firmness in the ribs of the leaves. Serve with a drizzle of red wine vinegar, or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.