When it comes to leafy greens, there are some big players that tend to dominate our salads, soups, and suppers: romaine, baby spinach, and perhaps even a few “exotic” varieties like arugula. With CSA deliveries and farmers markets well underway, we get to meet some new possibilities that can enhance (and dare I say, replace?) the regulars we so often lean toward. Nothing against romaine and spinach; they have many redeeming qualities, and are favorites for good reasons. Yet there are other leafy greens just as delicious, and with the bonus of adding significantly more vitamins and nutrients to your dishes.
Kale is one of these leafy greens. New to many people, and gaining popularity due to its health benefits and versatility in cooking. In the same family as cabbage, kale comes in a variety of forms, such as ornamental, curly, and dinosaur — which I assure you, is as fun to eat as it is to say. Kale’s bright flavor and rich texture easily distinguishes it from other garden greens. It also comes in many colors, dark green and beautiful purple being the most common kinds in CSA boxes and markets today.
New to kale? Here are a few easy, no-cook ways to incorporate kale into your eating habits — just make sure to wash and dry kale thoroughly before consuming!
• Add kale to a tossed salad: if you’re just starting out on you kale adventure, I’d recommend mixing it gradually with some of your preferred greens for more of a mixed-salad experience. This gives you and your taste buds some time to figure out which toppings and dressings you think pair best.
• Make a kale bed for pasta or rice: after cooking your favorite pasta or rice dish, plate it on top of a bed of kale. The warmth of the grains will help wilt the kale beneath, which will add flavor (and an extra serving of vegetables) to your meal.
• Try it raw: dips and spreads are great ways to enjoy any fruit or vegetable, and kale is no exception. Kale with hummus, ketchup, or even barbeque sauce makes a great snack or side. A simple dressing of fresh squeezed lemon juice is another delicious option.
Another flavorful and healthy ways to enjoy kale, though, is when cooked: steaming kale releases a powerhouse of nutrients, and as a bonus, gives it a mild, chewy texture. Below is one of my personal favorite ways to enjoy kale:
Cumin Quinoa with Steamed Kale
Vegan and Kosher. Serves 2 as a main meal, 4 as a side
½ cup rinsed and drained quinoa*
1 ½ cups water
½-1 tablespoon cumin
1 handful kale, washed, de-stemmed**, and chopped into thin strips
salt and pepper, to taste
*Quinoa is a flavorful, protein-packed grain available at many grocers and supermarkets. If quinoa is not common in your area, feel free to try brown or wild rice – just cook according to package instructions and start at step 2.
**De-stemming kale is the best and easiest way to cut down on kale’s bitterness if you’re dealing with larger varieties. Simply separate the leafy part from the stem, either by tearing with your hand or chopping it with a sharp knife.
1) Place the quinoa and water into a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat until it is at a gentle simmer. Cover until the quinoa is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. If you find that the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is still crunchy, add more water and simmer again.
2) One the quinoa has finished cooking, add cumin to desired strength. Mix well.
3) Finally, add the kale to the quinoa and cover the saucepan until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, and serve warm.
These are only a handful of the multiple ways you can enjoy kale. If you’re looking for more resources, start by searching the web, or asking a farmer who sells kale how they would recommend preparing it; often, they’ll have a great recipe of their own.
Are you a kale lover or loather? Is there a way you enjoy this crunchy cruciferous that you’d like to share with the world? Let us know in the comments!
Lindsay Baker is a sustainability consultant who moonlights as a kosher, vegetarian cook. As a child, she created trouble in the kitchen by grabbing hot surfaces and pointy objects – a habit that she’s (mostly) broken. You can find some of her musings about life, Judaism, and food over at thejoyvey.wordpress.com/.