Kale, a cooking green that originated in northern Europe, is not only versatile and tasty, but is a powerhouse of nutrition, rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With some creativity, you can learn how to cook kale in numerous ways that enhance your healthy eating plan.
Steaming is an easy and fat-free way to prepare kale. Cut or tear the leaves from the stems (discard stems that are wider than a quarter-inch because they will be too tough to eat), and steam over boiling water. You can also do this in the microwave, with a tablespoon or two of water at the bottom of a glass bowl. When done (leaves should be crisp-tender but not mushy) add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil, plus other herbs or spices as you desire, and serve.
If you don’t get too generous with the olive oil, sautéed kale is low in calories and high in flavor. Cut leaves from the stems (again, discard those wider stems), chop, and sauté with fresh, minced garlic until the leaves wilt. This is a simple, delicious, and healthy side dish.
Can’t get your kids to touch kale, even if it were coated in chocolate? Try this simple idea and they might be begging you to make it again. Wash and pat dry kale leaves (better yet, spin them in a salad spinner, so they are as dry as possible), toss with a bit of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, bake until the leaves are crispy, then sprinkle with salt to taste. It’s also just the thing when you’re craving potato chips… and much more nutritious.
If you’re making soup, toss in some chopped kale leaves. This no-fat-needed cooking method will add a punch of nutrition and deepen the flavor of your broth. To keep the kale from becoming mushy, add toward the end of the cooking process and just let it wilt.
A vegetable might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about beverages, but many people juice kale for its health benefits, and incorporate kale into smoothies with other ingredients like apple juice, ginger, and carrots. If you don’t have a high-performance blender like a Vitamix, use your regular blender - just make sure you chop the kale very finely, discard the stems and work in small batches. This will help liquefy the raw leaves.
An interesting way to prepare kale is as the basis for a paté. Steam and drain a bunch of kale, then purée, stems and all, with a few cloves of garlic, half a sweet bell pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a third-cup of walnuts or almonds, and salt and pepper to taste. It’s a healthy and colorful addition to the appetizer table, and definitely better for your diet than cheese and crackers.
In all of its varieties -Russian, rainbow, curly, elephant- kale can be a key player in your diet. Now that you know how to cook kale, why not pick up a bunch or two and try it for yourself?
CDC Fruit and Vegetable of the Month/Cooking Greens https://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/greens.html
Antioxidants And Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/antioxidants
Kale paté and kale chips recipes courtesy of holistic nutritionist Jennifer McKinley
Photo courtesy of King_vitamin.