Hail to Kale


“Which kind of kale is better?” I asked the produce manager at the food store where I shop. I was holding curly kale (the most common variety) and lacinato kale (also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale).

“I prefer curly kale,” he said. “It’s the most versatile. I like it steamed, but you can roast it, too. It’s good in salads, but it has to be chopped. Baby kale is better in salads.”

“What about the lacinato?” I asked.

“That’s good raw, wilted, sautéed or in soup,” he said.

He pointed out red kale, purple flowering kale and white flowering kale. All varieties of this bumpy-textured vegetable are cousins in the cabbage family.

“There’s no such thing as bad kale,” he said. “Try them all and see which one you like best.”

I became intrigued with kale when it achieved superfood status. With just 33 calories a cup, kale contains nearly 3 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber, which helps control blood sugar and makes people feel full. Kale provides vitamins A, C, K and folate, a B vitamin. Not to mention its minerals: phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc. There is some omega-3 fatty acid in kale, too.

How can anything this healthy taste good?

Sautéed in olive oil and garlic, kale is a sensational side dish or pasta sauce. When stir-fried in sesame oil, kale compliments Asian food. These robust leaves dress up risotto and frittatas. With their garden freshness, they perk up anything from salads to smoothies and casseroles to braises. They can be crisped into chips.

Inky green in color, kale is magical, a superstar actually.

Kale Chips | Pareve

Serves four to six as an hors d’oeuvres or snack

  • 2 pieces of parchment paper
  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
  • Kosher salt to taste

Place two oven racks just above and below the center of the oven. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets, preferably with rims, with a piece of parchment paper.

Rinse the kale under cold water. Shake each leaf to release the moisture. Wrap two leaves of kale at a time in paper towels. Shake it vigorously to dry the kale more thoroughly. Cut off the bottom stems (with no leaves attached). Break each leaf into three or four pieces depending on size, and pull the leaves away from the central stems. Discard the stems.

Move half of the broken leaves into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Toss the leaves with spoons. The leaves should be lightly coated with oil. Add more oil, if needed.

Spread out the leaves on one of the prepared cookie sheets. Do not overlap the leaves, as they will become soggy. Repeat with the second batch of leaves and place them on the remaining cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and roast the kale for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove the sheets from the oven.

Check for salt and add more, if you desire. Kale should be a bit salty like potato chips. Serve immediately.

Kale and White Cheddar Frittata | Dairy

Serves four as an appetizer or two as a main course

Requires an 8-inch cast-iron skillet

  • 3 curly kale leaves
  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 ounces of white cheddar cheese, sliced thin

Optional accompaniments: toast or dinner rolls

Rinse the kale under cold water. Shake each leaf to release moisture. Wrap the leaves in paper towels. Shake vigorously to dry them more thoroughly. Cut off the bottom stems (with no leaves attached). Break each leaf into bite-sized pieces, pulling the leaves away from the central stems. Reserve. Discard the stems.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with the salt and pepper. Reserve.

If the broiler feature is inside the oven, place a rack in the center, close the oven door and turn on the boiler feature. Preheat the broiler if it is below the oven.

Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil in the cast-iron skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil for a minute or two, until fragrant. Move the kale into the skillet and sauté until wilted. Kale will retain its vibrant green color. Arrange the cheddar slices on top of the kale.

Whisk the eggs again until fluffy. Pour the eggs into the skillet. Shake the skillet so the eggs move evenly between the ingredients. Leave the skillet over the flame until the eggs are set at the bottom but loose at the surface.

Using an oven mitt, move the skillet to the broiler. Broil for five to eight minutes, or until the eggs are completely set and golden brown. If the top is brown and the eggs in the center are still not cooked through, leave the skillet in the broiler and turn off the heat for several minutes, or until the eggs are completely set.

Remove the skillet from the boiler and cut into quarters — four pie-shaped pieces. Serve immediately with toast or dinner rolls, if desired.

White Bean and Kale Soup | Dairy, Pareve or Meat

Serves eight

By adjusting the ingredients, this tasty soup can be dairy, pareve or meat.

  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans
  • 1 bunch of lacinato (Tuscan or dinosaur) kale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large or 4 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon each of oregano, rosemary and basil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 6 carrots, peeled and diced fine
  • 6 celery stalks, peeled and diced fine
  • 12 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans or boxes of chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Drain the beans one can at a time in a colander. Place half of the first can in a blender, mini prep food processor or use a fork to partially mash them. Reserve.

Rinse the kale well under cold water. With your fingers, tear bite-sized pieces of the kale leaves off the center spine. Reserve them in a bowl and discard the spines.

In a large stockpot, warm the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté for a minute. Add the oregano, rosemary, basil and salt. Continue to sauté for one to two minutes, until fragrant.

Add the carrots and celery and stir to combine. Sauté for three to five minutes, until sweating. Add more oil at any time if the vegetables start sticking to the pot. Add the mushrooms. Cover the pot for two minutes, stirring once or twice.

At this point, you should decide if you desire a dairy, pareve or meat soup.

By using vegetable broth and no cheese, the soup will be pareve. By using vegetable broth and cheese, the soup will be dairy. By using chicken broth and no cheese, the soup will be meat. All versions are equally delicious.

Spoon in the whole beans, mashed beans and the kale. Pour in either the chicken or vegetable broth and stir to combine. If your soup is vegetable broth-based, cut the rind off of a piece of Parmesan cheese, if using, and slide it into the soup. Omit the cheese if you want a pareve soup.

Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil for five minutes. Reduce the flame to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Check after 45 minutes to see if the soup needs salt, and add some more if it does. When the soup is ready, remove the cheese rind with a slotted spoon utensil and discard.

The soup can be eaten immediately, but it tastes even better the next day. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese if you prepared a dairy soup.

Kale and Garlic Pasta Sauce | Pareve or Dairy

Serves four to six

  • 1 pound chunky pasta, such as rigatoni, fusilli, penne or ziti
  • 1 large bunch of lacinato kale
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt to taste

Optional accompaniment: grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to the directions on the box.

Meanwhile, rinse the kale leaves under cold water. Place them between paper towels and shake them to remove the water. With your fingers, tear bite-sized pieces of the kale leaves off the center spine. Chop them. Reserve them in a bowl and discard the spines.

Chop the garlic fine. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-low flame. Move the garlic into the skillet and sauté until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add the kale in two batches, sprinkling on salt after each batch. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Stir both batches together almost constantly as the kale softens slightly. Add more oil, if needed. Turn off the flame when the kale is barely cooked and still retains its vibrant color.

When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander and pour it into a large pasta bowl. Spoon the kale on top and serve immediately. Spoon or grate on Parmesan cheese, if using.


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