When I was growing up, I remember kale as the curly green garnish sitting on the edge of my dinner plate. I never saw anyone pick up the leafy decoration and actually eat it, though, and I probably didn’t realize that it was edible. Fast forward to the new millennium, and kale is no longer just a garnish, but the talked-about superfood has become an ingredient adored and frequently used by both professional chefs and dedicated home cooks (I make a mean kale Caesar). What’s more, you probably spot creative kale recipes everywhere, and wonder, what is all the fuss about kale, anyhow?
Even though kale is now considered a trendy food (it was always healthy), some still won’t accept that it can taste good while providing nutritional value. Not only is kale low-fat, but it’s packed with dietary fiber and protein, plus folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.
The truth is raw kale kind of tastes like grass. Crunchy grass. And it resembles those cabbages that we plant in the wintertime because it’s too cold for most plants to thrive. (Fun fact: though ornamental kale is edible, it’s not as tasty.) Somehow, though, when prepped correctly and combined with flavorful ingredients, kale recipes can become award-winning dishes. Think Tuscan kale and white bean pasta or or sautéed kale with garlic and parmesan––yum!
But, and a big but, you have to know what to do with kale to turn it into a successful, Instagram-worthy and delicious plate. Otherwise, it will be chewy, bitter, and unattractive. Blech.
With the help of food photographer and recipe developer Brooke McClay, let’s take a look at three ways to transform kale into the most appetizing superfood you’ll ever eat.
If you intend to use kale for a salad, you’ll want to tenderize it before mixing it with an all-natural dressing. Remove the tough stems and chop the leaves into small pieces or julienne into thin strips. Then drizzle with coconut oil or olive oil, and lemon juice. Knead the kale for two minutes or so. Now that you’ve massaged your kale, you can toss it in a salad combined with some of your other favorite ingredients. Note: According to Brooke, baby kale is more fragile than dinosaur, curly, or Tuscan kale, so you won’t need to massage it.
Yes, you can bake kale. Have you ever tasted kale chips? This tip requires less time than massaging, and all you have to do is drizzle the kale with olive oil, add sea salt, and bake on a cookie sheet. You can chop the kale and sprinkle it on pizza too. It makes a tasty topping.
Throw your toughest kale leaves into a blender with other healthful ingredients like bananas, mango, oranges, and honey to create a delicious smoothie.
Now that you know a little more about handling and cooking with kale, you should find pleasure in eating it. Let’s take a look at one of Brooke’s kale recipes. This particular recipe uses kale with chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), so it’s nice and filling. Plus, you get some extra fiber.
Kale & Sweet Potato Bliss Bowl
Yield: 2 bowls
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
• 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
• 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
• 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
• 3-4 cups kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 Tablespoon honey
• Salt and pepper
• 1/2 cup raw or crunchy chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) (optional)
• 1/4 cup pomegranate arils (optional)
1. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sweet potato. Salt and pepper. Cook until sweet potatoes are golden and easily pierced with a fork.
2. While sweet potatoes are cooking, drizzle kale with lemon, 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Massage kale with hands until tender, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Serve kale topped with sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Garnish, if desired, with pomegranate arils.
Try pairing this kale dish with a Pinot Grigio or Beaujolais.
Do you have any go-to kale recipes? Check out this fabulous recipe from a top Puerto Vallarta chef.