Although kale has been trendy for the last few years, some people still feel intimidated to make it themselves at home. Kale is one of those “superfoods” you hear about a lot, and for good reason. A cup of raw kale has only 33 calories, nearly 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fibre, Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that protect against macular degeneration and cataracts).
When it comes to prepping and cooking kale, however, there tends to be some hesitation. Figuring out what to do with kale in its fibrous, bitter raw form can be overwhelming. But with the right preparation, kale can not only be delicious, but a real joy to cook with. Here are our tips for cooking your best kale right at home.
Pick the right type.
Like many vegetables, kale is a versatile food that can easily be added to a wide variety of dishes, like salads, smoothies, stews, rice or quinoa bowls, enchiladas, sauces and more. If you’re using kale raw, like in a salad, pay particular attention to the type of kale you’re using. One type of kale is curly kale, named for its curly texture. The other type of kale is known by many different names: lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, dinosaur kale or dino – the leaves on this kale resemble the scales of a dinosaur. If you’re making a raw salad, steer clear of curly kale, which has a fibrous, grassy taste and opt instead for lacinato kale, which is less crunchy, easier to chew and sweeter.
Prepare your kale.
The first step to prepping kale is getting rid of the pesky stem that runs down the middle of each leaf (also known as the stalk or ribs). In lacinato kale, the ribs are edible and don’t need to be removed, but you still want to remove them if you’re eating kale raw, since they have a very rough texture.
For an easy way to remove the stem from the center of kale, set each leaf upside-down on a cutting board and cut a V shape along both sides of the rib. Remove the sections you cut away and voila: stem-free kale.
If you’re eating kale raw, you’ll certainly want to give it a good massage. Massaging the kale prior to eating helps improve its tough texture. In a large bowl, combine the de-stemmed kale leaves with salt and lemon juice.
Lightly pour an additional 1 tsp. of olive oil onto your hands to coat. Using a massaging action (similar to kneading bread dough), start to tear the leaves apart and massage. Continue massaging for about 2 to 5 minutes or until the leaves are softened, the leaves will also turn a more vibrant green.
Use this as a salad base or add toppings of your choice for a complete meal in a bowl. Don’t forget to rinse the kale before using it – use a salad spinner if you have one.
Choose your recipe.
Sometimes choosing a recipe comes down to the equipment and ingredients you have on hand. If you have a food processor, try your hand at a recipe for kale pesto. If you’re using a blender, here’s a recipe for creamy potato kale soup. In the mood for a Mexican-inspired meal? Consider these “kale”chiladas.
There are recipes for sweet potato and kale balls and savory kale and pumpkin scones, too. If you don’t feel like following a recipe, experiment with your own ingredients and cooking style. Kale is a vegetable that can easily be baked, sautéed, dehydrated, braised and more.
Freeze the leftovers.
Kale is wonderful because it can be frozen raw or cooked for later use. Make sure you prep and soak your kale before freezing, so that it’s ready to be used. Remember that you can also freeze the stems, which make a nice addition to soups and stir fries, but plan to do so separately from the leaves.
Ease kale into your life.
The experts at Epicurious recommend this S,S,S trick for kale. Soak: Soak the kale for a few minutes in tepid water after trimming the base of the stems. Shake: Shake dry. Store: Keep kale in an airtight container in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to four days.
Have fun with kale.
Don’t let either the prep work of kale or the thought of trying to turn this bitter, fibrous vegetable into a delicious dish overwhelm you. Sometimes joy in the kitchen derives from simplicity: an easy salad or a quick sauté. The beauty of kale is that it can be prepared in infinite ways. Add it to your eggs for breakfast. Put it on your pizza. Sautee it with a little garlic and enjoy.