The Ways of Kale on Menu Monday

August 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Rob Gardner

How much resistance did you show at the market last week?  I feel I showed incredible restraint.  No restraint on Catalina Farm’s jewel box mini summer squash.  I went for quarts of peaches, pints of pears, nectarine seconds that mostly already went into a cake, gobs of tomatoes, peppers more expensive than I should really pay.  All that,  but I decided to skip Farmer Vicki’s “lipstick” peppers that looked a hell of a lot like big red wax lips.  I went past all the fingerling potatoes.  I saw the first grapes of the year, but did not purchase.  Much other stuff I where I showed restraint.

A few days before the Oak Park Farmer’s Market, I got my weekly CSA box.  It came with sweet corn, muskmelon, summer apples, many assorted peppers up and down the Scovile scale, two bags or rocket, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, heirloom yellow cucumbers.  I also picked up last week at Caputo’s some green tomatoes for a pasta recipe I saw in a new book.  I have fruit still from points east, plums and pears.  I have a bowl full of green “roasting” peppers from like two CSA’s back turning shades of red in the dining room.  I could look back at assorted other Menu Monday posts to be reminded of other foods still around.  I will tell you, however, what I do not have, kale.  Still, our friend at Eli’s Cheesecake “MailorderAndie” wants to know about kale.  Let’s put kale on the menu this Monday. 

Andie looked at our 44 (now 46 with comments) ways to use peaches and said:

i need 44 ways to use Kale. Chad gave me a boatload of it yesterday and I’m up against it to get it all used in a few days.

We are here for you Andie. We love kale.  Actually, we love kale best in the fall when kale is nicely thriving when all the other plants find it too cold.  Then, kale will be at its sweetest.  Do not just throw your current boatload in the compost though; we think you’ll enjoy it anyways.  Kale is one of those “greens”, meaning leafy things that are too tough and too strong in flavor to eat raw (except in their most immature forms).  Kale also falls into the pot with the heartier greens, collards, turnips, mustard as compared to the softer ones like chard, spinach and beet greens.  Hearty as it is, it does not need to be cooked for hours to enjoy.

The distinguishing feature of kales, and these days in fancy markets kales can go by such fancy names as cavolo nero and lacacinto, is their hard, feathery or pebbly surfaces.  No one hides kale in a recipe.  And that’s the point too, take advantage of kale’s titanium skin.  Kale is used much in soups, like the traditional Spanish caldo Gallego or the Portuguese caldo verde.  Kale can stand up to a good hot broth.  It pairs nicely with beans.  You can, of course, cook that skin into submission with something porky, a prosciutto end, hocks, a slab of Nueske bacon.  For this kind of greens, I advise making a sort of stock by simmering your pork for about a half hour in water (a couple of dried peppers, a garlic clove or two could not hurt) then adding your greens and cooking for at least 45 minutes.  Cornbread if you got it.

Kale can be cooked in other things besides big stock pots.  David the Hat Hammond notes that kale can be kind of oven fried.  I like kale salads after steaming the leaves.  The bold nature of kale stands up to bold flavored dressings with soy, ginger, mustard, garlic or red chile pastes.  Kale can also be sauteed, although have your stock pot there too as most recipes recommend the kale be blanched first.   What I would not use kale for, are the things that I typically use chard or spinach. I would not use kale with scrambled eggs.  I would not mince it and use it in ravioli.  I would not use kale anywhere the green is there for a lot of color and not much else.  You do not ignore kale.

How else will you use kale on this late edition Menu Monday?



  1. You know, I haven’t kind of oven-fried kale all summer, but I have used it in a number of soups (which I am now mature enough to enjoy). Tonight, I’m going to roast a Wettstein’s chicken (with a large amount of rosemary from garden), then throw bones into a pot, cook over night, and in the morning add some kale and maybe a little cavalo nero. I find that a hot broth is a good way to utilize even large quantities of full-bodied leaf.

  2. Tom Keith says:

    Have you ever tried heavily blanching the kale ’til it’s reasonably pliable, making a rice or other grain-based stuffing, maybe with a little meat, herbs, shallots or whatever, and rolling it up, a la dolmades?

    I think I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.

  3. brassfrog says:

    “Kale is one of those “greens”, meaning leafy things that are too tough and too strong in flavor to eat raw (except in their most immature forms).”

    Obviously you’ve never made raw kale salad.
    Kale and Garlic Scape Salad
    1 large bunch kale 10-12 large curly-leaf kale stalks
    10-15 garlic scapes
    1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 shredded carrot (optional)
    2 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
    1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
    ¼ tsp salt, to taste
    1/3 cup salad dressing such as low-fat Italian or balsamic

    Wash kale then strip the leaves from stems, reserving the stems. Cut the garlic scapes in-one inch pieces. Place in food processor and process with steel blade until finely chopped. (The next step is optional, but the stems have a lot of fiber and once processed are very easy to chew.) Cut the kale stems in one-inch pieces. Place in food processor and process with steel blade until finely chopped.

    Take the stripped-off kale leaves and roll into a “cigar”. You may have to do this several times, depending on how much kale you have. Take a sharp knife and very finely chiffonade the kale. Make sure the kale is very finely chopped.

    Put the chopped kale, processed scapes, stems, and salt in a large bowl and add the olive oil. Roughly “massage’ the kale for several minutes until the volume has reduced by half and ingredients are thoroughly mixed and coated. Add the salad dressing, mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. At this point add the optional ingredients, as well as any others that might add to the appearance, flavor and nutritional value.

  4. Katie says:

    Kale pesto is another option. I made a kale pesto tonight (light on the olive oil and threw in a little basil from my garden) and put it in a tomato pie. Came out great.

  5. Twin Screen In Car DVD Player says:

    Thank you for the recipe idea, i will be trying it out this week!. – Joanne

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