As with so many of life’s important decisions, the choice of red, curly, or black kale comes down to your taste, your personal preference, and your pocketbook
Curly kale has broad based deep green leaves and a robust, pungent, fully developed favor. It is cultivated all year long and is easy to pick up in most supermarket chains. Some cooks blanch the leaves first, while others add a grated carrot to the pan to soften and sweeten the somewhat bitter taste.
makes about 2 cups (500ml)
cost $6.00 for black kale / $3.00 for curly kale
160 calories per serving
More exotic and expensive are red kale (pictured on the right) and black kale (pictured on the left). A little milder and a little less pungent, these kales can be found in green markets starting in fall through early winter and in specialty supermarkets all year long. My favorite is cavolo nero or black kale. Alternatively called dinosaur or laciniato kale, this blackish-green leafy kale is favored by the Tuscans who have developed a special affection for its distinctive taste and gnarled appearance. Chicken stock enhances flavor and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice before serving sharpens the flavor. Check to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
An excellent choice of greens to accompany a ham, a rack of pork, or a roast beef, keep kale in mind as you plan for the upcoming holidays. Each pound (½ kilo) kale as purchased yields 2 to 2½ cups cooked.
2 bunches (15 ounces/430g) curly, red, or black kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped into medium sized pieces
2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves (10g) fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
1 – 2 cups (250ml – 500ml) low sodium chicken stock
¼ teaspoon (.7g) flake salt
Lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar
Warm oil in sauté pan and soften crushed garlic. Add kale a handful or two at a time using medium heat and stirring as you add each handful. Sauté the kale until the pieces start to wilt and the oil is evenly distributed, usually about 5 minutes. Add the salt and start adding stock or water a half cup (100ml) at a time. Keep adding the stock until the kale is softened. Keep heat high enough to evaporate each addition of stock. If more liquid is required, use water. Braise the kale for another 20 minutes. Reduce the heat when the kale is softened and all liquid is absorbed or evaporated. Adjust seasonings and finish with some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. At this point, the kale will hold nicely for at least 30 minutes. Check before serving to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
Note: Both piece size and cooking time effect the texture of the final product. The smaller the pieces or the longer the cooking time, the softer and smoother the kale. Start with medium sized pieces and about 20 minutes, then adjust according to taste.
Kale is not cheap, but it is incredible healthy. MyPyramid classifies kale as a dark green vegetable and recommends 2 cups dark greens per week. Whole Foods uses the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to numerically rate foods and kale is on top with a score of 1000. For those of you like me who love kale and are willing to pay the price, we get both flavor and nutrition with each bite. The question I wrestle with is how to make this incredibly healthy vegetable appealing and acceptable to those of you who do not share my taste for slightly bitter greens. I can’t guarantee success, but I know where to start. A judicious amount of salt, a generous amount of fat, some acid, some culinary expertise, and a few discretionary dollars to invest in healthy greens.
Encouraging more people to eat and enjoy a healthy vegetable like kale is the best kind of healthy eating. So I choose to focus more on the sourcing and cooking end and less on the limits to sodium and fat end. To my simplistic mind, flexing a little on olive oil and salt makes good nutrition sense as long as more people eat more kale.
Per Serving (130g): Calories 160, Fat 13g, Saturated Fat 2.0g, Sodium 240mg, Carbohydrate 8g, Fiber 2g, Protein 3g. A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.