02 September 2009

General Kale

Article By: Rich Rubin
Add another leafy green to your vegetable rotation. We'll give you some great suggestions for what to do with kale.
Just when you think winter's cold and gray might never end, along comes kale, with its jaunty frilled leaves and tangy taste to brighten your days. The edible variety, whose leaves range in color from blue-green to forest green, is as much of a pick-me-up as the ornamental type that has long cheered winter gardens. Kale adds a distinctively sharp and nutty taste to salads as well as cooked dishes, and its intense burst of flavor is enough to pull anyone out of winter hibernation.

Do it for your health
A member of the large brassica family (with such diverse cousins as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and turnips), kale is a top source of vitamin A and is positively loaded with beta-carotene. This nutritional powerhouse is also a significant vitamin C provider and is rich in fiber. It also contains huge amounts of the antioxidant lutein, thought to be helpful in avoiding such optical problems as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Selecting and Storing
Look for deep color in the leaves. Kale is best kept in a plastic bag pierced for aeration, and it lasts in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days. While baby kale can be eaten raw, the bigger winter variety should be cooked. Rinse it well under cold water; if center stems are large, strip the leaves from the stem with a sharp knife. Steam about eight minutes and it will be nicely crunchy; steam 30 to 40 minutes to give it a soft texture similar to cooked spinach. Sliced or shredded kale will require less cooking time.

What To Do With Kale
Kale's strong, peppery flavor helps it stand up to strong meats and adds another layer of zip to salads and stir-fry. Try it on its own or in combination with other, equally robust foods. Here are some more ideas:

Add it to soups.Coarsely chopped and sautéed, kale is a welcome ingredient in hearty winter soups such as minestrone or bean or lentil soup. or try the rich, densely flavored caldo verde (greens soup) from Portugal. Sauté l medium onion, 2 cloves garlic and 6 peeled, thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil; add 8 cups water or chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Mash potatoes in the pot. Stir in half a pound cooked, thinly sliced linguica sausage (or low-fat turkey sausage). Add 1 pound thinly shredded kale leaves (inner stem removed); simmer 5 more minutes.

Toss it in stir-fry.Add chopped kale to your favorite stir-fry about 5 minutes before it's finished cooking. For a quick side dish, simply stir-fry 2 cups of chopped kale with a clove of minced garlic for 5 minutes; top with toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Juice it.Juicer devotees will appreciate the pick-me-up kale adds to vegetable juices; combine it with carrots and beets in your juicer and add a little fresh gingerroot for a healthy and delicious juice.

Bulk up baked goods.For a spicy twist, add 1/2 cup finely chopped kale and 1 minced jalapeño pepper to your favorite cornbread recipe.

Perk up your starches.Chopped very fine and sautéed or steamed, kale can be added to mashed potatoes (one bunch per dozen potatoes) for a boost in flavor, nutrition and color. Alternatively, toss some chopped kale into the pot when you're making rice (use 1/2 cup chopped kale per cup of rice and add at the beginning).

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