Friday, June 21, 2024

The leafy green miracle worker called kale

Kale is challenging to find here in Mazatlán, and I’m always thrilled when I do.

One grower at our farmers’ market sometimes includes some baby kale leaves in their salad mix (which I’ll admit to picking out and cooking sometimes). We also have sort of a CSA, and that grower offers dinosaur or Tuscan kale — big, long, puckered dark green leaves — very different than the curly kale I prefer.

Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, a local grocery chain called Ley will have actual bunches of curly kale. Another variety you can sometimes find is Russian red kale, whose leaves are flat and fringed instead of curled. That happened the other day, and it took 15 minutes at the checkout before the manager figured out what it was called and could ring it up. At the farmers’ market, they just say “kah-lay;” but on the grocery store’s list it was called berza. (Remember that word!)

Some people find kale, whether cooked or raw, to be bitter; that’s due to its being part of the cabbage family. The younger and fresher the leaves, the less bitterness there is. Tuscan kale is also less peppery by nature.

Kale became a trendy “miracle food” a few years back because of its antioxidant qualities and its high natural fiber. It’s also low in calories and carbs and has lots of nutrients that are hard to find in vegetables: calcium, iron, potassium and vitamins B6, A, C and K.

L-R: curly kale, dinosaur kale, Russian red kale
From left to right: curly kale, Tuscan (aka dinosaur kale) and Russian red kale.

It’s also very versatile; you can use it anywhere you would other leafy greens like spinach or chard. Add kale to quesadillas, salads, soup, pastas (it makes a great pesto!), mixed with rice or quinoa … the sky’s the limit!

Kale Chips

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed and dried well
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C).

Use cooking spray on two baking trays. Remove the center rib and stems from each kale leaf and discard. Tear or cut leaves into bite-sized pieces, 2–3 inches wide.

In a large bowl, drizzle kale with oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and salt; massage oil and seasonings into leaves with your hands to distribute evenly.

Place kale in single layer on baking sheets. Bake at 350 F (177 C) until crisp and edges are slightly browned, 12–15 minutes.

Perfect Kale Salad

  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp. chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs, toasted

Cut out thick ribs of kale and discard. Cut leaves into chiffonade (stack several leaves, roll into a cylinder, then slice crosswise into very thin, 1/16-inch ribbons). Rinse and dry kale. Put into a bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk garlic, cheese, salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, chili flakes and breadcrumbs.

Pour mixture over kale; toss. Let sit 5–10 minutes and serve.

Sweet potato shrimp skillet with kale
Got shrimp you need to use up? A sweet potato shimp skillet with kale is quick, delicious and nutrient-rich!

Sautéed Kale

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed with leaves coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup vegetable stock, white wine or water
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes. Add kale, turn heat to high; add stock/white wine/water and stir. Cover and cook 5–7 minutes, until soft and wilted but still green.

Remove cover; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid evaporates plus a few minutes more.

Season to taste with salt and the peppers; add vinegar, toss to combine.

Scrambled Eggs and Kale

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 heaping cup fresh kale, de-stemmed, chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup grated mozzarella, Oaxaca or other melting cheese
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning (dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute.

Add kale. Cook, stirring, until kale is just wilted. Lower heat to medium; add beaten eggs. Gently stir and fold until eggs begin to set.

Stir in cheese and Italian seasoning. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.

 Potato-Kale Soup with Chorizo

  • 1 lb. chorizo, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can (14½ oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat; add chorizo, potatoes, garlic and onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sausage is heated through.

Add kale; cover and cook for 2–3 minutes or until kale is wilted. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat.

Cover and simmer 9–12 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Shrimp, Kale and Sweet Potato Skillet

  • 2 Tbsp. olive or coconut oil
  • ½ cup onions, diced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups diced sweet potatoes, steamed or parboiled
  • 2 cups shrimp, cleaned
  • 3 cups trimmed, chopped kale
  • Salt and pepper

In a cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and red pepper flakes; cook until onions soften.

Add garlic and sweet potatoes; sauté and stir 3–4 minutes. Add kale, cooking and stirring a few minutes till wilted.

Add shrimp; cook for 2–4 minutes depending on size.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

  • Do you have a favorite kale recipe? Have you been wary of trying it? Let us know in the comments!

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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