Kale: The Little Superfood that Could

As the last of the summer jam stock dwindles, and root vegetables take up residence in our crispers, we begin to appreciate freshness wherever we can find it. It is a rare thing to find one single food (let alone a vegetable) that does the nutritional work of all of its counterparts combined -- and is built to thrive through the winter. Enter kale: this gorgeous green is lively and toothsome with an addictive peppery bite. Steamed, sauteed or dressed up raw in a salad, kale is delicious when prepared with a little finesse.

Even the most glorious greens are best paired with a little dose of decadence. No need to trick the serial carnivores into eating their veggies; these delectable kale recipes will convert even the biggest superfood-phobic. Here are 9 of our favorite ways to turn this nutritional powerhouse into a delight.

-See more kale recipes on Food52.
-Get more ideas for salads from the Food52 community.
-Have a question in the kitchen? The Food52 Hotline is here to help!

Roasted Tomato and Rosemary Soup with Kale and Potatoes by Nicole Franzen

Serves 4
4 yukon gold potatoes
1 bunch lacinato kale1 container vegetable or chicken stock
1 container vegetable or chicken stock1 cup wine
4 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
4 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 slices bread for bread crumbs or croutons
olive oil
canola oil for frying croutons
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. For prep: dice onion, celery and garlic. In a large stock pot on medium heat add garlic, onions and celery with a drizzle of olive oil. Add 4 sprigs of rosemary and 3 sprigs of thyme (leaving them on the stem, you will remove them later). Pour in a cup of white wine. Cook till tender and add 4 potatoes that have been cubed. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Add a can of fire roasted chopped tomatoes and the vegetable broth (about 5 cups). Add an additional cup of water and simmer on medium-low heat for a few hours stirring occasionally and adding extra seasoning or water if necessary.

2. Remove the sprigs of herbs. Before you are ready to eat chop kale and place in the soup. I learned that I like it better when the kale is vibrant and still partially firm. If you put in the kale early in the cooking process it turns to mush and looses flavor. For topping drizzle with a little olive oil and breadcrumbs. To make breadcrumbs; cube bread into small pieces. Add to a pan on med-high heat with canola oil. Turning frequently until golden brown. Season with salt and place on paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Then when cool crush into crumbs with the back of a cup or bowl and a paper towel in between. You could also just bake some croutons till crispy. I know I have been making a lot of soups lately but its the one of the few things I find super comforting on a cold dark winter night. Warms the soul and you can eat it for days after.

View the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Kale with Pancetta Cream and Toasted Rosemary Walnuts

When this was served at a recent dinner party, someone remarked, "I like that you don't cook the kale out of it." And this is true: while there are richer elements -- pancetta, cream and nuts -- scattered throughout, the kale itself, only cooked for a few minutes, is what shines through, enhanced rather than drowned out by the other ingredients. Apartmentcooker's toasted rosemary walnuts (sprinkled on top) are genius -- a technique we're sure to repeat on its own time and again. - Amanda & Merrill

Get the recipe.

Kale Salad with Apples and Hazelnuts

Kale is like one of those friends who you don't think about much, but when you do see him, you're always delighted and a little surprised by how much you like him. This was the case the other evening when I had dinner at Co. in Manhattan. Co. is known for its pizza not its greens, but like many of the new-wave pizza places in New York, its antipasti menu easily rivals its pizza. I ordered the kale salad with apples, roasted celery root and brown rice vinegar, and was reminded how much I love the mineral and earth and gutsiness of kale.At home, I opted out of roasting celery root, and instead subbed in toasted hazelnuts. And on a whim, I added some mustard greens and pecorino cheese. Use any ratio of kale to mustard you like; or use just one kind of green if you can't be bothered buying both. Young greens are best because they're more tender and sweet. Pull the leaves from the stems, then tear the leaves into pieces.A hidden advantage of this salad is that it gets better with a little time to sit and relax. If you make it ahead, proceed through step 1 and let it sit for up to 30 minutes, then finish it up -- and feel both organized and virtuous. - Amanda

Get the recipe.


According to Lidia Bastianich, the queen of Italian cuisine, cavolo nero is the traditional green used in Tuscan Ribollita, a hearty vegetable soup thickened with day old bread. Ribollita is Italian for "reboiled." Ribollita was originally peasant food, invented to stretch leftover minestrone. The soup was so delicious and satisfying, Ribollita eventually morphed into a dish in its own right.Ribollita is a true pantry supper. It begins with soffrito, the Italian base of sautéed onions, celery, carrot, and garlic. Canned tomatoes provide depth of flavor while cannellini beans are a cheap but tasty source of protein. The blistered leaves of cavolo nero contribute texture and a nutty, slightly bitter flavor. Chunks of stale bread added at the end of cooking absorb broth, thickening the soup. This is not a long-cooking soup, but adding ingredients in stages helps to develop flavor. - la domestique

Get the recipe.

One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

Deensiebat's pilaf breathes new life into a familiar classic. Both the quinoa and the hearty strips of lacinato kale (you can use chard or standard kale) crunch lightly between your teeth, and Meyer lemon juice and zest keep the quinoa from being bland. Fresh goat cheese and walnut oil just barely coat the warm pilaf, giving it a creamy, tangy finish, and toasted pine nuts lend some crunch. We love the technique of layering the quinoa and the kale and cooking it all in one pot. - Amanda & Merrill

Get the recipe.

Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Kale

Hotplate Gourmet made her ambitions very clear -- this linguini dish is to be a respectable weeknight dinner, something easy but good. Well, it's more than that -- we think it's terrific. Like an old Italian nonna, Hotplate Gourmet has you use the pasta water to help cook the kale and has you add breadcrumbs to the kale to fortify the pasta. You saute the breadcrumbs in oil, then add garlic and kale, and not too much of either. The garlic gently scents the kale and the greens add substance and sweetness, without making you feeling like you're eating kale for the sake of eating kale! You pull the dish together with some fresh olive oil and grated parmesan and you have a wonderful fall dinner. Next time we make this, we'll set aside the breadcrumbs after they've been toasted and add them back to the pan once the kale has been cooked. Their crunch is so great, you don't want to risk having them get soggy! - Amanda & Merrill

Get the recipe.

Quinoa and Kale Crustless Quiche

Kale and quinoa are a match made in heaven, and it turns out they're even better when you throw some eggs and cheese into the mix. Hilarybee gently wilts the kale, tossing it with caramelized onions, cooked quinoa, cream cheese, sharp cheddar and garlic before folding in some beaten egg -- just enough to hold everything together as the quiche puffs and browns in the oven. If raw garlic isn't your thing, toss it in with the onions right before they're finished caramelizing -- we enjoyed the mild bite. - Amanda & Merrill

Get the recipe.

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

Greens like kale, chard and mustard are like a troublesome boyfriend. At the market, they look so appealing, so lush and irresistable. But as soon as I get them home, I find myself stressed out by how much room they take up in the fridge, and how quickly they begin to lose their lustre.Cooking is the only way to tame them. On a recent market trip, I picked up dinosaur kale and a gorgeous bunch of broccoli rabe. By evening, when I'd grown tired of their ways at home, I tossed them both into a big pot and cooked them down with olive oil, cream and red pepper flakes. They would have made a very fine side of creamed greens (and if that's what you want, you may stop after step 2 of the recipe). These, however, had a longer journey ahead. Next I coarsely pureed the greens in a food processor, tossing in some creme fraiche for good measure. Lastly, I tossed them with penne, pancetta, and the ultimate mediator, grated pecorino cheese. This dish is big on the mineral and bitter flavors of the greens, and I liked this ruggedness. If you want to soften it up a bit, add some toasted pine nuts.It wasn't until days after I'd made this dish that I realized its unconscious inspiration -- clearly apartmentcooker's winning recipe in the greens contest: Kale with Pancetta Cream and Toasted Rosemary Walnuts. Man, how I love creamed greens! - Amanda

Get the recipe.

Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart

Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart

Here's how you impress dinner guests without chipping away at your bank account. My Pantry Shelf's tart coaxes luxury out of spare ingredients and bends readily to adaptation, depending on what looks good at the market and what you have on hand. A flaky pastry base and judicious amounts of ricotta, white wine, and fresh basil go a long way in dressing up the rustic kale and sausage filling. With this beauty, you've got yourself a dinner party -- all that's left is a big green salad and plenty of wine. - Amanda & Merrill

Get the recipe.