Think Kale is Just for Show? Check Out How to Fall in Love with This Super Nutritious Leafy Green

Leafy green kale packs a nutritional wallop and works in all kinds of dishes.By Zester Daily Staff

One of the most robust-looking vegetables in any garden is kale in all its varietal splendor -- red leaved, purple-veined, blue green or nearly black; ruffled, savoyed and smooth. One look at kale and you know you should eat it, and given the robust good looks of the leaves, you'd expect them to make for spectacular eating.

Related: A great vegetarian soup that comes to life with kale.

Kale's fast becoming the trendy salad green. But this veggie is sturdy and hardy enough to stand up to some serious cooking and some serious accompanying flavors. Kale can take, and needs, plenty of garlic no matter how it's cooked, and a splash of acid to wake it up, just as with turnip, collards, mustard and other greens in this family.

Related: Tips on growing kale.

As with other greens, kale somehow comes alive when it runs into a piece of bacon or thick slices of Spanish chorizo, as in a mess of kale with potatoes and chorizo. Of course, the kale is going to be scrumptious with all those spices and porcine juices. But kale and potatoes even without the pork, in the style of colcannon, work well too.

Contributing: Deborah Madison

A Salad of Black Kale, Kabocha Squash, Cheddar Cheese and Almonds

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small kabocha squash, about 2 pounds

1 bunch black or Tuscan kale, washed, stems removed, julienned

1 cup cheese, a good quality English or Irish cheddar, cut into half-inch squares

1 tablespoon whole almonds, roasted unsalted, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and pepper

Directions

1. Cut the squash into quarters, scrape out the seeds and fibers on the inside. Place in a steamer. Add 2 cups of water to the pot. Cover and cook on high heat for 5-10 minutes until cooked but firm, remove, and let cool. Remove the skin and discard. You will need a cup of cooked squash. Reserve the leftover portion to use in a soup or as a side dish with a grilled meat.

2. Cut the cooked squash into half-inch squares.

3. In a small saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool.

4. Place the julienned kale on the bottom of a serving bowl, sprinkle the squash pieces, cheddar and almonds over the top and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, and season with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

>> Chef Foot sprinkles freshly grated Pecorino Romano on top of the salad.

>> Add ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion rings to the salad.

Contributing: David Latt

Related: Tips for cooking kale and other veggies right out of your garden.


Mashed Potatoes with Kale (Colcannon)

Colcannon is one of the great signature dishes of Ireland. The most common version pairs cabbage with potatoes, but the dish is also made with kale. Curly kale would be used in Ireland; I like to make it with cavolo nero.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled

Salt

1 small Savoy cabbage, or 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero

1 to 1½ cups milk, as needed

3 scallions, minced

Freshly ground pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

1. Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add about ½ teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, about 30 to 45 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes to the pan, cover tightly and let steam over very low heat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher or a fork, through a food mill or in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, while still hot.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. If using cabbage, quarter and core, then cut the quarters crosswise into thin strips. If using kale, tear the leaves from the ribs and clean well in two changes of water. Add the cabbage or kale to the salted boiling water and boil for 4 to 6 minutes, until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Transfer to the ice water, allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop fine (you can use a food processor for this).

3. Toward the end of the potato cooking time, combine the milk and the scallions in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for a few minutes. Stir the chopped cabbage or kale into the hot mashed potatoes and beat in the milk. The mixture should be fluffy (you can do this in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle). Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a hot serving dish, make a depression in the center and place the butter in the center to melt, then stir and serve at once. Alternatively, keep warm in a double boiler: set the bowl in a saucepan filled one third of the way with water. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the water to a simmer. Stir the potato and kale mixture from time to time.

Contributing: Martha Rose Shulman

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