Kale gets a shout out to start the year

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, January 6, 2022

Today’s Special

Kale is another one of my favorite things. I ran out of room to include it in my favorite things article so it gets a whole article. Yes, you’re right, kale has been very popular for the past 10 years or so, and rightly so.

The first time I remember having kale was on a trip to New England. I believe we were in Vermont, I ordered artic char (a nice mild flavored cold-water fish) which was served over white beans layered over a kale salad drizzled with a blueberry vinaigrette. Very New England-ish wouldn’t you say?

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And the flavors were scrumptious. Now-a-days kale ranks right up there with fresh spinach in popularity and is found in most markets.

Cruciferous kale grows best in cooler, even colder gardens, which is probably why it’s a favorite green in northern Europe. Luckily local grocery stores can stock it year-round for us. Kale is a member of the cabbage family and has a very mild cabbage-like flavor.  It also comes in many colors…dark green, blue-green, and a purplish-red.  (And there are pretty lavender hued leaves that are ornamental, and look nice in the landscape planted alongside pansies in our fall and winter gardens.) Edible kale is usually identified by its frilly, crinkly, or deeply cut leaves.

Always look for dark green leaves that are not limp with no signs of yellowing if you’re buying a head (or bunch) of kale leaves.  I sometimes buy chopped kale in a bag, and it will last several days in the coolest drawer in the refrigerator. I’ve never had it yellow, start to mold, or go limp.  And, I often purchase an almost ready-made kale salad in a bag that comes with nuts, craisins and sunflower seeds and a tasty poppyseed vinaigrette.  It’s a good, simple and quick healthy side dish that compliments most anything, just be sure to note the use-by date on the bag.

What I like about kale is that it is a very sturdy green leafy vegetable.  It holds up to salad dressings well, as long as you don’t drench it; it can be eaten as a salad, sautéed, wilted, boiled or microwaved…much the same as it’s cousin cabbage.

For a kale salad I’ll add torn green leafy lettuce with the chopped or shredded kale, as I do with a spinach salad.  We even included a kale salad with mandarin oranges and an apple vinaigrette with our Thanksgiving dinner. It provided a nice, bright flavor among the other rather heavy traditional dishes.  And any day, I’d eat a kale salad with Newman’s Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing.

If you do buy kale leaves, strip away the center stalk for it might be tough, or chop it up with a paring knife to add to a salad or for sautéing.  Plan on about 8 ounces of fresh kale per serving.  And especially take note too that kale provides plenty of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.  I just don’t know of a reason not to eat kale.  So, if one of your resolutions was to eat more green vegetables…here you go!

Now, what about kale in a smoothie you might ask?  No thank you. I like to eat my veggies with a fork.

Recipe of the Week

Wilted Kale with Bacon

1-pound fresh kale (one large bunch)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small white onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Strip kale leaves from stems, discarding the stems. Wash well and coarsely chop. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp, drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings and pour off the rest. Add olive oil to skillet, sauté chopped onions until lightly browned. Add kale to skillet, stirring to begin wilting the kale, adding more kale as it cooks down.  Sprinkle lightly with salt. Continue stirring until kale is wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Or, cover and cook over medium heat 15 – 20 minutes for a more tender cooked kale. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss with reserved bacon drippings and 1 vinegar.