The farmer’s markets are winding down in New England, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t yummy, organic, US grown vegetables in our supermarkets. Kale is another versatile, wonderful winter staple that can be found easily at this time of year. It’s what’s in the box this week.
The Good Stuff
One cup of chopped kale is…wait for it…just THIRTY THREE calories! You should aim for at least 3 cups of greens per day anyway, so double or triple up on your serving size! Your waist line will not suffer.
Kale is super high in vitamin K (you can learn about vitamin K here), vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, B6, fiber, calcium and 11 other vitamins and minerals. It has high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits giving it a leading role in the avoidance of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. It supports and regulates the body’s detoxification system and studies show it is aids in lowering the risk of certain cancers because of it’s high level of ITC’s (isothiocyanates).
4 Amazing Ways to Prepare to Kale
With bacon grease. I know this sounds crazy coming from a mostly veg-eater, but it is sooooo good. A couple of years ago I started purchasing a few 1 lb. packages of bacon and sausage from a local free range, vegetarian fed pork farm to keep in the freezer over the winter to cook for the family or when I wanted a little extra protein myself. I get weak in the knees for some farm fresh eggs & bacon, not gonna lie. Anyway, I reserved some of the bacon grease and kept it in the freezer, portioned using a baby food tray that sort of looks like an ice cube tray.
Wash the kale thoroughly. Tear the kale from its stalk, into the size of your typical spinach leaf. Kale cooks down just like spinach although it is a hardier leaf. Preheat a saute pan over medium low heat, and let the bacon grease warm up. Once loose in the pan – where it slides around easily – start adding the kale and stir frequently with a spatula to coat the kale. Add salt & pepper to taste but go light to start because the bacon flavoring might be enough on it’s own. Saute the kale until it is wilted. You can cover it leaving a little room for steam to escape for 5 minutes if you prefer to steam it. Serve immediately.
In a Soup.
Read on for the easiest soup you will ever make. 7 ingredients, people. SEVEN.
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Teaspoon-ish of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cups of vegetable broth
4 cups kale, stems removed and leaves ripped coarsely into spinach sized leaves
1 15-oz. can of white beans, drained and rinsed
Optional: 4 sausage links, chopped
In a large stock pot, cook the sausage until browned (or heated through or fully cooked depending on what kind of sausage you are using, this recipe is VERY flexible), using the 2 TBSP of olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and kale and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the white beans, and simmer for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.
I’ve made this soup several times. Add more kale to make it slightly more hearty and less brothy. You can also add finely chopped onion and saute with the sausage. For my veg friends, omit the meat and this soup is still awesome.
In a Stew.
I’ve mentioned this recipe before here – Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes from Veganomicon. Click here to view the recipe. This recipe takes some prep work, and includes a complex variety of ingredients, but it is worth the time and effort.
I couldn’t end this blog post without mentioning kale chips. If you make them just right, it’s hard not to eat the whole batch.
Wash kale thoroughly and make sure it is totally dry. Totally dry. You might consider washing the kale the day before. Remove the leave from the stems and tear the kale into pieces larger than you would envision a potato chip – the kale shrinks in the oven. Remember shrinky dinks?
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Start with just one TBSP of olive oil…you can always add more. If you add too much your chips will come out chewy and not crispy. You only need enough olive oil to light, very lightly, coat the leaves.
Here’s where you can get creative. Sprinkle on nutritional yeast (a vegan favorite), or a little salt & pepper, or parmesan cheese, or red pepper flakes as some common kale chip toppings.
Lay the kale on a large baking sheet – you may need to make multiple batches or use a few baking sheets. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil) and make sure the kale is in a single layer.
Bake for 15 – 16 minutes on a lower rack in the oven. Not at the very bottom, but the next level up. Check on the kale frequently just in case your oven runs hot. The kale should be crispy but not burned.