By Barbara Beltrami
Oh, come on! You must have known it was only a matter of time before I, your friendly local recipe writer, zeroed in on that magic new gastronomic and health phenomenon, that newly popular, recently discovered among health-conscious Americans veggie … kale!
Basically a kind of cabbage that doesn’t form a head but produces lots of leaves, some variety of kale is a staple of many European, Asian and African diets. Rich in vitamins, especially vitamin K, which has been found to help blood clotting, this dark green (or sometimes other color) veggie can now be found on supermarket shelves as well as restaurant menus.
Kale is not new to me, however. My mother, who had a knack for finding and cooking what were many decades ago obscure vegetables, made kale regularly. That is, she boiled it. Period. So it wasn’t one of my favorites.
Fast forward several decades and cookbooks, websites and home making magazines are rife with recipes for kale paired with every conceivable as well as some very inconceivable ingredients. Because it is a little bitter and tough by itself, it is best prepared by removing its stems and pairing it with flavors that complement it.
With apologies to my mother, I offer you kale salad, Portuguese kale soup and kale chips.
Kale, Orange, Avocado and Pignoli Salad
The rough texture of the kale, the tanginess of the orange, the creaminess of the avocado and crunchiness of the pignoli nuts converge on the palate for an interesting taste sensation.
YIELD: 4 to 6 servings.
One 12-ounce bag baby kale, washed, dried and de-stemmed
One large navel orange, peeled and diced
One avocado, peeled and sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1½ tablespoons wine vinegar
One tablespoon honey
One garlic clove
One teaspoon dried tarragon or one tablespoon fresh, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup toasted pignoli nuts
DIRECTIONS: Crush the kale leaves with your hands so that they wilt a little. Place in a large bowl and toss with orange and avocado. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, orange juice, wine vinegar, honey, garlic and tarragon. Remove and discard garlic. Gently toss liquid mixture with kale mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle pignoli nuts on top and serve immediately. Serve with crusty bread and a hard cheese or with any fish, chicken or meat dish.
Portuguese Kale Soup
Hearty as can be, this national comfort food of Portugal has many interpretations by Portuguese immigrants in America, and each one is better than the next. This recipe borrows ingredients from various versions that elaborate upon the basic “caldo verde,” which is potatoes and kale.
YIELD: 6 to 8 servings.
8 ounces linguica or chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
One large onion, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
One pound kale, washed, de-stemmed and torn into pieces
2 quarts chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and diced
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
One 28-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Handful fresh flat leaf parsley, rinsed, de-stemmed and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
DIRECTIONS: In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage slices. Add the olive oil and onion; stir over medium heat until onion is soft and slightly opaque. Add garlic, kale, broth and potatoes. Lower heat slightly and continue to cook until kale is wilted, then add remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add water or more broth, if needed. Serve hot or refrigerate until used. Pair with Portuguese bread and olive oil.
Amazingly easy and surprisingly delicious, these munchies are an excellent way to get kids to eat their veggies. In fact, I know of a certain little boy who became a convert from Pringles and Cheetos to kale chips!
YIELD: 2 to 4 servings.
One pound kale, washed, dried and de-stemmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss kale with oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes until crispy. Serve with yogurt dip or hummus.