How to Enjoy An Autumn Favorite – Kale!
While we’ve enjoyed a sun-kissed entrance into Fall in the Pacific Northwest it’s important to remember that as temperatures drop our bodies need foods that supply us with the nutrients necessary to stave off illness and to perk us up during the days of decreasing light. The beauty of the changing seasons is that nature provides just what we need at every turn. Possibly the healthiest of the hardy cool-weather crops in the Brassica family from which we can greatly benefit now is the one known as borecole or kale.
Until recently, I’d heard about kale being a super-food packed full of vitamins and nutrients, but aside from eating it in soups during the chilly seasons in Tuscany, I hadn’t tasted many varieties or even tried using it at home. My first recipe tests using a few of the different kinds of this nutritious ingredient have led to some important discoveries that I think will be helpful for those who are just beginning to get familiar with these potent, dark, leafy greens in home cooking.
To get started, I recommend that new kale-eaters be patient and give the palate a chance to get used to this flavorful food. For people who are sensitive to bitterness, it’s best to start with varieties such as curly or Red Russian kale harvested young while the leaves are still tender. First, wash the leaves well, rough chop and eliminate any tough stem areas. In a pan with olive oil and garlic, saute or stew the kale until it wilts and add to your favorite recipes: sausage & white bean soup, frittata or quiche, roasted veggie pasta, lasagne, etc.
Once you’ve gotten familiar with the flavors and textures of different kale varieties, you’ll find that the tougher leaves are delicious when braised with bacon, chick peas and garlic for a flavorful side-dish or with chicken for a hearty main-course; the bright green, young and tender curly kale is great shredded for a salad with roasted beets, squash, fresh herbs, aged balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese; the more mature leaves and stems add delicious texture to soups and stews; and the concept of chips applies delightfully to any kind when tossed in oil and baked on a sheet pan in a single layer until crisp.
I am still experimenting with fresh blended combinations, including juices and smoothies, but as you’re getting acquainted with this superfood, it’s best to use the young, tender leaves when serving kale raw. It also helps to add a brightly acidic element, like lemon, to cut through any bitterness and honey or stevia to counter-balance the mix. For my most recent breakfast smoothie recipe I used young black (also known as Tuscan, Lacinato or dinosaur) kale, beet juice, yogurt, frozen pineapple, honey, squeezed lemon, pear-apple and a dash of cayenne. With a drink so full of vitamins C, A, K, B6, beta carotene, calcium and fiber, your immune system will surely thank you!
Enjoy autumn’s bounty and buon appetito!
What are you cooking with kale?
This post written by guest blogger – Ashlee Redfen
Ashlee Redfern was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and graduated from the Seattle Culinary Academy before moving to Florence, Italy, for 8-years filled with culinary explorations, university studies and European travel. After receiving a degree in Intercultural & Interlinguistic Studies, exploring, working at wine bars and teaching English in Italy, she returned to her roots and now lives on Bainbridge Island. She shares her passion for good, healthy food, cultural knowledge and Italian experiences through her new business, Italian Inspirations.