Cycling superfood: Kale

kale

By now you may have seen our page about kale in issue #27. We’ll be featuring different eats that we consider “superfoods” in future issues. (Don’t worry—we plan to cover the whole spectrum, including less goody-two-shoes candidates such as honeybuns.) Here are some tips and a couple recipes to go with the information in that column.

I’ve been growing several types of kale in my backyard garden for a few years now and can honestly say I love it. Health benefits aside, it just tastes really good, especially fresh (and organic). I eat it often as a side dish, or as a substitute for a cold salad.

Kale survives well in low temperatures. I typically start it earlier than other vegetables, in mid-March to mid-April depending on the mercurial spring weather here, and the leaves stay fresh and green into the winter. (For those who garden by the book, we’re in Zone 6B according to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

It’s a hardy vegetable for storing, as well, if you buy your kale from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Keep it in loose, air-filled plastic bags, or better yet, a large container that allows some air circulation but doesn’t allow it to dry out.

Standard basic recipe

Ingredients: kale, olive oil, garlic, salt

Preparation:

  1. Pick some kale—generally one large leaf or two medium leaves per person.
  2. Rinse, remove the thick middle stem and rip into pieces 2-3 inches across. Don’t dry it —the water clinging to the kale will keep it from getting scorched in the pan.
  3. Peel, and crush or slice your garlic. I use about one clove per person, depending on size, but you may like more or less. None is also fine if you are not a fan.
  4. Heat your olive oil in a skillet on low and add the garlic. Cook until just brown at the edges.
  5. Add the kale and cook just until wilted, stirring constantly. The trick is to cook it until bright green and just past “crunchy,” without letting it get olive-ish or brown at all.
  6. Tip for cast-iron pan users: I often turn off the heat a moment or two after adding the kale, as these pans hold heat for a long time. There will be enough residual heat to sauté the kale just right.
  7. Salt to taste and serve!

I once mentioned to my grandmother that I was growing kale, and she said that the best recipe was to cook it with bacon fat and sugar. Mmmm-hmmm. A good recipe if you are working in a steel mill for 12-hour shifts seven days a week… or if you have gone on a long ride and need all the calories and nutrients you can pack into one dish.

German Kale and Sausage

Ingredients:

  • About a pound of kale (or one large bunch), cleaned, de-stemmed and chopped
  • Two or three large pieces of bacon, chopped
  • One-half of a small onion, chopped
  • Two teaspoons of beef bouillon
  • One tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • Black pepper to taste
  • A pinch of sugar (optional)
  • Sausage of your choice—bratwurst is good, kielbasa for a more international flavor

Preparation:

  1. Many recipes say to blanch the kale first. This has never made sense to me, since you’re going to be boiling it for a long time anyway, but some cooks insist it helps “fix” the green color and nutrients. In any case, to blanch, put the kale in boiling, heavily salted water for just about a minute, then plunge in icewater. (A metal sieve is helpful here.)
  2. Cook the bacon in a large pan or medium pot (use low temp and frequent flipping to avoid burns)
  3. Toss in the onion and sauté until soft
  4. Add the kale, then add enough water to cover it
  5. Throw in the bouillon, turn up the heat a bit and simmer for 30 minutes
  6. Stir in the mustard
  7. Add the sausage and simmer for another 30 minutes
  8. Add pepper to taste
  9. Add a little bit of sugar if you’d like
  10. DO NOT add salt until you taste it—the bacon and sausage often make it salty enough

I’m not normally a fan of cooking the kale so long, but this is the traditional way to do it, and it is tasty. Serve with fried or boiled potatoes and a hearty German beer!

 

 

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