Kale, a member of the broccoli family, has stepped out of its cousin’s shadow.
By Lisa James
It’s official: Kale, long ignored in all but the most old-fashioned kitchens, is now a hot trend in the food world. Time says kale has managed to “emerge from nowhere to become America’s vegetable sweetheart.” According to The Daily Meal, a popular blog, kale’s lusciously green, frilly leaves attracted food photographers as well as chefs striving “to create a dish that delivers an ‘ah-ha’ moment when customers take their first bite.” This set the social media world abuzz, which in turn led to the appearance of kale at farmer’s markets and other produce outlets—and to numerous household cooks looking for ways to prepare it.
Unlike some food trends (deep-fried cookies, anyone?), kale deserves the acclaim. Like other members of the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), kale clocks in with a low calorie count—about 34 per cup—and a wealth of nutrients including fiber, calcium, carotenoids, folate, iron, protein and vitamins A, C and K. Kale also provides flavonoids, substances that help reduce free-radical activity and fight cancer development.
Unlike many vegetables, kale tolerates cold weather well. This has made it a traditional wintertime staple in northern climes, where it has been a welcome addition to blander items such as potatoes. “Kale’s robust flavor and peppery kick taste great with bold ingredients, such as red pepper flakes, chilies, vinegar or bacon,” say Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato, authors of Eat Greens: Seasonal Recipes to Enjoy in Abundance (Running Press). Kale leaves can be sautéed or stir-fried (by themselves or with other vegetables), added to soup (as in the recipe below), baked into tasty chips and blended into smoothies. Removed from their tough stems, well-chopped raw kale leaves can even be used to perk up midwinter salads.
When buying kale, look for firm, deeply colored plants with strong stems; smaller leaves are more delicately flavored. Store refrigerated for up to five days in an airtight bag.
Whether you cook to follow fashion, try new tastes or ensure your family’s well-being, kale can give your winter recipes a healthy boost.
Kale, Sweet Potato and Orzo Soup
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/2 lb kale, tough ends trimmed, chopped into 1/2” pieces
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” dice
1/2 cup orzo or small pasta
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Put broth, water, kale and sweet potatoes in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until potatoes are fork-tender, 15-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to a boil.
Add orzo and cook until just tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Add orzo and pepper to the soup pot.
Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes longer.
Serve immediately with Parmesan, if desired.
Serves: 8-10. Analysis per 1/10th serving: 88 calories, 5g protein,
<1g fat (none saturated), 2g fiber, 16g carbohydrate, 67 mg sodium (using low-sodium broth)
Reprinted with permission from Eat Greens: Seasonal
Recipes to Enjoy in Abundance by Barbara Scott-Goodman
& Liz Trovato (Running Press, www.runningpress.com);
photo credit: Colin Cooke