I am here to demystify and tell you everything you need to know about Kale, or as I like to call it, Roadside Cabbage.
Many have a love-hate relationship with this hearty green, and it certainly seems to have gained popularity in the genre of “fast health food,” i.e., your make-your-own salad franchises and your absurdly overpriced shake and smoothie varieties at Whole Foods or the after workout counter at Barry’s Bootcamp. Here are a few thoughts about this green dinosaur skin looking superfood.
It is not the world’s healthiest food.
I’m sorry, Becky, but anyone who tells you anything that sounds like this is lying. Guess what? No single food is the world’s healthiest food, and while a few might compete for the title of “most useful to stock on a deserted island,” kale, IMHO, is not on the top of that list. What kale is is a healthy leafy green with a wholesome amount of phytonutrients. But guess what? In a nutritional analysis, kale is comparable in its nutritional content to lettuce. So why all the fuss?
You really need to know what to do with it.
I don’t know how many times I walked into a salad bar and ordered a kale salad, only to squirm halfway through as I watch the person behind the counter preparing it.
“But they didn’t massage my kale…“
Thing is, kale is a rough, tough, unforgivingly fibrous leafy green. You gotta warm her up.
All jokes about massaged vegetables and beyond organic cream aside, kale needs to be (wo)man-handled if you’re going to consume it raw (assuming you are not trying to punish yourself on a Jewish holiday). Here’s how I do this:
I break off each kale leaf and rinse it thoroughly. Then, in a quick swoop, I pinch the leaf at the base of the stem and pull up toward the top, separating the leaf from the stem. You should be left with two halves of a kale leaf and a kale stem. Repeat with the rest of the leaves.
Then take all of your stemmed leaves and bunch them into your fist and handle them like a stress ball. Think of it as an angry Russian massage for your salad.
Once your kale leaves are thoroughly worked over, place them on a cutting board, bunch them closely together into a loaf, and thinly slice them with a sharp knife. This is the most elegant way to prepare kale for a raw salad, and, believe me, you’ll taste the difference.
Now that you have a beautiful chiffonade of kale before you, it is time for a little bit of salt and acid. Use a bit of coarse sea salt and a strong probiotic vinegar like apple or coconut cider.
Your salad base it now prepared. I’m sorry to tell you that any kale salad preparation that omits some version of this process will result in what looks a lot like a cow grazing on wild milk thistles, and it will taste like it too. You don’t chew your cud, do you?
Go ahead and add cranberries, apples, pears, walnuts, pepitas, onions, radishes, and carrots to your salad. Or whatever the hell you feel like. There are no wrong answers, remember? Oh, just make sure you use some sweet ingredients to balance the bitterness of the kale and the sourness of the vinegar. Fruit (dried or fresh). A dollop of honey. Traditional balsamic vinegar. Candied nuts. Have fun.
You can also cook it.
Another perfectly good use case for kale is to cook it, in which case you can skip the spa treatment. I particularly like to steam it and combine it with butter and garlic and a splash of ume plum vinegar, or use it as a base for Saag.