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What's Cooking?: It's All About Kale!

Kale is so healthy and delicious, full of vitamins and antioxidants.  The word is out as its popularity continues to grow about its health benefits.  However, I resisted trying this luscious curly forest green vegetable with its coarse texture until my son convinced me of how great the kale salad he has been having for lunch.  As a result, I found there are many uses for kale with various techniques in preparation as in salads, in soups and stuffing, and kale chips.  The kale chips are a blast to make with their light, wispy-like quality.  Stir-fry kale with garlic is exquisitely delicious in its simplicity.  It is a great substitute for spinach in many recipes.  Its sturdy texture doesn’t fall apart as easily as spinach does.  I like it in my quiche for its chewier texture!

Let’s take a look at making a refreshing kale salad for the summer days ahead.  There are some preliminary steps to making an exceptional kale salad that leaves you wanting more.  Kale can be tough and strong in taste so find bunches of fresh kale with smaller leaves that are more tender and mild than the convenient precut packages that are sold.  Be sure to dry the kale well to remove extra moisture after washing it.  Before working with the kale, remove the thick center stem.  You would have to do this even with the bagged chopped kale.  I go a step further by removing some of the finer or medium stems of the leaves.    Chop the kale by bundling it up and then finely cut it into ribbon strips.  

When making a kale salad, an important tip is to thoroughly massage ribbons of kale with a light drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of kosher salt.   Exercise those hands to make sure all the leaves are coated with the oil.  This tenderizes the kale and also makes it beautifully translucent.  Let it sit for 30 minutes before adding your dressing.  I prefer a simple dressing of lemon, honey, and olive oil with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.  Some recipes call for red wine vinegar but I find it can overwhelm the taste of the salad so add it gingerly to your taste if you choose to use it.  A little acidity does brighten the flavors. You can have this simple kale salad as it is or add a variety of ingredients to raise the notch in flavor.  I like to lightly sautéed dry cranberries and shallots with a little olive oil.  This will glisten and plump the “craisins”.  Freshly diced mangoes or mandarin oranges give a slight citrus acidity and sweetness to the salad which contrasts with the bite of raw sliced sweet red onions which I also add.  I then top it off with a small handful of toasted pepitas or sliced almonds.  Some bacon and feta cheese won’t hurt either.  This beautiful looking salad beckons you to devour it.  Turn your creativity on.   So goooood! 

Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook by Susan Sampson

Eat Greens by Barbara Scott-Goodman & Liz Trovato

50 Best Plants on the Planet by Cathy Thomas

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