Kale to the Chef
By Alysia Santo
Kale, that impressive looking dark green leafy vegetable, has a unique combination of nutritive qualities that have made it a hot topic for cancer researchers. Nutritionists recommend it for its levels of anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and glucosinolates — nutrients that are being studied for their promising anti-cancer capabilities.
Much of kale’s anti-inflammatory power comes from its high concentration of vitamin K. Combine this with kale’s high levels of antioxidants — a broad range of carotenoids and flavonoids — and you have an effective one-two punch for the cells: enhanced oxygen delivery to the bloodstream, and protection of healthy cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
There are three types of kale: curly, the most common, purple-tinged Russian kale, and the dark green slender leaved Tuscan Lacinato kale. Look for strong stems and dark-colored tops when shopping for kale. Check the leaves for wilting, or discoloration. Do not wash the leaves until you are ready to cook them. Store in a plastic bag in one of the crisper drawers of your fridge, and it should keep for about five days.
To enjoy your kale uncooked, in a salad or slaw, one of the best preparation steps you can do is to massage it. This will help breakdown the toughness of the leaves and remove any bitterness you might encounter. Cooking it washes away the water-soluble vitamins so trying it uncooked and massaged is a great idea.
Rinse the leaves well in cold water. Cut the leaves away from the hard stems. Discard the stems. To massage your kale, place it in a large bowl and pour over a few glugs of olive oil plus a pinch or two of salt, and gently rub it into the leaves so that it is all thoroughly coated. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. It is now ready for the next steps in your recipe. We suggest giving our Kale Caesar Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons a go — it’s delicious!
When cooking your kale, there is no need to massage it first. Put the leaves in a steamer and sprinkle with sea salt. Steam for 3-5 minutes, enough to wilt and soften them. Squeeze as much moisture as possible from the leaves to remove any remaining bitterness and roughly chop.
At this point, you can heat some olive oil in a pan, brown some sliced garlic, add the kale and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, adding a spritz of lemon at the end to enhance the flavor. Or, after steaming, simply add some lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Try using kale in our Sauteed Kale with Sweet Potatoes.