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 cartenoids and flavonoids — and you have an effective one-two punch for the cells: enhanced oxygen delivery to the blood stream, 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. And whenever possible, choose organic.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. The bitter flavor of kale can increase the longer it is stored, so if you know you aren’t going to eat it immediately, strip the leaves from the stems and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Shock them in cold water, then drain, squeezing out the excess water. At this stage, the kale is ready for use in most recipes. Bag and freeze it to use later.
Before cooking, rinse the leaves well in cold water. Cut the leaves away from the hard stems. Discard the stems. 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.
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