Versatile Kale

In Season, Ingredient, Winter
on November 26, 2011
Mark Boughton/styling: Teresa Blackburn

When I worked in catering during college, kale was the curly stuff we used to garnish trays of Jell-O and cheese. No one ever really thought of eating it. But today we love kale for its toothsome bite and because it stands up to heat much better than its more delicate cousins, spinach or arugula. This makes kale an excellent choice for cooking, but not so much for eating raw in salads. But a long bake in a hearty pasta dish or a slow simmer in a pot of soup? For these iterations, kale is perfect.

Recently, on a chilly overcast day, I found myself craving something warm and comforting. With wild rice in the pantry and kale in the crisper, I had the beginnings of our Wild Rice Chowder. I love the kale in this creamy chowder—it’s a chewy match for the rice. A friend came over, I toasted some Irish soda bread and roasted some cauliflower, and we had dinner.  
Here are 10 ways to add more kale to your mealtimes while it’s in season, plus a few recipes to try.

•    Add chopped kale to potato (or sweet potato) hash at breakfast or dinner.
•    Use kale in vegetarian lasagna.
•    Toss kale in a pot of potato soup.
•    Make oven-baked kale “chips” — just toss large pieces of kale with olive oil a little vinegar and kosher salt and bake at 350° until crisp, about 15 minutes.
•    Add kale to split pea soup.
•    Toss kale in curries and stir-fries.
•    Use kale in savory bread puddings and breakfast casseroles.
•    Add kale to your list of favorite pizza toppings.
•    Make a chopped salad with kale, beets, carrots, red onion, and a tangy vinaigrette.
•    Add kale to your favorite beef and pork braises and stews.

—By Jill Melton, Relish Editor