Feb 7, 2012

How to Be the Boss of Kale

Perhaps you are afraid of kale. You're intimidated by its huge dark green leaves and its commanding bulk, you're rendered mute by its assertive bitterness, or you're not brave enough to break its toughness.

It's true. Kale has been around the block a few times. In fact, kale was the dominant vegetable in Northern Europe through the Middle Ages. How do you think King Arthur became so wise? It wasn't from eating petits-pois.

And Scotland was basically a giant kale garden, where the writer J. M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, was a member of the "Kailyard School" of fiction.

So let's not be cowards when it comes to kale. You just have to show kale who's boss. You must tame its strength. Here are a few tips:

--You can eat it raw. But it's best cut up into thin strips. This is true for lots of strong winter vegetables. Thin strips tame the bitterness and allow more surface area for dressing or sauce. I made a dressing the other day of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. I used the kale as a bed for roasted onions, squash, and sweet potato. The sassy kale was a perfect partner for the sweet vegetables.

--You can throw it into soups or stews. I even put a whole bunch in a lamb chili last night. Again, it was cut in small pieces. One reason I make small pieces is to make it that much harder for certain boys to separate it out from the rest of the food. I'm shrewd that way.

--If you are sauteing it, pair it with bacon. Cut up some bacon slices with kitchen scissors and cook the pieces, stirring occasionally. Drain any excess fat and cook some kale in with the bacon, again stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper. Other tasty additions are Sriracha or tamari, depending what taste you are seeking.

And if you are already a kale fan, or becoming one, you will be glad to know that the northern Germans have a kale celebration every winter, centered around eating boiled kale! Is that festive or what? The name of the ritual is Grunkohlfahrt (pronounced grune-cole-fart--yes, I know) and it also seems to involve wurst (of course) and schnapps. I would imagine a great deal of schapps.

And, seriously, all fart jokes aside, kale is a great anticarcinogen (not boiled) and has tons of other vitamins including calcium. So boss around some kale today. And in the mean time, Happy Grunkohlfahrt!

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