Kale is a hearty and versatile green that’s perfect for pan cooking with olive oil and garlic, or used in soups, and stews. Because the leaves of this vegetable are so sturdy, kale stands up to longer cooking than chard and beet greens. And, while greens like spinach and chard quickly suffer from overcooking, stewed kale is deliciously sweet.
Kale is in the same family of vegetables as cabbage. Like its cousins, kale is packed with health-promoting sulfur compounds, and it has been found to have the greatest antioxidant capacity of all fruits and vegetables. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as manganese, and a very good source of calcium, iron and potassium – and it includes more eye-healthy lutein than any other food choice.
The really good news is that this nutrient-dense vegetable is usually presented in a low-calorie recipe package.
Kale can be simmered for long periods, or it can be blanched and then quickly pan-cooked in olive oil.
Here are two favorite kale recipes. The first collected from a 2009 New York Times food column and the other from the chef-owner of San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe, Judy Rodgers. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is a well-worn favorite in my kitchen.
Pan-Cooked Kale with Garlic and Olive Oil – From the New York Times
- 2 large bunches kale
- Salt, preferably kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Freshly ground pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you stem the kale and wash the leaves in two rinses of water. Fill a bowl with ice water for the kale after it’s blanched. When the blanching water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and the clean kale. Blanch for four minutes, or until the kale is tender. Transfer immediately to the ice water to preserve the color, then drain and squeeze the water from the leaves. Chop coarsely or cut in strips.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the kale. Stir for a couple more minutes or until the kale is nicely seasoned with garlic and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and serve.
Simmered Kale – From The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- Two bunches kale, stemmed, washed thoroughly and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch wide ribbons
- 4 cups water or more if needed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.
Add the kale a handful at a time. Stir until the kale wilts, then add another handful until all of it has been used. Add water to cover the kale by about 1/2 to 1 inch, and salt to taste.
Bring to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. The kale should be tender but not mushy, and the liquid in the pan should be sweet. Taste and adjust salt. Add freshly ground pepper.
Serve it on thick slices of toasted bread rubbed with garlic or topped with a poached egg.
This long-simmered kale yields a nutrient-dense, winter-nourishing “pot liquor” that you might want to sip with a spoon or sop up with good French bread.
Kale loses its bright color as it simmers and the flavor of the leaves is strong, but the overall effect is sweet and winter-comforting.
Advance preparation: This can be made a day ahead and reheated. The flavor will be stronger the second day.
These two recipes are favorite Biosyntrx lifestyle staff lunches.
Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD and the Biosyntrx Staff
A new copy of The San Francisco Zuni Cafe Cookbook published in 2002 can sometimes be hard to find, but you can always find a used copy from your favorite independent book seller or even from Amazon. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort. This book was named the 2003 Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. I would personally vote it the cookbook of the decade. Judy was also named Outstanding Chef in America in 2004. Unfortunately, she passed away last December.
We promise to feature her stunningly-good Roast Chicken with Bread Salad in an up-coming Tasty Tuesday. It’s hardly low-calorie, but certainly worth a special Valentine’s Day calorie splurge for those who like to cook something special for the one or ones they love.