Chosen Bites: The case for kale

Check out these recipes for one of the most versatile and healthiest vegetables in the world; kale.

Pasta with kale (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Pasta with kale
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Several reports have come out in recent weeks extolling the virtues of kale. It seems that the green leafy stuff does just about everything good for our bodies. From protecting our eyes, nervous systems and preventing cancer to controlling blood pressure, is there anything that kale cannot do?
The problem is that making it taste good is not so easy. The best way to eat it is, of course, raw. But, you need to dress it up to get your family to fall in love. My favorite way to serve kale is quickly sautéed in olive oil with some flavor enhancers and then tossed with pasta. Pasta with kale practically screams, “I am healthy, eat me!”
My favorite kale is the Black Tuscan kale called Cavalo Nero, Lacinatokale or sometimes Dinosaur kale. Black kale tastes sweeter than most of its bitter cousins and cooks down to a pleasing texture very quickly. I also use a mix of black and red kale to make my amazing delicious and decadent Kale Gratin.
If you haven’t gotten into kale, you are missing out on a relatively easy-to-prepare vegetable that is delicious, versatile and the healthiest vegetable in the world.
Kale SaladServes 4
6 cups black kale or a mix of kales, stems removed and chopped2 large beets, roasted, peeled and cut into diceCitrus sections from blood oranges, grapefruit, tangerinesToasted walnuts, pistachios or almondsBalsamic VinaigretteBalsamic Vinaigrette3 teaspoons Dijon style mustard1/3 cup balsamic vinegarPinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil2 tablespoons toasted walnut oil (optional)
1. Whisk the mustard and vinegar together until emulsified. Add the salt and pepper.
2. Slowly add the oil, a little at a time, until the vinaigrette is emulsified and does not separate. The whole thing should be one uniform mix, not separate ingredients.Kale Gratin Serves 4
This cheesy vegetable dish is a family favorite and can be a meal all by itself.8 cups of mixed kale (I like lacinato and red kale), stems removed and chopped
For the sauce3 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons additional butter2 shallots, minced1 clove garlic, minced3 cups milk (I use whole milk)½ cup grated Gruyere cheese of your favorite cheese½ teaspoon grated nutmeg¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese½ cup panko breadcrumbsKosher salt and pepper
1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter and sweat the shallots and garlic in the pan until they are softened and fragrant (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes until the roux is smooth.
3. Add the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thick and creamy (about 7-10 minutes).
4. Add the cheeses and nutmeg and remove from the heat.
5. Toss the kale with the sauce and place the mix in a greased casserole.
6. Melt the remaining butter and toss with breadcrumbs.
7. Scatter the breadcrumbs on top of the casserole and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with a salad and great piece of fish or by itself!
Pasta with KaleServes 4
450 grams whole wheat pasta¼ cup extra virgin olive oilPinch of dried chili flakes2 cloves garlic, minced4 cups kale, stemmed and choppedKosher salt and freshly cracked pepperParmesan cheese (optional)
1. Bring a large sauce pan full of water to a boil and add the pasta.
2. Place a large sauté pan, coated with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, over medium heat. Add the chili flakes and garlic and sweat the ingredients until the garlic has softened and the chili flakes are fragrant. Add the kale and continue cooking.
3. When the pasta is al dente (about 6-8 minutes), transfer the pasta using a mesh or slotted spoon, directly into the pan with the kale. Add ½ cup of pasta water (the starch makes the dish a bit saucy) and continue cooking until the pasta is cooked through and the kale has wilted and is tender (about 3 minutes).
4. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese if desired.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.