Because kale is mentioned as a "superfood" so often by health nuts (like me, I guess?), it has kind of a bad reputation as something you eat because it's good for you, not because it's delicious. It's true, it is good for you: it has a lot of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and a whole slew of other nutrients you can read up about on the Wikipedia article, if you're so inclined. But, as it happens, it can also be incredibly tasty--if you treat the right kind the right way.
For the first eight months of living in NYC, I could only find curly kale (the stuff on the left). I cannot express how huge of a bummer this was. But then yesterday at Fairway, out of the blue, there were piles of dinosaur kale (middle) and Russian red (on the right)! It was as if all my hopes and dreams had come true.
Let's start with dinosaur kale, also called Tuscan kale, lacinata kale, or cavolo nero. My mom (who introduced me to these greens in the first place) makes this amazingly delicious shredded dino kale salad that has turned even the staunchest anti-veggie people on to this dark green, kind of scary-looking plant. This has been my first chance to re-create it!
You'll need: 1 bunch dinosaur kale, one clove garlic (minced or pressed), salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Cut the tough stem out of the leaves, then cut them crosswise into a thin chiffonade. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together and let stand for 5 minutes. Toss the dressing with the kale, then add all but 1 tablespoon of the parmesan. Mix again, and top with remaining parmesan. Even if you don't like vegetables, you'll like this.
Russian red kale! I got the most excited when I saw this, because it's the prettiest, and because I think it tastes the best.
I like it so much, I just steam it. It has a really sweet, mild flavor which I want to mess with as little as possible.
On to the curly kale, which at one point was my nemesis. Just steamed, it really isn't that great...and since it's the most common kind, I can see why people have a negative opinion of kale if this is all they can find. But! Last week I learned how to make kale chips, which transforms these ho-hum leaves into something compulsively eatable.
First, tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Then toss them with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, lay the leaves out on a tray, sprinkle them with sea salt and sesame seeds, and stick them in the oven for 30 minutes.
Here they are after crisping up in the oven. My oven is really small, so if the leaves aren't that thick, they're done after 30 minutes. If you have a normal-sized oven, take the pans out after 30 minutes, flip the chips, and stick them back in for another 20 minutes.
These are an intensely great snack, and have caused me to consume an entire bunch of kale in one day more than a few times.