10 Ways to Cook and Eat Kale (incl. Raw Food Recipes)
Kale is the new hot vegetable health foodies have gone nuts for. Below, we take a look at ten ways to use kale, including tips and recipes for both raw food enthusiasts and those who prefer to eat their kale cooked.
1. Turn it into a Tasty Side Dish
Sautéing is one of the most classic ways of cooking kale, and you really don't have to be an experienced chef to master this dish. To prepare this simple side dish, start by heating olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. And some crushed garlic and chopped onions, and cook until soft but not browned. Next, raise heat to high, and washed and shredded kale, along with half a cup of vegetable stock or water, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper, and serve as a side dish to any meal!
2. Sneak it into Muffins
There are tons of recipes showcasing kale in all its glory – and then there are those recipes that focus on hiding kale for the folks who are not too big on the mild Brassica flavor of kale. If you're one of those people who are looking for ways to sneak kale into foods, check out some of the many kale muffin recipes available on the Internet. Or, buy a copy of Stephanie Pedersen's cookbook Kale: The Complete Guide to the World's Most Powerful Superfood which is packed with recipes for kale-containing treats like Apple and Kale Spice Muffins, Morning Glory Kale Muffins and Vegan Banana Kale Muffins! It even contains a couple of recipes for cupcakes and brownies featuring kale!
3. Use Kale in Omelets and Frittatas
Omelets and frittatas are great because you can fill them with almost any vegetable, including kale, or a combination of vegetables. However, if you want to make a killer omelet (or frittata) that will win over even the pickiest eater, you might have to use a bit more effort than just throwing in all those leftovers that are sitting in your fridge. For example, if you want to make an out-of-this-world kale omelet, combine kale with foods like beans, chiles, garlic, mushrooms and onions which have been proven to enhance its flavor. To learn more about how to enhance or complement the natural flavors of plant-based foods, especially kale, check out our interview with Karen Page, author of the Vegetarian Flavor Bible.
4. Make Kale Chips (Raw or Baked)
Kale chips (or crisps if you're from the UK) are all the rage these days, and health food stores are selling everything from vegan kale chips coated with cheese-tasting nutritional yeast to dehydrated curry-flavored kale chips. But will anything replace a good batch of homemade kale chips? Probably not. Below, we provide a quick recipe for oven-baked kale chips (if you're into raw foods, you might want to check out our recipe for raw kale chips made in a dehydrator instead):
- Remove the tough leafstalks and midribs, and compost them or save them for soup stock. Next, wash the tender kale leaves and dry them well in a salad spinner. Tear the washed and dried leaves, and toss them in a large bowl with some extra-virgin olive oil and a little bit of salt. Make sure all the leaves are evenly coated with the oil. At this point, you can also add a dash of cayenne pepper, or some nutritional yeast flakes for a cheesy flavor and additional nutritional benefits.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the leaves on the paper in a single layer, and bake the leaves for 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 325°F (160°C) until the chips are crisp but not beginning to burn. Remove from chips the oven, and let them cool thoroughly before serving.
5. Eat it Raw in Salads
While all common kale varieties can be eaten raw, kale salad recipes and other raw food recipes often call for dinosaur kale (aka lacinato or Tuscan kale) as it's more tender than curly kale and red kale. Also the tender and super-healthy kale sprouts make a great salad ingredient. To create a tasty kale salad, start by massaging thinly shredded kale leaves with olive oil and let is sit for at least 10 minutes – this will help break down all those tough cell walls and fibers. After this step, the kale is ready to be combined with your favorite salad ingredients. For more inspiration and tried-and-true kale salad recipes, turn to a well-rounded kale cookbook, such as Kale, Glorious Kale.
6. Use Raw Kale Leaves in Smoothies
Another great way to sneak raw kale into your family's diet is to use it in green smoothies (in fact, kale is considered one of the best Brassica greens for green smoothies). And, since all of the ingredients will be pureed anyway, you can use pretty much any type of kale to whip up those healthy green smoothies (even the more fibrous curly kale and red kale, which are typically recommended for cooked dishes, will be pureed into smooth silkiness in a high-powered blender).
7. Make Kale Pesto
Give pesto a new twist by using kale instead of basil, the classic pesto ingredient. If you've already got a recipe for classic pesto, you can simply use that and just replace the basil with chopped curly kale or dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale). If you don't have one, check out Cathy Walther's yummy kale pesto recipe in her cookbook Kale, Glorious Kale, an impressive 224-page collection of kale recipes. Or, use the following recipe which makes enough kale pesto for 12 ounces of dried pasta:
- In a food processor, chop 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts and 3 crushed garlic cloves. Working in batches, pulse in 4 to 5 cups rinsed and torn kale leaves and process until finely chopped.
- Add 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, juice of 1 organic lemon and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and blend until everything is thoroughly mixed. Season with ground black pepper.
8. Use it as a Substitute for Spinach
Kale is a relatively new vegetable to make a mark in health food circles, and therefore you may have trouble finding kale recipes in older cookbooks focused on healthy meals. On the other hand, the health benefits of spinach have been touted for years, and there are tons of exciting spinach recipes in cookbooks, even in the older ones. Now, the great news is, kale can usually be substituted for spinach successfully in a wide range of dishes, including lasagne, omelets, casseroles, and many soups. Just remember that kale usually needs a slightly longer cooking time than spinach, plus you'll want to remove the tough stems and ribs before using kale as a substitute for the more tender spinach.
9. Top Your Pizza with Kale
Kale also makes a tasty and healthy pizza topping. In fact, if you already own one of the several kale cookbooks out there, chances are you already know how to use kale as a pizza topping. If you don't have a cookbook that tells you how to make kale pizza, here's a simple recipe (ideal for curly kale):
- Chop curly kale and let it marinade in olive oil at room temperature while you prepare the pizza dough.
- Once the pizza dough has finished rising, roll it out and top it with tomato paste, garlic, organic mozzarella and other popular pizza toppings, if desired, but don't add the marinated kale yet.
- Put the pizza in a preheated oven, and bake it at 450°F (230°C) for 6 to 8 minutes until slightly golden. Remove it from the oven, and quickly spread the kale on top of the bar-cooked pizza, then put the pizza back to the oven and let bake for a few more minutes.
10. Freeze the Rest (but Cook it First)
If you've still got some fresh kale on hand and don't know what to do with it, freeze it and use it later in soups, stews and other hearty kale dishes. Note, though, that before storing kale in the freezer, you have to blanch it in boiling water for about two minutes. Blanching kale helps destroy enzymes and bacteria that would otherwise cause the plant to lose its nutrients and change its color, flavor and texture during frozen storage.
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