Raw, plain kale is sooo delicious.... said no-one ever.
Ok, I love me some kale, but the first handful of times I had it it was in a salad and I was not impressed. It was raw, tough, and treated like any other green.
Well, kale is not any other green. You can't just drizzle your favorite dressing on it and expect it to taste like spinach. It's a tough green with an earthy flavor and it needs a little extra work. (Easy work, but work nonetheless.)
Here is my how-to guide with kale. We will cover the types, how to turn it into the perfect salad green, how to sauté it, and how to smoothie it. Trust me, even the biggest kale haters will be asking for seconds!
Types of Kale
There are three main types of kale I typically see offered here in the PNW.
Curly Kale~ This is the type people probably think of when they hear kale. Its a bight green color and has frilly leaves with a long, tough stem. Curly kale is great in soups because it is so hearty. It works well in salads but may take an extra minute or two of massaging (see below). It does a great job of staying good in the fridge for a while after being massaged in oil, perfect for meal prepping!
Lacinato Kale~ Not to play favorites... but this is my favorite. It is also known as Tuscan, Italian, or Dino kale. I would imagine it gets the name Dino kale because it resembles their scaly skin. It is a deep green color, thinner stems, and the leaves are long and thin, without any of the curliness of curly kale. This makes them easy to wash, which I appreciate. These are great for soups, stews, smoothies (but beware that they make your smoothies a dark color), and breakdown a little faster when massaging for salads.
Redbor Kale~ This kale has a gorgeous purple-red stem that makes any kale dish #instagoals. It's got the same leaf profile as curly kale and can be used in the same way. In addition to eating because it's yummy, this is a kale that people actually use ornamentally in their garden or as a pretty garnish when plating.
The biggest kale salad mistake is that people forget the most important step- massaging. Even kale appreciates a good full body massage, and you will too after trying this out. Honestly, massaged kale is the difference between never wanting to eat kale again to making it a weekly staple. Here is what you do anytime you use kale in a salad~
Take about 4-6 large stalks of kale and wash, de-stem, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Place in medium/large bowl.
Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil + pinch of salt to 2 cups of prepped kale.
Massage kale with your bare hands, rubbing the oil and salt into the leaves. Really get in there and squish it between your hands. The greens will get softer, wet looking, and smaller. You are tenderizing them, so to speak, so this is good! Continue for about 2 minutes.
Once they have reached a softer texture, add dressings and the rest of your salad toppings to the greens and enjoy!
Kale does really well with sautés. It's such a hearty green, it can handle the heat much better than other greens. This is a great option for any newbie kale eater that isn't sure they're into it yet.
Wash about 4-6 kale leaves. Cut out the larger half of the stem and throw in compost or garbage (or you can save for soup recipe, see below). It's ok to have some of the smaller half of the stem intact because it will cook down nicely and is good for you! Chop kale into bitesized pieces.
Warm 1 tablespoon avocado oil in a medium-large pan over medium-low heat.
Add 1 clove of minced garlic and sauté about 30 seconds.
Add kale and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for 3-6 minutes or until you have reached your desired consistency.
Remove from heat and enjoy!
Smoothies are a great way to consume kale. The pulverizing of the blades break down the kale so it's much easier to get in your belly. Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind~
De-stem the kale first and only use the leaves. The stems can give you a more tart flavor, not ideal for smoothies.
If you want to mask the earthiness of the kale, add ripe bananas, coconut water, or some high quality protein powder.
Make sure to add plenty of liquid so the smoothie isn't chunky. Gross.
Since kale is so hearty, don't be afraid to run the blender a couple of times through. You shouldn't have a chunky smoothie, it should be nice and creamy. If it is chunky, add more liquid and blend again.
What do I do with the stems?
Most of my tips include taking the stems out, but you can actually use the stems! They have lot's of really great nutrients as they are the passage way for nutrients and water to get into the leaves.
The only way I like to use them is in a soup. I chop them up into 1/2 inch pieces, sauté them in some oil with other veggies, and add some broth and herbs/flavor, bringing to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes and they should be cooked through!
I hope this guide helps you out the next time you consider adding kale to the weekly menu. It really is a delicious green when it is done right.