Friday, December 3, 2010

Cooked Kale

Not everyone appreciates cooked greens like they ought to—I think it’s because they hated them as kids and never figured out how to “reclaim” them as adults. It bugs me when grown-ups claim to hate greens. Seriously. Think of the vitamins, folks! Think of the fiber!

If you’re reading this and “greens” seem kind of challenging, I recommend you experiment some this winter. Come on: you especially need good stuff in your diet in the winter months. I suggest starting with kale. It’s in season now. Plus, it’s pretty forgiving in the pan; it doesn’t turn into sick-looking army-green mush very quickly.

Kale’s in the cabbage group in the mustard family: antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, and a number of anticancer compounds. It is incredibly versatile and is one of my favorite vegetables!

I recommend a big nonstick skillet with a good-fitting glass lid. You’ll want to watch.

I suggest using about a teaspoon and a half of bacon grease. Yes. (The bacon itself, crumbled, can be optional as a garnish.) And about the same amount of olive oil. (Look: it’s just one tablespoon of bacon grease for an entire bunch of kale. And what would you have instead? Canned green beans? Frozen broccoli florets? Again?) Use all olive oil if you want, but I’m tellin ya, the bacon grease ensures that everyone will like the flavor.

A chopped-up onion, white or yellow. A chopped-up bell pepper. By the way, if you use a red bell pepper, it will make it look Christmassy.

. . . And a bunch of kale from the supermarket. Rinse it well, then get rid of the stems. Either tear the stems out of the leaves (or pick the leaves from the stems), or fold the leaves in half lengthwise and slice the stems out with a knife. (Why? Because the stems take too long to cook; just ditch them.)

Wad up the kale leaves and then slice it every half inch or so.

Up to this point, you can do everything the night before: Pack the chopped onion and bell pepper into separate sandwich bags. The kale will keep fine overnight if you splash some water onto it and store it in a bag or covered container.

The cooking goes pretty quickly once you begin. Start it just before you’re ready to serve your meal.

When you’re ready to cook, heat the oil and grease in the skillet, then, on medium-high, sauté the onions and red bell pepper until is starts getting a little done.

Then add the heap of kale. Make sure there’s a little water with it.

Then cover the skillet and cook (really, you’re steaming it) over medium until the kale wilts, is soft enough to eat, but still has good texture and—for the love of God!—make sure you stop cooking before it turns olive green.

Your goal is for it to be a beautiful jewel green. (See why I told you to use a pan with a glass lid?)

Toss it a little to make sure the onions, peppers, and kale are mixed together, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some crumbled bacon if you want. Serve immediately.

I think you’ll be surprised at how well this goes with all kinds of dishes—meat and potatoes; a Creole-inspired medley of cooked tomatoes, peppers, and shrimp; chicken paprikash—heck, all sorts of stuff!

Next? Things to do with leftover kale.


whalechaser said...

Thanks for this terrific sounding recipe...I 'discovered' kale this summer along with lentils. I was shocked at how delicious it is, and here is another option for me to try. You are right about the vities and fiber, it is a powerhouse!

Julianna Schroeder said...

Good to hear from you again, Whalechaser!

Yep! Kale is a perfect "opulent opossum" food because it doesn't deserved to be so disrespected. It's funny how something that (in some lands and in some time periods) has been so common has become uncommon here and now. I've found it's incredibly versatile, and once you've got it cooked, the leftovers can go all kinds of places.

Have you tried those awesome little-bitty French green lentils? They're doggone cute!