Brian Patton is author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook and is executive chef for Vegin' Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. As the quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele playing alter-ego "The Sexy Vegan" and quickly gained a large following. Visit him online at thesexyvegan.com.
Recently a friend asked me, “How can I make kale yummy?” It occurred to me that perhaps a lot of people are new to the nutritional powerhouse that is kale. Maybe you only know it as that curly green thing underneath your potato salad, or shoved in between the ground beef and the New York strips in your butcher’s display case. It does look quite nice, but it is severely underutilized as a garnish. Loaded with calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A, C and K, and even some protein, you’d be much better off eating the kale, and tossing the potato salad. Here are five simple things you can do to make your kale yummy.
Eat it raw. Eating a salad comprised solely of raw kale is a little tough to take. Kale has pretty intense flavor and a tough texture. But if you want to give your salad a nutritional shot in the arm, simply remove the leaves from the stem, chop them up and mix with other lettuces like romaine, leaf or butter. The added flavor and texture will, ahem, (switch to fancy voice) "dance wonderfully across the palate and create a unique mouth-feel." Wow, I watch way too much Top Chef.
Massage it. Massaging is a technique used with raw kale in order to both tenderize it and remove a good portion of its bitterness. Remove the kale leaves from the stem, cut them into 1-inch-wide ribbons and place them in a large bowl. For one bunch of kale, add 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt, the juice of half of a lemon and a touch of olive oil (optional), then begin to rub it all around the kale. You must continually massage the salt, lemon and oil into all of the leaves for 2 to 3 minutes. After this time has elapsed, you will notice that the kale has wilted a bit and it will have a much milder flavor. Now it’s ready to become a salad. Add other veggies, fruits and nuts and dress simply with a little agave nectar, and lemon juice and olive oil, if needed. Both delicious and energizing, a massaged kale salad always comes with a happy ending.
Blanch it. Blanching is the process of boiling something for a very short amount of time. You need only bring a pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and you’re ready to go. Depending on what veggie you’re using, blanching times will vary. To blanch kale, remove the leaves from the stem and roughly chop them. Submerge the kale in the boiling water and remove it after 20 seconds. Immediately cool the leaves by running them under cold water or plunging them into a bowl of ice water, known as an ice bath. This keeps the kale from overcooking and retains its deep green color. Drain it, and squeeze out as much water as possible. Now tender, with the bitterness removed, your blanched kale is perfect on a pizza, in a lasagna or as a simple cold side dish with a drizzle of sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce or tamari.
Soup it. Kale is a fantastic way to add a whole bunch of extra goodness to soups and stews. Remove the leaves from the stem and cut them into 1-inch-wide ribbons. Personally, I enjoy the texture of the kale, so I add it at the very end of the cooking process to keep it from getting soft and mushy. Finish cooking your soup or stew, then cut off the heat and stir in the kale. Let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes, then let the tongue scalding begin.
Drink it. Whaaaaat?? How the heck can I drink a bunch of leaves? Put it through your juicer, silly. With life-changing documentaries like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead approaching the mainstream, juicing has become more popular than ever. You, of course, could not eat an entire bunch of kale at once, but by turning it into juice, you can consume the powerful, supercharging nutrients of said bunch all in one shot! Start with a combination of kale (including the stems), carrot, celery and apples, then add other fruits and veggies for variety. Squeezing in a little fresh lemon juice will help your body absorb the iron that kale has to offer, and it will also balance out its bitterness. Super-mega juicing tip: Since it’s not as curly as green kale, lacinato kale (a.k.a. dinosaur or black kale) is easier to cram into juicers that have smaller feeding tubes. You’re welcome. So, go ahead and juice that kale! You’ll be sporting a Jack LaLane spandex onesie in no time.
I hope you give all of these methods a try because I know that you will love at least one of them, if not all of them!
Based on the book The Sexy Vegan Cookbook ©2012 by Brian Patton. Published with permission of New World Library.