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Seasonal Eats: A Tale of Kale

Tuscan or Lacinato Kale (Heather Parlato/LAist)
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I wasn’t raised eating kale, so when I discovered it in my 20s, I didn’t have much of an idea what to do with it, and left it on the shelf in favor of more familiar greens [back when I shopped in places with shelves]. It’s gone from being something I never heard of as a kid to a go-to green I absolutely love, so if you’re lost somewhere along that spectrum, maybe I can help you make it your valentine this year.

Kale is a member of the brassica family, another cousin of cabbage, and is a particularly healthy food to add to your diet. It’s almost non-seasonal since it’s available nearly year-round, though the leaves are a lot thinner and smaller in summer [this makes it a great thing to grow in partial shade in your garden]. Kale is considered to be highly anti-inflammatory for containing sulforaphane even when cooked [though boiling is said to reduce it quite a bit]. Kale also contains indole-3-carbinol which “appears to block cancer cells” and encourage dna repair in damaged cells. Though this is unconfirmed, I think it’s reason enough to let it in the kitchen [see nutritionist & cancer survivor Diana Dyer’s 365 days of kale blog], but if you need more encouragement, kale has a glycemic load of 3, and is a great source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

A common first impression of kale is that it’s too tough to eat raw, so what does one do with it? Many recipes will tell you to cut out the main stem, which is a good way to prepare leaves for eating raw [but you can save those stems for a good stir fry, like recipe i'm sharing this week, below]. A great kale salad can start by cutting the leaves down to quarter-inch ribbons and dress it in oil & white wine or balsamic vinegar. Add a dried fruit [raisin, currant, cranberry or cherry], a nut [pine nuts, slivered almonds, toasted walnuts], and a cheese [feta, gorgonzola, parmesan] and right there are a handful of tasty combos that allow you to maximize the nutrients in raw kale. Here are some ideas I really like: lacinato kale and ricotta salad, kale salad with pine nuts, currants and parmesan, or kale caesar salad with anchovies!