This story starts with what Kevin, with his usual verbal adroitness, calls the kale pillow.
This was a bag of kale similar in size and heft to a standard bed pillow. Now, let me say that I don’t get why people (especially greenies and vegans) think kale is OMG AMAZING. From my experience with the stuff, it has a similar mouth feel to plastic Easter basket grass (don’t ask), resists all attempts to soften, and traps grit like a sponge. Still, the kale pillow was $2. I’m cheap. I know I should be eating more nutritious leafy greens. Kale grows almost year round in California. And hell, I want to know what people are talking about when they swear that kale is the BEST THING EVER.
So I embarked on a week of kale everything. There are a few yellowing leaves left in the bag, but I’m feeling downright virtuous after chomping my way through three pounds of the stuff this week.
Alas, after our week-long fling, it’s clear that kale and I are doomed to be a failed romance. I just didn’t learn to love kale, though I’ve included below some of the recipes I found modestly enjoyable. Maybe it’s just my contrarian inability to embrace anything so trendy. Or maybe it’s that kale is a tough taste to acquire. Hmm…
The bad (spectacular kale failures):
- Massaged kale salad with olive oil, lemon juice, and other stuff. 500+ positive reviews can’t be wrong, right? Perhaps I bought the wrong variety. Maybe my leaf-massaging technique is off. It didn’t soften up nearly enough. It still tasted green. And then I oversalted it.
- Kale in my smoothie. Even with a measly half a leaf dropped in a smoothie otherwise chock full of yummy summer fruit, I found myself looking suspiciously at the dark green flecks and wondering if they were adding that astringent edge to my smoothie. I’ve got my eye on you, kale.
- Kale ice cream. A not-in-earnest Twitter suggestion that made me gag just thinking about it.
The mediocre (might make this again):
- Kale with scrambled eggs. Not too bad, couldn’t help thinking that it would taste better without the kale.
- Finely chopped kale mixed with brown rice, mushrooms, and herbs to stuff eggplants. Could neither see nor taste it. That’s good, right?
- Ethiopian-style gomen (usually made with collard greens). I tried a recipe adapted for kale and non-Ethiopian kitchens. It was edible, but hardly thrilling. Maybe if I started with more authentic ingredients, like the spiced, clarified butter traditional to Ethiopian cooking.
The good (relatively painless way to eat kale):
- Kale chips. Ignore the panegyrics; these bear zero resemblance to potato chips. And the texture takes some getting used to. (Ever jump into an autumn leaf pile and start chowing down? Me neither. But the brittle crunch of kale chips seems very similar to the crunch of dead leaves underfoot.) After the first crumbly mouthful, they’re oddly addictive. There are lots of guides on how to make them, but most of them involve baking at around 350 for 15 minutes or so. I like mine with a sprinkle of garlic, nutritional yeast, and parmesan.
- Colcannon. Twitter friend Mem_Somerville sent me a link to an Irish dish that involves, essentially, mashed potatoes, cabbage, and onions, lightly pan-fried until crispy. You really can’t go wrong with anything that involves fried mashed potatoes. This one was a keeper.
- Kale and white bean stew. I’ve made this before, and up until the colcannon, it was the only kale recipe that had a place of honor in my recipe box. Tasty, comforting, and nutritious, if not quite appropriate for summer. (I substitute veggie stock for the chicken stock in the recipe, of course.)
Do you find it hard to get in your leafy greens? Or are you a die hard kale devotee? What are your favorite kale recipes?