It’s National Kale Day (apparently that’s really a thing) and since kale has gone from bane of my childhood existence to possibly the most important plant in my life, I figured I’d give all my fellow kale lovers (and or the kale-curious) a sense of some of the ways we use it in our household, ranked semi-arbitrarily through a complex calculus of deliciousness, prevalence in our kitchen, and proportion of kale to not-kale ingredients.
1 ) Kale slaw
Kate’s potluck go-to, this is pretty simple – shredded kale, red cabbage, and carrot with a dressing that includes cider and rice vinegars and a little sesame oil. If the kale is hearty, it even keeps okay for a day, dressed.
2 ) Kale chips
During cool months and/or when there’s a great surplus of kale, we cook it down (with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and a bit of “Nodobo”) at a low temperature in the oven until it’s crispy. I don’t know about the super-expensive commercial version (never tried them) but this is so addictively good. It doesn’t stay crispy overnight, but there’s literally never any left over so that’s moot.
3 ) Kale sautéed with garlic
For years we followed the method I learned from Chef Mark Shadle of blanching and then sautéing (with garlic and tamari) but when using more tender kale we typically skip that first step.
4 ) Kale “super salad”
Hopefully “super” doesn’t sound too smug, but Kate has won me over with her general concept (upon which I now elaborate too) of a full-meal salad (with a kale base) with textural, flavor, and nutritional contrasts. An example might be avocado, corn off the cob, bell pepper, cooked quinoa, grilled tofu, and roasted pepitas.
5 ) Kale saag
It’s literally taken my whole adult life to come up with a saag recipe that I feel good about, and we now do it dairy-free (for a while I was doing almond milk and a roux of oil and corn flour; lately I’ve been doing it with homemade cashew cream, which can also be used to make a simpler comfort food-y dish that resembles creamed spinach). Sometimes we serve it straight, sometimes as saag paneer (either literally with paneer or simulated with cooked tofu), and occasionally as chana saag (chickpeas), aloo palak (potatoes), or saag mushroom.
6 ) Kale tomato sauce
Stewed kale is lovely, and if it’s stewed in high quality tomatoes for a long time, it’s tender and subtle.
7 ) Kale and potato hash
This (with some onion and garlic) is a nice, hearty way to use tougher kale – this is what we often do with the lacinato kale from the garden, for example.
8 ) Kale Frittata
Kale and eggs are a great combo, and this (with more kale-per-cubic-inch crammed in because we’ll oven-wilt it first) is our go-to, usually with some tomato (sun-dried once they’re not in season) and cheese.
9 ) Kale soup with butternut squash
A winter staple is butternut squash soup (cubed, not pureed) with a generous helping of kale, lots of garlic, and a legume of some sort (typically either red kidney or some kind of white bean like navy or cannellini).
10 ) Kale Pizza
When we make homemade pizza, it’s virtually inevitable that one of them will be kale. Sometimes it’s used as a topping on a more typical pie (tomato sauce, mozzarella – either normal or my homemade vegan mozz) but often we’ll feature the kale alongside more “gourmet” ingredients like sweet onion, walnut, and chevre.