The oldest member of the cabbage family, kale is among the earliest cultivated and was a favorite vegetable in ancient Rome. It is a powerhouse vegetable, very rich in vitamins A, C, and the mineral calcium. It is also high in the B vitamins. Kale is the highest in protein of all the other vegetables.
Kale leaves should be washed carefully, remembering to check the undersides for any traces of sand or soil. Remove stems from mature kale leaves by folding the leaf in half lengthwise, then stripping or slicing away the thick stems. Very tender young leaves may be cooked stem and all.
To store kale, wrap in a damp towel or in a plastic bag. Refrigerate, preferably in a hydrator drawer. Leaves can be stored for up to one week. They tend to wilt if allowed to dry out.
Kale leaves can be steamed or sauteed. Steam mature kale leaves for 4-5 minutes in steamer, depending on age, size, and amount. It will be ready when the leaves are limp but still retain some texture. Steamed kale can be tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper. Try adding a little diced raw garlic for additional flavor. Tender young kale leaves can be sauteed in butter with garlic and onions. Sauteed kale is a wonderful addition to omelets, quiches, scrambled eggs, casseroles, or mashed potatoes. Chopped or sliced raw kale can be added to soups or stews toward the end of the cooking time.
Kale can also be used in salads, but because the leaves are somewhat tough and a little bitter in flavor, you’ll need to do one simple task–massage it! Start by removing the stems. Discard them. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place them into a large bowl, adding a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Grab leaves by handfuls and massage them roughly for 1-2 minutes, until the stiff leaves turn soft and silky. You can see and feel it happening. The leaves will darken and shrink by one half in volume. The flavor will change as well. Taste it and you’ll notice the difference. The best way to know if you’ve massaged it long enough is to take a bite.