A delish garnish,
A mean green…
Yeah, I’m going to stop trying to write poetry. Or I might come back to it at three a.m. when I’m suddenly inspired. (I probably won’t. I mean, who wants to get up at three to write about kale? Also, this post will be published by then.)
Anyway. This post? It’s about kale. No joke. You might even say it’s a kale appreciation post. This is not a post I thought I would ever write—which, honestly, means I kinda love that it’s happening. All it took was for me to say not once but twice, I love kale so much I could write a blog post about it.
I’ve written about my switch to a vegetarian diet before, but this isn’t really about that. I’ve always had a huge fondness for veggies. So much so, that one of my fondest childhood memories is eating the wilted salad leftovers from parties.
(Sorry. Laughing too much to type.)
I used to think it was all about the dressing. That salad was nothing but a vehicle for oily, salty goodness. But it’s always been about the greens. The crunch, the crisp, even the slightly tough chew of a wilted leaf. Mix that with something crunchier and something softer, say raw carrots and a few cherry tomatoes (fresh-picked from the plant on my deck), and I’m happy. I don’t even need dressing. I mean, I want dressing, but I don’t need it.
I like ALL kinds of lettuce, particularly the prickly and spicy ones. Peppery arugula (rocket), curly endive, mizuna, and watercress are among my favourite leaves. I also really like soft lettuce like an oak leaf or butter lettuce. I like iceberg in certain settings, and I’ll always eat romaine. I love spring mixes.
I also like cabbage. I think cabbage is something of an unsung hero. It’s an amazingly versatile vegetable and one I could also dedicate a blog post to. As you might expect, I also enjoy different varieties of cabbage and I’ll eat it raw or cooked. Or pickled. Just give me more cabbage.
My love of kale most likely stems out of my adoration of all things salad and cabbage, but I first regarded it with much suspicion. Probably because for most of my life, kale hasn’t been on my plate. It’s been the green stuff in between the plates on buffets. It’s not the part you eat.
Considering I’m the person who eats the wilted lettuce from under appetizers (what is it with me and wilted lettuce?), and parsley from around other plates, it’s a wonder I’d never previously tried to eat kale. Or maybe I had and found it, well, a bit tasteless and not all that inspiring.
What I didn’t know was that you had to do things to kale to make it sing. (Torture. Yep, I’m now thinking torture.)
Did I honestly think I could write a post about kale and keep it serious?
No. No, I did not.
When I first started experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking (a few years ago now), kale often popped up on the ingredient list. I substituted spinach or left it out altogether. I mean… kale. But then one day I was all like, okay, let’s buy some kale and put it in this soup and just see if it makes a difference.
It did. See, kale is tougher than spinach and it retains its texture better when cooked. So, when you put it into something like a soup, it holds up really well. That wilted lettuce feel? There until the last drop. Even lettuce wouldn’t hold up that long.
I started using kale in other soups and came to like the added texture.
Two favourite soup recipes that include kale: (recipes linked to the captions!)
I also researched the health benefits of kale and learned it was one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. I’m all about nutrient-dense foods. Anything I can eat that will satisfy 101 nutritional requirements while taking up little to no space on the plate is aces in my book. Also, being that my diet is dairy-free, I loved that kale could provide me with calcium.
All hail kale!
(At this point, I should note that everyone in my household was starting to get a little sick of hearing me talk about kale.)
Next step: Salad. I had some kale leftover from one of my soups, so I decided to try adding it to a salad. Ugh. Not good. It had too much chew and not enough flavour. Also, it felt prickly in my mouth and not the right kind of prickly.
Then I found a recipe that had me rubbing the kale with oil before adding it to a salad. (I also learned not to be lazy and cut the ribs out at this point.) All the difference in the world. All of a sudden, the kale became tender and more flavorful. And I didn’t necessarily have to rub. I could just toss some oil through with a fork and let the kale sit for a few minutes. I started eating kale this way using either olive oil or sesame oil and just a sprinkle of salt. Instant salad or side.
Then I started in on the slaws and this is where kale really and truly shines. As a companion to cabbage, it makes the most amazing coleslaw. Being a cabbage fan, I already liked coleslaw. All varieties. You can literally put anything in a slaw and I’ll eat it. Kale? I’ll eat it twice as fast. Particularly when it’s combined with purple cabbage. It’s just so pretty!!
What I appreciate most about the addition of kale to a slaw is the texture, though. Kale is chewier than cabbage and nearly as crunchy. It feels different on your tongue. It also absorbs the dressings better than cabbage, or differently. It just has a great mouth-feel.
My recipe for the quickest and easiest kale slaw is kale (ribs removed and sliced finely), red cabbage (also sliced finely), cilantro leaves (sliced up too!), rice wine vinegar, light olive oil, salt (or garlic salt), and pepper. Mix it all up and let it sit for about five minutes.
My other favourite salad recipe (including kale!) is a sort of slaw. This salad should be listed as a controlled substance. It’s seriously good. Like, so good I have a hard time eating just one serving. It’s just so peanutty and crunchy and salty and good.
Then there are these summer rolls (This is the last kale recipe, then I’ll leave you to decide whether you’ll ever visit my blog again. I hope you do, and not just to tell me how much you now like kale.) These rolls are very, very good. Instead of spinach, though, try using kale. Remove the stems, chop roughly, and rub with some sesame oil to soften. It absolutely makes these rolls.
Okay, that’s it, my ode to kale. Before I go, though, a short philosophical note. What I love about my newfound reverence for kale is that even when I think I’ve tried everything (everything that sounds good), I’m still discovering new foods. One of the most rewarding parts of changing my diet from omnivore to somewhere between vegetarian and vegan has been the discovery of new flavor combinations. But also, new ways to combine old foods or new ways to use them.
I hope I’ve inspired you to take a new look at certain foods too.