Too Good to Taste Good?
Kale is good for us, I’m sure by now we’ve all managed to pick up that much about the dark leafy green. It’s really good for us.
Like most things healthy, Kale doesn’t rank high on the tasty index. Raw it tends to be tough and bitter. Pretty much it taste exactly as you would expect so damned good for us to taste.
Mary Poppins had it right, a spoonful of sugar helps anything bitter go down. And a teaspoon of salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. (Every time I’m forced to watch Mary Poppins-again- I am amused about the fact that her favorite flavor the magical personalizing medicine turns into is Rum Punch).
Besides giving kale a light saute, or a long braise to temper the bitterness, we can also balance it out with other flavors. When combined properly the bitterness kale offers can contrast nicely to other sweet, sour, and salty ingredients.
Oh and if using it raw in a salad, it likes a little rub down first. Seriously.. it expects to be wined before you dine.
WTH is it?
My trusted culinary text book Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs (called The Gisslen by those in the know) slots Kale, Collards, and Turnip Greens all into the same category: Greens, Cabbage Family:
Identification: These sturdy, flavorful greens are nearly always cooked because they are too tough to eat raw, unless very young. The kale varieties have curly or ruffled dark green leaves (except the ornamental varieties, which may have touches of red or other colors.) Turnip greens resemble large, lobed mustard or arugula leaves. Collards are similar, generally with heavier stems and more rounded leaves.
Evaluation: Avoid browned, yellowed, or dried leaves. look for smaller leaves that are dark green and have a moist feel.
Preparation: Strip the leaves off the stems if they are tough. Cut off any discolored parts. Wash well in several changes of water.
W(here)TH Did it Come From?
Kale has been eaten for over two thousands years and was a popular food crop for most of history. It still reserves a popular role in dishes in Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Italy and Africa.
The dark, leafy green enjoyed its first food fad status during the Soul Food trends in the United States during the 1960s. Kale, collards, and other dark greens were an important part of the cuisine that had developed in the southern states by African-American slaves.
In the mid 2000s kale, and other dark greens became the poster child of the slow food movement. It’s bitter taste made it appropriately punishing for those looking to self-sacrifice their way to cultural awareness.
Like Hollywood’s newest child-star turned twerking teenager the limelight has cast a few shadows and claims of kale’s omnipotent health food status has received it’s share of backlash. None the less, the fad has leaped across the Atlantic and the Brits, who previously saw kale as little more than cattle feed, are starting to embrace the dark leafy green.
WTH Do I Do With It?
Kale is what it is, a dark green vegetable that can be done right to taste just fine, even good. It’s available locally and is almost always grown without heavy use of pesticides and other chemicals. Fits my criteria for food worth eating.
- Sautee it quickly with olive oil, a decent amount of salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar (it adds a sweet and sour flavor)
- Throw it together with a quick vinaigrette to make a salad. Replace the arugula with kale and the cheese with Parmesan for less (WTH do I find that? head scratching). Don’t forget the rub down.
- Braise your Kale for a more traditional approach. Kale reduces considerably with cooking, the cider-vinegar will add a splash of sweet and sour at the end.