Kale: Today’s Hot Vegetable (Usually Served Cold)

Quick recipes for kale chips and kale and cannellini beans

When did kale go from humble, despised vegetable to chi-chi leaf-du-jour? It seems like just a couple of years ago, the grocery stores were hiding a few wilted bunches behind the then-trendy broccoli rabe, and now you can’t even nip into a burger joint without finding kale salad on the menu. I’ve always loved it — and its equally unpopular cruciferous cousins: collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Kale’s newfound fashionability has even seeped into my husband, who’s stopped muttering darkly when I return from the vegetable garden bearing a newly harvested batch. Instead, he’s enthusiastically eating it. 

If you’re still acting all last-decade and turning up your nose, my guess is that you haven’t tried kale chips, which could be the gateway to getting you started on a full-blown kale addiction. You can find them ready made at health food stores, but they couldn’t be easier to make. The flat-leafed Tuscan or lacinato kale works best, if you can find it, but you can use the curly type. Here’s how you do it:

• 1 bunch of kale, washed and patted dry
• 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
• coarse salt

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  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut the thick stems from the kale, and cut the leaves into 2- or 3-inch pieces. Toss them in the olive oil and lay them on a baking sheet with space in between. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until they turn crisp, probably about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Snack!

And here’s a simple side dish made with wilted kale and cannellini beans, as a step toward eating it raw:

• 1 medium onion, chopped small
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 bunch kale
• 1 can cannellini beans, drained
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• salt and pepper
• grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Cut the ribs from the kale, and chop the leaves coarsely.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss in the kale and stir it around until it wilts; about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the cannellini beans and continue stirring until they’re warmed through. Add as much grated parmesan as you want. Presto! Done.

Do I need to add that kale, in addition to being delicious, is high in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K, and that it promotes eye health and staves off cancer? Hang in there, collard greens. Your turn will come.

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