Kale is one of those foods that I didn't really realize existed prior to moving to California. Though my mother swears she grew it in the garden when I was little, I have no memories of it (perhaps it was during that period when the only vegetables I would eat were frozen peas?).
Even in California, my first couple encounters with kale were not good. Too much salt and overcooking rendered the veggie unappetizing. It wasn't until the leafy greens started showing up in our CSA box and I began experimenting with it in our kitchen that I fell in love.
Kale is a winter vegetable and member of the brassica family (which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts). The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health lists curly kale as one of the immune system super foods. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that guard against bacterial and viral infection, heart disease, and cancer.
Oh, and did I mention that (when not doused in salt and overcooked) it tastes fantastic? Kale typically comes in two varieties - curly kale and dino kale. I like both, but tend to favor one or the other for certain recipes (curly kale in the Garlicky Kale recipe, dino kale in African Stew - see below).
To be perfectly honest, my love isn't limited strictly to kale - I enjoy almost equally the other greens that can be substituted in most recipes - collard greens (also part of the brassica family) and the various types of chard (the golden chard that came in our CSA box a couple of weeks ago was perhaps the most beautiful vegetable I've ever seen). For example, any of the above will work in the Greek and Greens Omelette.
The following is one of my favorite kale recipes. As mentioned, I typically use dino kale. The flavor combination sounds strange, I know, but trust me - it works. Let me know what you think!
African Pineapple Peanut Stew
1 c. chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch greens
2 c. undrained crushed pineapple
1/2 c. peanut butter
1-2 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
optional: 6 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch squares
Saute onions and garlic in saucepan 10 minutes until lightly browned. Slice greens into 1 inch slices (removing tough center stems). Add pineapple and juice to onions and bring to a simmer. Stir in greens and simmer 5 minutes. Mix in peanut butter, hot sauce, cilantro, and tofu. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve over couscous.