A relative of broccoli and cabbage, kale comes in many different colors and varieties, some with crinkled leaves, others with serrated leaves. No matter which variety of kale you choose, you are sure to enjoy a nutrient-rich food. It's rich in vitamins A, C, K and B6, as well as iron, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. This versatile food can be cooked successfully in many different ways; it can be steamed, braised, sautéed and roasted, to name a few. When prepared properly, kale offers a rich flavor that's slightly earthy.
Prepare your kale for cooking by washing it thoroughly in cool water. This removes any dirt or grit that's taken up residence in the leaves. Then, either drain the leaves in a colander or pat them dry with a couple of paper towels. Remove the tough stems and midrib with a sharp knife, so that all that remains is the leafy portions of the kale. For larger leaves, you can roll them up and cut them into ribbons, or you can roughly chop them. Leave smaller leaves intact. You can now steam, braise, saute or roast the kale.
Steam your kale in about 1 inch of boiling water for between eight and 10 minutes. By steaming the kale, you ensure that the water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins, don't leach into the cooking water.
Braise your kale in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot. Add equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and water and a couple of finely chopped onions and garlic cloves. Cook on low for about 30 minutes.
Saute the kale in extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. If you want kale that retains its texture, saute for about one to two minutes, or until the leaves wilt. If you prefer softer kale, saute it for up to 10 minutes.
Roast the kale to make some delicious kale chips. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the kale with extra-virgin olive oil and spread it into a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast the leaves for about 12 minutes, or until they're crispy. To make the chips flatter, cover the kale with another baking sheet before sliding them into the oven.
Don't forget the seasonings. No matter which cooking method you choose, a healthy dose of seasoning adds flavor, transforming your kale into a delicacy. If you're going to saute or braise the kale, try cooking it with garlic, ginger, onion, hot peppers or hot nuts. For the roasted kale, toss the leaves with some soy sauce or hot sauce before placing it in the oven. Top steamed or sautéed kale with some grated cheese, toasted nuts or caramelized onion. A squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of vinegar adds some zing.
In 2013, the Environmental Working Group added kale to their "Dirty Dozen Plus" list, a list of foods that are likely to contain traces of toxic pesticides. If you have access to organic kale, use it.