Timing is essential when preparing steamed kale. Steam it just long enough to produce tender, bright green leaves. Undercooking can result in chewy, bitter kale, while overcooking turns it mushy, dull looking and malodorous. Steam kale for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the maturity of the greens and your preference for tender or well-cooked greens.
Before steaming, wash kale thoroughly and inspect it for any signs of insects. Submerge the leaves in a bowl or sink filled with cold water, swishing them around to remove any grit from the garden. Dry the kale in paper towels or clean dishtowels. If you notice any signs of insects, add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the water. Swish in the soapy water and then rinse the leaves thoroughly. For all but the most tender baby kale, pull or cut the leaves away from the stringy center stem, which is tough and can be discarded.
Steaming cooks vegetables without submerging them in boiling water, which leaches vitamins and minerals, as well as color and taste. Steaming requires a pan with a steamer insert or a bamboo steamer -- a colander that fits fully inside the pot can be used in a pinch -- and only 1/4 inch of water. Don't pack the steamer full, but arrange the kale leaves loosely, so the steam can thoroughly surround each leaf. Steam in batches if preparing a large quantity.
Keeping the lid on as much as possible preserves the steam, though it's wise to carefully remove the lid to rearrange the kale midway through the cooking process to monitor its flavor and doneness. Once it is steamed sufficiently, tongs are useful for removing the kale from the steamer without burns. You can add just a pat or two of butter and salt and pepper and serve the steamed kale as a side dish.
Steamed kale is a simple dish that doesn't require extensive seasoning, but it can certainly handle the addition of ingredients with bold flavors. Consider adding smoked meats, such as bacon or chorizo. Sauteed garlic and onions -- and maybe some ginger -- mix well with kale. Vinegar, lemon juice or red pepper flakes also enhance the flavor of kale -- or any other greens. Creamy additions, such as sour cream or goat cheese, also pair well with steamed kale. Experiment and find the pairings that taste best to you.