This winter, kale was the last vegetable standing in my vegetable garden… and with good reason. Kale, a cousin to collards and broccoli, is a very resilient type of cabbage. Cold weather does not intimidate kale and hot weather does not wilt kale. Like its cousins, kale is a vegetable that keeps on giving – I picked the leaves one week and next week a completely new group of curly leaves sprouted forth just giving and giving.
Kale, in its many varieties (curly, also called Scots Kale, plain leave, rape, dinosaur) grows and feeds people all over the world, though many people associate it with the Scottish and the Irish. It is very prominent on their dinner table; but, the vegetable is also beloved and treasured in Portugal (in caldo verde), in East Africa (with ugali), in Holland, Spain, Italy (the dinosaur variety is sometimes called Tuscan cabbage), Montenegro, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, Japan, and in the Netherlands. Kale is so popular in northwest Germany that they host a full-on festival complete with a Kale Queen pageant.
Kale is similar in flavor to collard greens. I caution not to tell that to a seemingly sweet Scottish Grandmother-in-law… at least not mine. Kale, in her opinion, taste nothing like collards. Some slight nuances distinguish kale from collard green. Kale is milder than collard greens, with a slight peppery taste. As for texture, kale, even the larger leaves, is not as leathery as collard greens and kale leaves become melting tender without the long steamy braise that collard greens need for complete tenderness. Raw kale leaves wilt with just a little red wine vinegar and kosher salt, becoming the base of a great leafy winter salad, when lettuce is out-of season (I tossed wilted leaves with crunchy pecans, crisp apple slices, and carrot ribbons for a deliciously hearty winter salad).
On a particularly cold south Florida night, I made a pot of Caldo Gallego, a hearty, comforting, and warming Galician-Spanish soup of white beans, kale, and smoked ham hocks. Kale also found it’s way into a deeply soulful Native American inspired stew of red beans, pumpkin, and chilies
which we ate with homemade corn tortillas the day after Christmas. I also added kale to a simmering pot of ground turkey Bolognese for pasta. Rich in iron, antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C; the dark green kale bolstered, not only the nutritional value, but the anemic look of ground turkey meat.
A fair amount of kale came to the table quickly sautéed in olive oil with garlic, onions, red chili flakes, and lemon zest which is the way with most greens in my hands. The latter also made a tasty bed to rest seared cod.
Ornamental kale, the flowering and purple varities especially, makes great foliage in the winter when most flowers perish under the weight and temperature of snow. Every Winter that we travel north, I am anxious to harvest the ornamental kale for food…. but I stop short when I remind myself that landscapers may use pesticides on it to keep small animals from gorging on the vegetable – and humans as well.
Good thing, the kale in my garden is so giving… and pesticide free.
My Recipe: Sautéed Kale w Seared Cod serves 4
1 lg bch kale, tough stems remove and leaves torn to bite size pieces
1 med yellow onion, peeled and sliced
2 – 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, more if desired
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes, more if desired
4 – 6 oz cod filets
2 – 4 T all purpose flour
1 lemon, zested
2 T fresh thyme, fine chopped
4T olive oil, separated
kosher salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste
Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
Season the flour with lemon zest, thyme, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper to taste; dredge cod filets in seasoned flour; sear filets in hot sauté pan, 3-4 minutes on one side; and 1-2 minutes on the other until fish is just shy of being done (the carry-over heat will finish cooking the fish); remove fish to a plate and keep warm while sautéing the kale
Wipe out large sauté pan and return to stove over medium-high heat; add remaining olive oil; sauté onions until translucent; season with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes
Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, but not burned
Add just washed kales leaves; sauté until kale begins to wilt and reduce in volume, about 4 – 5 minutes; add one tablespoon of water to pan, cover pan, and remove from heat ; leave for a minute
Serve kale with seared cod on top and lemon wedges, if desired
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!