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February 20, 2008

Getting the Better Taste Out of Bitter Kale


There is something about the color green and raw food. If you are talking about meat and especially seafood, the rule is that the color green is best avoided. When it comes to leafy vegetables, the rule is that green is most probably good.


This brings us to one of the greenest of greens, kale.


Kale looks much like lettuce, except with a tighter curl and it grows on stalks. Unlike lettuce, it is not necessarily something that you would want to use as the foundation for a salad. The reason for this is rooted in the climate that brings kale to us.


Kale thrives in cold weather. Its leaves are tough enough to withstand real cold, which means it can be harvested well into the fall. On the other hand, there is something well understood about things that can survive in cold climates. They are tough, and they tend toward hard flavor.


This describes kale. Compared to the weak, relatively flaccid iceberg lettuce, which comes to us courtesy the great lettuce fields of balmy southern California, kale is as tough as shoe leather. Shoe leather with a bitter taste. The older, the more bitter.


One might wonder why anyone would eat a leafy vegetable that is as tough as shoe leather and has a bitter taste. The answer is that kale is rich in vitamins and minerals and can be made edible and even delicious with some work.


The trick to doing this is simple – the judicious application of heat. Over time, heat will soften both its texture and its flavor.


Steaming might sound like the most obvious way to apply the necessary heat for the job, but kale is a vegetable that defies the obvious. It works best when sautéed.


You will need to remove the leaves from the stems, and set them aside.


Heat minced garlic and a pinch or two of dried marjoram in olive oil. This will be how you soften the leaves.


This will put you in the mind of other things that are sautéed in olive oil and garlic, specifically mushrooms and onions. Take a handful of Shiitake mushrooms and slice off the bottoms. Cut them into thin slices. Take some red onion and cut into small pieces.


Once all is prepared and the oil is hot, throw everything into the pan and stir it all together.


Stir everything regularly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and the heat is evenly distributed.


The entire process will take about 10-to-12 minutes over a medium heat. You will want to make sure that your kale is softened, but not limp.


Once finished, dress with fresh lemon juice.


You can eat this as a side dish, or do something else with it, which is to spoon it over warm brown rice for a vegetarian main course that is packed with everything healthy, but minus the shoe leather toughness and bitterness.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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