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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
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
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.
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