For many, sourdough bread has been the center of focus in the kitchen during the pandemic. For me, it’s been kale! What started as an opportunity to grow a few leafy greens in our backyard in early spring — while being “confined” to home — has become a focal point of meals and conversation. Even though I missed National Kale Day a few weeks ago (the first Wednesday of October), I couldn’t let the month slip away without highlighting our “success.”
Who knew kale could survive Kentucky summers and that seven months later, would still be the focal point of our salads, and a key ingredient in soups and entrees?
The “Growing” Success
To set the record straight and prevent social media comments from my husband, I take no credit in the success of our kale’s longevity. It was John who decided that growing the leafy greens in some of our existing large flower pots would be a good option … an option that proved to be a wise decision.
From the first sightings of two-inch kale in late March to the current three feet kale “palm trees,” flower pots are obviously the container of choice. I also credit the above normal rainfall, extra watering and a mix of sun and shade. We didn’t set out to make kale part of our weekly meals. It was never a staple in our diets. But with inspiration from some of my dietitian colleagues who are cookbook authors, as well as others, we are now convinced that kale rules!
The Inspiration to Enjoy
Like any food, especially vegetables, preparation is key! Even though kale has been deemed a “superfood” for all its nutritional value, it’s not a widely popular vegetable beyond smoothies, even for some nutrition folks, due to its taste. So, what is the secret to acceptance? Remove the leaves from the stem and chop or cut chiffonade-style (thin strips) the leaves regardless of how you are using it (unless it’s baby kale). For salads, it’s about massaging the leaves with oil and letting it sit for about 10 minutes.
Thanks to the helpful hints and recipe for Pistachio-Parmesan Kale-Arugula Salad found in The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Serena Ball, MS, RDN and Deanna Segrave-Daly, RDN, my preparation and enjoyment of kale has changed forever! Using the basic ingredients featured in the mentioned recipe (olive oil, lemon juice and smoked paprika), along with my own multi combinations of kale, lettuces, avocado, tomato or now, fresh apples, kale salads have been a regular staple at family meals. However, my “secret” ingredient that is always added to salads prior to serving — regardless of the combination — is white balsamic vinegar. And yes, I do have my favorite. It’s Secolari White Balsamic Vinegar.
Beyond the salads, kale finds its way into soups, stews and entrée dishes, or as a side, as I find myself seeking out the latest recipes in food magazines or new cookbooks that feature kale. (Something that is not hard to find!). How long my backyard kale supply lasts will depend on the temperament of the coming months, but I’m predicting a backyard kale salad will still grace my table during the upcoming holidays!
The Added Bonus
Our abundant kale supply has been shared with friends and family, and so much so it has become a humorous focal point of conversation. But the nutritional benefits of kale are no laughing matter.
Within its dark green leaves are Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, along with folate, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for eyes, bones and brain health. Additionally, kale contains the minerals potassium, phosphors, calcium and zinc. Like any vegetable, the value of what kale brings to the table extends beyond the plate! To pique your interest and taste buds, here is the recipe for the Pistachio-Parmesan Kale-Arugula Salad. I hope you enjoy!
Pistachio-Parmesan Kale-Arugula Salad
Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
- 6 cups of kale, center ribs removed and discarded. Leaves coarsely chopped.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 small lemon)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
- 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecrino Romano cheese
Ingredient Tip: Save some dollars and buy pistachios in their shells. Sure, it takes a few minutes to remove the shells, but they are less expensive than the shelled variety and in some cases even fresher tasting.
- In a large salad bowl, combine kale, oil, lemon juice and smoked paprika.
- With your hands, gently massage the leaves for about 15 seconds or so until all are thoroughly coated. Let the kale sit for 10 minutes.
- When you are ready to serve, gently mix in the arugula and pistachios.
- Divide the salad among six bowls.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated cheese over each.
Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Total Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 189 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 5 g