November 5, 2010
Sturdy. That’s what kale is. A leafy green vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family, but unfortunately is often overlooked because not too many people know what to do with it.
I am sure that you have seen this long, imposing vegetable in your grocer’s store or at farmers markets. It is commonly called curly or ornamental kale. I like to grow it in my garden for making a classic Tuscan soup known as ribollita.
Kale is known as cavolo nero (black cabbage) in Tuscany because the leaves are almost midnight black and thick and quilt-like in their appearance. When you buy it, look for crisp leaves and stems – not wilted ones with soft stems. Smaller leaf kale is more tender with a milder flavor. But all varieties of kale have some bitterness to them that is tamed a bit by boiling the greens uncovered.
And now that we are really into fall, kale is one of those foods that can march us through winter’s wrath. It is a great source of fiber and calcium and contains phytonutrients that some medical experts say may reduce the occurrence of some types of cancers. However, more research needs to be done. Kale is loaded with vitamins A and C and an added bonus is that it is low in calories and has no saturated fat. So go ahead and eat all you want.
Use kale in soups and stews. Try it sautéed with onion, garlic and black olives as a side dish. Steam it and combine with tomato sauce atop your next pizza or mix it into whole wheat pasta and sprinkle it with Pecorino cheese.