Why kale? Kale falls into the family of cruciferous vegetables that includes broccoli, collard greens, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. I’m sure we could all identify cruciferous vegetables blindfolded from their distinctive foul odor or bitter flavors that can result from improper cooking that have made some folks steer clear. The chemicals that create those sensory characteristics, specifically isothiocyanates, sulforaphanes, dithiolethione, and indole-3-carbinol, are what empower cruciferous vegetables to fight cancer by slowing or even reversing the growth of tumors. If cooked too long, these vegetables release sulfur, which causes the stink, and the texture quickly changes to unappetizing mush.
Here are two easy recipes to get more kale into your diet. This pesto is SO flavorful with the addition of lemon and Parmesan cheese. It tastes wonderful on whole grain crackers or pasta, slathered onto the base of a pizza, or spread onto sandwiches.
Kale and Walnut Pesto
(contributed by my friend Christina Bogardus)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 lbs. Lacinato kale, stems removed, chopped coarsely (note that curly leaved kale works fine too)
2 tsp salt (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Ground black pepper
- Toast the chopped walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium-high heat stirring constantly, until they start to brown (this will keep them from absorbing moisture from the pesto and becoming soggy).
- Bring water to a boil. Add 1 tsp or so of salt, then add the kale. Cook, uncovered, until tender (about 10 minutes). Remove from pot and drain.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts, drained kale and lemon juice and mix well. Pour in the oil at a steady stream so it will integrate, and pulse until combined.
- Add 1/2 tsp of the salt, pulse, then taste. Add the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt if necessary.
- Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the cheese and pepper.
Who would guess these could taste thin and crispy like potato chips? Experiment with your favorite spices and seasonings!
1 bunch of kale (either Lacinato or curly leaved works well)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Rinse and dry the kale. Remove the thick stems from the leaves and tear the leaves into small pieces. In a large bowl, drizzle leaves with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and Parmesan cheese; toss to coat evenly. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp and browned on edges. Note: I stored leftovers in a covered container at room temperature and they wilted and lost their crispness. Some blogs have suggested that cold temperatures such as in the refrigerator help maintain the crispness.