Depending on what Super Food list you’re reading , kale may or may not be on it. Regardless, kale is enjoying the limelight these days because “healthy” kale chips have found their way into markets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes and publicity surrounding a Vermont T-shirt maker face-off with a certain fast food chain that begins with Chik over trademark infringement which prompted Vermont’s governor to publicly state “don’t mess with kale” in his defense.
All good publicity for a food that Tamara Duker Freuman, a dietician and nutritionist with an informative blog called What I’m Eating Now, says kale scores a perfect 1,000 on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, a food-rating system that measures nutrients per calorie. “While I view the term ‘superfood’ with more than a healthy dose of skepticism (it’s more of a marketing term than a nutrition term), I would be hard-pressed to come up with a food more deserving of the title,” Duker Freuman says of kale in this NPR article.
Personally, kale is on my super food list – I’ve just never posted a kale recipe, probably because I couldn’t get a good photo… or didn’t bother to try (I’ve grown weary of scrambling around to get a money shot of dinner when the sun has already set)! Kale is a fall/winter veggie with loads of Vitamins K, A and C, and calcium and iron going for it. Although, the dark leafy green powerhouse has been a salad staple at “health” food restaurants such as Veggie Grill and on the salad bar at Whole Foods, as its status and popularity increases its also creeping onto some unlikely restaurant menus – such as an Olive Garden soup.
At home, it lends a sweet and earthy flavor when stirred into minestrone, Italian Wedding, and other warming winter soups. You can even grill kale like I did last summer – I topped it with toasted hazelnuts and yogurt dressing (a là Travis Lett of Gjelina) and was featured in the LA Times – sweet!
I’ve served poached eggs on a bed of crispy kale with Hoppin’ John for New Year’s good luck:
In the fall, it was kale salad with persimmons – persimmon season is very short, so now I’m substituting blood oranges:
Are you convinced of kale’s versatility yet? Good! Here, the super green food receives somewhat of a wilted salad treatment when topped with caramelized onion and butternut squash. You’ll feel more virile and energized with every mouthful This satisfying, super nutritious dish is vegetarian (easily made vegan), gluten free, dairy free, heart healthy, and delicious. We enjoyed it as a light, i.e., meatless dinner, and with Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day behind us, I finally feel like I’m getting on track with the intentions I’ve set for 2012. How are you progressing with your health-related goals?
- 1 bunch organic lacinto kale
- ½ roasted red bell pepper
- 4 cups steamed butternut squash, bite-size cubes*
- 1 small sweet onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced*
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili oil, or pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon butter*
- 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey, maple or brown rice syrup
- Roast the red pepper under the broiler or in your toaster oven set on Broil until skin is charred. Wrap in tin foil or put in a bag to steam. Removing skin after it has cooled.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute. Add the squash and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld the flavors and brown the squash.
- Meanwhile, wash the kale, cut out the thicker stems, and cut crosswise into thin ½ inch wide strips. Put in a serving bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add to kale and toss to coat. Add strips of red pepper, top with squash and caramelized onion mixture, and top with pepitas.
*I've learned that the benefits of garlic are fully realized when crushed and the garlic sits for a bit before being cooked.
*Eliminate the butter and double the olive oil for Vegan preparation.