Cooking with Kale

It’s May, which means two things. One, The Cherry Street Farmer’s Market has been open a little less than a month and two, the superstar fruits and vegetables of the summer (tomatoes, berries, cantaloupes and cucumbers to name a few) are still a little ways off. What does that mean for you? We must find the stars of spring. Why pine away for those summer treats when we have a bounty of green beauties just waiting to be devoured?

What do I have in mind? Well, let’s start with kale (sometimes known as “farmers cabbage”). Yep, kale hails from the cabbage family. What does this neglected green have to offer? A better question would be, what does it not have to offer? For starters, it’s extremely high in beta carotene, vitamin K and that old favorite, vitamin C. Those details alone should be enough to make you eat it all the time. Still not convinced? Have you ever noticed the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) rating at Whole Foods?

Kale received the highest rating possible, 1000. This stuff is crazy healthy!

It seemed that for a while, kale was nothing more than plate decoration that acted as a useless bed for your side of fruit. But lately is appears that kale is the hippest green in the kitchen. It’s popping up in all sorts of restaurants, and not just as a garnish. This stuff is now part of the main dish. Kale’s days of taking the back seat are over. I don’t even know when I first heard of kale. I know it’s been around for a long, long time, but, to me, it seems that kale just sort of burst on to the food scene — much like that whole cupcake craze! Remember 2008?

Kale is ridiculously versatile. It can be sauteed, baked, braised, minced, boiled and even fried. The options are numerous and kale is cheap. This pocket-friendly green is one that should be added to your weekly (or dare I say, daily) meal routine. Ever try a kale Caesar salad? Or what about kale colcannon?

What I love most about farmers markets in general and shopping seasonally is that by shopping that way, it allows us to really focus in on what is available right now. Tomatoes might not be available in May, but so what? There are tons of other vegetables to enjoy. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new veggie that you can share with your whole family. Mizuna anyone? That’s a whole other story.

White Bean and Kale Dip

• 1 small bunch of kale
• 5-7 pieces of bacon, cooked crisply
• 1 can of canellini beans
• 1 Tbs of lemon juice
• 1 Tbs olive oil
• salt and pepper

Cook bacon strips in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until crispy. When cooked and cooled, cut into small pieces. I cook my bacon on a cooling rack over a baking sheet, so that the grease can drip below.

Remove kale leaves from kale stem. Discard stems. Place kale in sautee pan and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. On medium heat, move kale around pan until it wilts.

Drain canellini beans and warm them in a sauce pan. The beans blend better when they are warm. In a food processor, place beans, kale, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bacon. Puree until smooth. Feel free to add more olive oil and seasoning as desired, maybe even garlic. Serve warm with chips and vegetables.

Molly Martin is a cook and food blogger. Visit her website at www.lostfoundfood.com

Categories: Food