Thursday, March 29, 2012


Kale is my favorite vegetable.  It is very high in nutrition, easy to grow, I use it in some of my favorite soups, and it has some history with me. When I speak of it, often people don't know what I'm talking about.  Kale is a type of cabbage, green in color, in which the central leaves do not form a head.  I hope if you have not tried it, you will give it a try.

As my garden gets smaller and smaller each year because it is harder for me to maintain, I will never stop planting this veggie.  It is said to be one of the healthiest vegetables.  In the last two years I have grown it in two large tubs.  

Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost.
Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly-flavored ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, roasted almonds or pepper flakes.
In the Netherlands it is very frequently used in the winter dish  and seen as one of the country's traditional dishes, called Boerenkool.
In Ireland  kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish colcannon.  Although colcannon is rarely eaten in modern Ireland, it is still popular on Halloween when it is served with sausages. 
A traditional Portuguese soup,  caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes , diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage. Under the name of couve, kale is also popular in the former Portuguese colony of Brazil, in caldo verde, or as a vegetable dish, often cooked with carne seca (shredded dried beef).
Kale is eaten throughout southeastern Africa, typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanut and served with rice or boiled cornmeal.
My Story
In my research I find curly kale is used in  Denmark, Holland, and Sweden, to make (grøn-)langkål, an obligatory dish on the julbord in Denmark, and is commonly served together with the Christmas ham  (Sweden, Holland). The kale is used to make a stew of minced boiled kale, stock, cream, pepper and salt that is simmered together slowly for a few hours.  This is how my Danish Grandmother (Grandma Gombert) fixed it and my mother fixes it to this day. 

A whole culture around kale has developed in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen and Oldenburg as well as in the land of Schleswig-Holstein where my grandfather and his family came from.  Social clubs of any kind will have a "Grünkohlfahrt" ("kale tour") sometime in January, visiting a country inn to consume large quantities of kale, sausage and schnapps. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a "kale king".

I grow kale in my garden each year and freeze it so I can use it in the winter for creamed potatoes and ham.  I also use it in my winter soups.  There is a standing joke about me not liking any cooked green vegetable, but kale is one of the cooked green vegetables that I love.  Being 1/4 Dane and 1/4 German, guess it is in my blood. My mother is 1/2 Dane and 1/2 German and she introduced me to the vegetable and loves it as much as I do.


Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Curly leaved varieties of cabbage already existed along with flat leafed varieties in Greece in the fourth century BC. The leaf colors range from light green through  dark green and violet-green to violet-brown. Russian kale was introduced into Canada and then into the U.S by Russian traders in the 19th century.
 Nutritional Value

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties and is anti-inflammatory. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamins K and C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in  calcium.  Because of its high vitamin K content, patients taking anti-coagulants are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. This raises the effective dose of the drug. Kale contains sulforaphane a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties, particularly when chopped.
Kale is a perennial here in Iowa and will come back if picked correctly.  It needs full sun.  You can harvest in about 2 months.
You can harvest very young leaves to use fresh in salads or allow plants to mature and use as a cooked green. Harvest older leaves by removing the larger, outer leaves and allowing the center of the plant to continue producing. Kale will be good throughout the summer months, but especially good after a frost.
Kale plants like to grow in a rich soil, high in organic matter and slightly acidic (5.5 - 6.5 pH). You’re growing it for the foliage, so a high nitrogen content is good.
Kale can be direct seeded in the garden or started indoors and set out as transplants. Start plants indoors about 6 weeks before your last expected frost date. Kale seeds germinate quickly in warm soil and should be up within 5 - 8 days.  I usually just plant mine from seed in the garden in mid May; however, I did find bedding plants at Wal-Mart for the first time last year.
You can direct seed in cold climates, in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked and the soil temperature is at least 45 degrees F. Kale matures quickly, in about 2 months or less, so if you prefer you can start your plants later or even plant multiple crops in succession. In warm climates, kale can be direct seeded in late summer / early fall, as well as in the spring. A winter crop of kale in warmer climates can be much sweeter than a summer crop.
Cover seeds with about ½ inch of soil and don’t allow the seeds to dry out before germinating. Plants will grow more slowly outdoors than indoors under lights.
Keep your kale plants watered well. Along with cool temperatures, moist soil helps keep kale leaves sweet and crisp, rather than tough and bitter. Side dressing throughout the growing season with compost or feeding with fish emulsion will keep your kale growing. Mulch is important to keep the ground cool.
Like greens if you pick late in season, kale will have a large stalk that you should remove.  In cleaning, put in your sink filled with water and let all of the dirt settle to the bottom.  Rinse several times taking the kale that is floating on the top of the water out and draining the water.  Once washed, pull the kale from the stalk and only use the leafy part of kale.  Once clean you can put in baggies and keep for over a week or you can freeze it immediately for winter use. 
Steamed Kale and Sliced Almonds
1 bunch washed kale--about 1/2 pound
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 clove garlic to press
2 tbsp. olive oil

Toast almonds in a frying pan with no oil, watch carefully so they don't burn.  Get your steamer going full force while you roll several kale leaves up at a time and slice them into about 1/4 inch widths.  Drop them into the steamer, cover and time them exactly three minutes on high heat (this is on a gas burner; electric may not require this high of heat setting). Remove after three minutes and toss with the olive oil,  pressed garlic and toasted almonds.  Serve at once.
White Beans with Caramelized Onions and Kale
1 lb. bunch of kale (4 cups)
1 large sliced onion
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 can drained white beans
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable broth

Caramelize 1 large onion in olive oil.  Add garlic after onion is caramelized and sauté 1 minute. Turn heat up to medium and add remaining ingredients.   Simmer until kale is tender.   Salt and pepper to taste.  This can be served over rice. 
Kale with Sesame Seeds
1 lb. of kale
1 finely chopped garlic clove
2 tsp. of sesame oil
1/3 cup of water
1 tbsp. of  soy sauce
1 tbsp. of sesame seeds

Wash kale, shake water off but don't bother to dry it.  Remove stems & discard or save for vegetable broth.
Rip or shred leaves. Add sesame oil & your garlic clove to frying pan stirring 1 minute.  Do not let it brown.  Add the  water and soy sauce.  Add the kale.  When kale is tender add sesame seeds.

Kale & Brown Rice with a Kick

1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
1 cup brown rice
2 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp. garlic/ginger/chili or 2 crushed garlic cloves, some dried chilies and a tsp crushed ginger
1 - 2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp. hot oil or olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped

Combine the brown rice, water, and garlic/ginger/chili (found in the produce section in little jars like the minced garlic.) If you can't find that, just add a bit of crushed garlic, a few dried chili pepper flakes, and some crushed ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Steam the kale first in a tiny bit of water, when the water evaporates, add the oil, soy sauce, and chopped garlic. Stir fry until the kale and garlic are tender.

Serve either with kale on top of a rice bed, or mix it together! I made this up today, and it makes an awesome, filling (and nutritional) lunch.

Kale and Potato Soup with Turkey Sausage

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 pound turkey or chicken sausage
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
1 quart water
2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 pound kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot and when it is cool enough to handle, cut it into slices. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the water, broth, and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Add the sausage, potatoes, and red-pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 2 minutes. Add the kale and bring the soup back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes and kale are tender, about 6 minutes longer. Add the black pepper.
Yield: 4 servings

Kale on Toasted Bread

A pound kale
Tuscan-style bread
Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Strip away the tough ribs leaves, and wash kale. Boil it in lightly salted water just until done (since the kale will wilt, start with as little water as you can.  The kale is done as soon as the leaves are tender.  Drain kale, reserving the liquid, and coarsely chop it.  Cut several slices of pane casalingo (Tuscan-style bread), toast them, cut them in half, rub them with a cut clove of garlic, dip them in the pot liquid, and arrange them on the plates. Put a 1/3-inch layer of kale on top of each slice, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil, season with pepper to taste, and serve.

Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.  With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.  Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

Creamed Ham, Potatoes and Kale (Staci calls this Sunday Soup)

This is how I fix the German creamed kale that my mother and grandmother fixed.  Boil new or small red potatoes in chicken broth until tender along cubed ham, sautéed onion and kale.  Salt and pepper to taste.  I prefer using onion powder but you can use onions however you want to flavor.  Once potatoes are tender add cream or half and half or even 2% milk if you want to keep the fat down.   Once the mixture has come to a boil add corn starch slurry to thicken.   I freeze Kale and always have it on hand for soups.  You can modify this into a bacon, potato and kale soup also.

Greek Kale Salad
1 3/4 pounds kale, large stems discarded
2 whole-wheat pita breads
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut lengthwise into slivers
2 ounces feta cheese, preferably French, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the kale leaves until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer the kale to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Fluff up the leaves, coarsely chop them and transfer to a large bowl.  Brush both sides of the pita breads with olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes, or until crisp. Cut the pita into wedges.  In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the lemon juice and crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper. Add the grape tomatoes, olives and crumbled feta to the kale and toss. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Serve the kale salad with the toasted pita wedges.  Yield: 4 servings

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana  (My favorite when I go to Olive Garden)
1 1/2  cups  sausage links, spicy; about 12 links
3/4  cup  diced onions
6  slices  bacon
1 1/4  tsp.  minced garlic
2  tbsp.  chicken stock
1  quart  water
2  medium  potatoes, cut in half and then into 1/4 slices
2  cups  kale, cut in half and then sliced
1/3  cup  heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place sausage links onto a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until done; cut into half lengthwise, then cut at an angle into 1/2 inch slices. Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes, simmer 15 minutes. Add sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.  Makes 5 servings.  I got this recipe from a client who once managed the Dubuque Olive Garden.

My Italian Potato Soup (My own recipe)

Boil sliced red potatoes in chicken broth just covering the potatoes.  Fry Italian sausage in frying pan and drain well (you can determine how hot or sweet you want the sausage)  Add garlic and onion to taste to sausage and cook until softened (I use garlic powder and onion powder).  When potatoes are tender add 2 cups of half and half to the potatoes and broth along with well drained sausage mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cut up small fresh kale and add just before serving so it can wilt or use your frozen kale if it is winter.  You can also grate Parmesan Cheese over it.  You may substitute the kale with spinach if you like.

This is my favorite soup.  I use a mild Italian sausage.  Very similar to the Olive Garden’s.

Sweet and Savory Kale

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small diced onion
2 minced cloves garlic
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 tsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups stemmed, torn and rinsed kale
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard, sugar, vinegar, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the kale, cover, and cook 5 minutes until wilted.  Stir in the dried cranberries, and continue boiling, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by about half, and the cranberries have softened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sliced almonds before serving.  Serves 6.

Vegetable Soup with Kale

1 cup black beans
1 red onion
3 cups chopped kale
1 cup winter squash cubes
1 carton (large) fat free chicken broth
1 can mixed vegetables
2 cups tap water
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice onion and sauté  with cooking spray to soften.  Add chicken stock and water and then add vegetables.  Cook on medium heat for about 1 hour until vegetables are soft.  Number of Servings: 12

Kale Krisps
2 bunches kale, washed and dried
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray. Remove the stems and ribs from the kale, and shred the kale very thinly. Spread the shredded kale onto the baking sheets, and sprinkle evenly with Cheddar cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bake the kale for 10 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning, until the kale is crisp and the cheese is browned.  You can try different cheeses like parmesan.  Do not salt if you use parmesan.

My Lentils and Kale Soup

5 links of sweet or mild Italian sausage (take sausage out of casing)
1 package of dried lentils
1 sweet onion
1 tbsp. of garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. of salt
1/2  tsp. pepper
1 package of frozen kale (I freeze my own) or fresh kale
2 large container of beef broth

Soak the lentils in water over night to soften and drain well.  Sauté  the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add sausage and brown.  Drain off any grease.  Add the beef broth, salt, and pepper.  I have fallen in love with the new flavor packets that are now on the market.  Add the drained lentils and kale.  Simmer for an hour or until the lentils are soft.  Make sure there is plenty of broth or liquid on the lentil, sausage and kale mixture.  You can add water if the soup needs it.  Check to see if it needs more salt and pepper for seasoning.  When you serve you may top with  parmesan cheese.

Variation:  If you like spicy food you may use hot Italian sausage. 

 Hope you will plant some kale this year in your garden and start using kale for more. It also makes a great decoration on a plate

Tomorrow we are growing onions for the table.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

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