I am experiencing my kale awakening- raw, sautéed, grilled… it just keeps getting better! I have always been a huge fan of dark green veg, and the Lacinato or Tuscan variety of kale is probably as dark and green as it gets. Also known as Dinosaur kale, this relative of the cabbage certainly looks like a scaly creature from another time with its shiny, knobby long leaves and intense grey-blue coloring.
Kale is truly a SuperFood- low in calories but packed with minerals like iron and calcium, an excellent source of dietary fiber and vitamins A, K and C- it already comes with all that good stuff that gets injected into so many of the processed foods we consume. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that kale is considered a good source of nearly complete proteins, making it a vegetarian’s dream veg. So instead of popping that multi-vitamin in the morning, consider working this nutritional powerhouse into your diet.
With its hearty flavor and versatility, kale can be prepared in so many wonderful and delicious ways. Because its leaves are so sturdy and fibrous, many recipes will call for pre-cooking in one form or another, usually by blanching in salted water. A lot of times, they will tell you to cut the stem out, but I always leave it in because I love the crunch. I’ve thrown kale into soups, baked it into chips, and sautéed it plenty of times, and a few weeks ago I even tried raw kale salad- but this was my first time cooking the Dinosaur variety and I wanted to do something different. Inspired by one of my favorite dishes, the kale Caesar Salad at Back 40 here in the East Village, I went to break in the new grill pan we got as a wedding gift.
Grilling the Tuscan kale brings out its natural meatiness and crisps up the edges of the leaves, creating a mind-bending combination of textures and a deep savory flavor. You could eat it straight off the grill, or add the grilled leaves to other preparations to impart a depth of flavor you don’t get from boiling. I chopped up the charred kale and threw it in a pan with a bunch of baby potatoes, onions, butter, garlic and mustard, and I served it (to myself!) with a simple piece of seared Hake seasoned with salt and pepper, then drizzled everything with a quick pan sauce. The intensity of the kale counterbalanced the sweet little potatoes and the delicate flaky fish, making a soul-satisfying meal in under an hour.
|Pan-Seared Hake with Lacinato Kale and Baby Bliss Potatoes|
Grilled Lacinato Kale
1 bunch Dinosaur Kale, washed and dried
1 t sherry vinegar
2 t Olive oil (approx)
1. Toss the kale in a bowl with oil and vinegar to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper
2. If I didn’t live in NYC and actually had access to a proper grill, I would use it. As it is, I’ll have to do the best with what I’ve got: a heavy-duty cast-iron grill pan, lightly brushed with oil and smoking hot.
3. Place the leaves of kale onto the grill pan in batches, leaving space between them. Cook the leaves on both sides, until you see grill marks and the edges become crisp. You don’t need to cook them long if you are grilling as a pre-cook method, as for this preparation. (If you want to eat them straight off the grill, cook the leaves until the stalks are tender, being careful not to let them burn- tear them up and toss with your favorite salad dressing.)
4. Chop up and sauté in with garlic, onions and blanched potatoes- add a spoonful of Dijon mustard to finish. Serve with a simple pan-grilled fish.