For the past decade or more kale has been exalted as one of the most healthful foods on the planet.
It provides tremendous bang for your green for less than 35 calories per cup with levels of vitamins A and C above the recommended daily minimum and almost 700% of that standard for vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting and maintaining bone health.
It’s not the easiest leafy green veggie to love, with many people turning away from raw kale’s tough leaves and moderately bitter taste. On the other hand, trying to make it more palatable through cooking subtracts from its vaunted nutritional value, though it’s still relatively healthful.
Here are a few answers to the riddle it presents us:
KNOW YOUR TYPE
Curly kale is the most common and affordable variety, so most people’s perceptions of kale are based on it. Tuscan Kale (aka lacinato or dinosaur kale) is a bit more tender and may go over better in salads, while baby kale is much softer and just as nutritious as “grownup” leaves.
MASSAGE IT FIRST
“Manhandling” or “massaging” kale is a popular approach to making it more pliable and easier to eat, but try resisting the urge to rinse it off immediately, since prepping it can release compounds that contribute to the bitterness. So first, remove the leaves from the rigid center stem, then crush it with your hands or another implement — usually using a couple drops of olive oil or lemon juice — until it’s softer but not limp or wilted, then chop it up and rinse.
This is the gentlest form of cooking kale and has the least effect on nutritional value. Let it sit in a strainer insert for a few minutes over a couple inches of boiling water, dress it with some garlic, pepper or lemon juice, and you can serve it alongside or under almost anything.
SAUTÉ FOR K
Vitamin K is fat-soluble, so it’s most absorbable if eaten with a little bit of heart-healthy fat. Sauté a few leaves with olive oil and garlic until wilted for another healthy side dish.