Winter is the time of year when the local produce harvest is seriously limited. There is a tenacious vegetable crop however that seems to flourish despite the cold weather — the humble vegetable kale. Formerly relegated to being ornamental and used for display with other foods, this good-natured durable plant is finally winning us over.
This month our chefs are combining melt-in-your mouth braised short ribs along with savory kale for a delicious opportunity to try it. Kale’s deep flavors range from peppery to sweet and nutty to “cabbagey,” and mellows beautifully when you cook it. Kale is not only excellent in flavor but also nutrition. When it comes to nutrient density, kale is a first-place winner with 1000 points in the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). This scoring contest has a scale from 1-1000 comparing foods on their nutrient composition. Kale got a perfect score and won a gold medal in the winter vegetable Olympics! (I can hear the anthem now.) Let’s give greens credit where credit is due and mention that there was actually a five-way tie (I wouldn’t want to be those judges). Kale, mustard, turnip and collard greens along with watercress are all first-place winners in this very prestigious contest. What an honor. Imagine accomplishing that, all in the very cold temperatures of winter. (Read more about the ANDI Guide at wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/andi-guide.)
The ability to thrive and cleverly concentrate their nutrients and flavors into a fibrous durable leaf is commendable.
The ability to thrive and cleverly concentrate their nutrients and flavors into a fibrous durable leaf is commendable. Kale is rich in phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and antioxidants and has fabulous nutritional benefits for us. “Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye health-promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds. Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.” (See webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale.)
When you are purchasing kale choose leaves that feel firm. Deep green, tender, smaller leaves are what you want to eat and prepare. Store them in a plastic bag in your refrigerator, but don’t wash them until you need them. You can try kale slivered in soups, sauted and savory as a side, chopped-and-chilling in a salad or tossed into pastas. If you don’t feel confident about cooking it at home try Chef Jeremy’s recipe in our January Good Times newsletter. Or better yet come to Salty’s and our chefs will fix you a winning dish!