Kale wasn’t part of my diet as a kid. I first encountered it a little over a decade ago when I started with Godard College. It was the early stage of “from farm to table” cuisine and Goddard’s kitchen had made a commitment to serving as many local vegetables as possible. In the winter, being in Vermont, kale was a logical green for them to purchase. I wasn’t a convert immediately. Unfortunately, they only served it lightly steamed — which often meant undercooked and in tough full-leaf portions. Even more, it was just kale — neither benefiting from nor adding to another food pairing.
I returned to kale a couple of summers ago when I started to look at its nutritional benefits. As WebMD points out, “One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.” (http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale)
To be honest, given my history with under-developed kale on the dinner plate, I reintroduced it to my diet by hiding it in smoothies. Interestingly enough, the taste of blueberries pairs well with kale and will mask its flavor. The blender pulverizes it in such a way that there is no toughness. The one downside to it is that blueberry-kale smoothies can be a little gray!
Tonight I’ve made a soup that puts kale center stage, but also pairs it with some other cool weather vegetables – carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, onion and sweet potato. The other main ingredient, mostly to add some protein, is white beans.
Kale and White Bean Soup
2 large yellow onions
5 cloves garlic
1/2 of a medium butternut squash
1 sweet potato
3 cups cooked white beans
4 cups chopped kale
12 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
This is a soup that gets better the second day. If you want it to be more intensely flavorful the first day, make sure you deeply caramelize the onions (and the carrots). You can also use vegetable stock if you have it.