Fear the bitter bite? Give kale a chance
With the weather warming up, plants in my garden are beginning to shoot up. The other day I spied a tiny tomato. I have a large crop of lettuce, planted last fall, that overwintered under a cold frame. I never have any problem giving away the surplus. In fact, my neighbors welcome any extra vegetables that I have with one exception: kale.
The non-kale contingent is large. Perhaps it is because certain foodies touted it as the one supergreen that you had to eat three times a day to stay healthy. Rather than giving recipes for a simple saute, they told people to make kale chips. If those chips were my first introduction to kale, I would probably run the other way, too.
Another reason people may dislike kale is that they perceive it as tough and bitter. Fearing long cooking times, they turn to more tender greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. They would never think of kale as a salad ingredient. When I mentioned raw kale salad to a friend, I literally saw her cringe.
Yet something magical happens when kale meets the acidic ingredients of a salad dressing. With a short marination in oil and lemon juice, the leaves become tender enough to melt in your mouth. With the addition of something sweet, the slightly bitter flavor is counterpointed rather being the dominant taste.
The kale salad below incorporates the four basic tastes — bitter, sweet, salty and sour — in one bowl. Apples and nuts add a crunchy texture. Even if you are kale averse, I hope this salad will make you a convert to this wonderful green.
Sweet-Savory Kale Salad
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, tough ribs removed, leaves very thinly sliced
1/3 cup dates, cut into thin slivers
1 apple (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp) cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, finely grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat and let stand 30 minutes.
After the kale has marinated, add the date and apple pieces, almonds and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss well.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.