Kale is all the rage but here's how you actually cook with it

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Kale has become one of those super trendy super foods, and it's no wonder why. It's extremely low in calories with one cup only containing 36 of them; and it also has 5 grams of fiber that will invoke all kinds of their own health benefits. In addition to all of that, kale also has major vitamins, nutrients and minerals that have all helped bolster its good name. It's really no mystery that kale is one of the biggest fads going on in the culinary world today.
But when people hop aboard the kale-eating train, it's also just as easy to see why they may initially be disappointed with the results. While kale is a leafy green, it's different than other leafy greens. It's tougher than spinach, and eating it raw in a salad will definitely be a different experience than chomping on some Romaine or iceberg lettuce. It doesn't mean home cooks everywhere should give up on the kale trend; just that they may need some of the following tips to help them cook with it.
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1. Remove the stems and ribs
First things first. Before kale can be cooked in any kind of way, the thick stem and rib that runs almost the entire length of it needs to be cut out. This is extremely tough and while it could likely be cooked down to a softer texture, the leaves would be too overcooked by that point to be enjoyable.
To cut the stem and ribs out, simply slice lengthwise up the side of the stem. When you're done, you should have two long strips of kale leaves that you can saute or chop up as you wish.
2. Turn it into pesto
If you're new to kale, or you've tried to cook with it before and things didn't work out for you, try turning it into pesto. It will completely obliterate the texture, leaving you with a smooth sauce that can be used to add to pasta or even to top a chicken breast or salmon. Plus it will give the pesto a great earthy taste that you just can't get with basil alone.
To make kale pesto, place 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, along with 4 cloves of garlic. Pulse the processor a couple of times just to break up the garlic and nuts. Add 1 cup of basil leaves and 2 cups of kale leaves (all leaves should be packed down into a measuring cup). Pulse the processor again, this time 10 to 12 times, until the kale leaves are finely chopped and broken down. Then, with the processor continuously running, drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil through the feed tube. Give the entire mixture a stir and then add the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Give the entire mixture a final stir and then add to whatever dish you think could get a little kick with pesto.
3. Turn it into kale chips
This is another great recipe for those that are new to kale, or have tried it before and didn't really like the end result. Because who doesn't like salty delicious chips?
To make them, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the ribs out of the kale and then toss the remaining leaves with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt and then toss to combine the leaves, oil, and salt together. Lay the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place the tray into the preheated oven. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through, until the edges are brown but not burnt. And you don't need to limit yourself to just salt either. Try turmeric, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, or any other flavor you'd like to try on your chips!
4. Grind up leftover kale chips
So you've made your delicious kale chips, have filled your tummy with them, and now you still have a large bowl of them sitting on your counter. It's true; one head of kale makes a lot of chips. But don't feel as though you need to throw them out or even eat them all as they are. Instead, throw them into a grinder and use it to grind out small kale granules into other dishes for an instant boost of added greens. Stir-fries, soups, and salads are all good options, but you can also get a little more creative with it and sprinkle it on say, popcorn. It's delicious and will also give any dish a little extra crunch.
5. Make green juice
It might be the butt of the joke in many sitcoms and movies trying to portray a super healthy vegan, but green juice is very nutritious and very simple to make. Load up a blender with your favorite fruits (think strawberries, blueberries, or even kiwi) and then add a handful of kale leaves. Blend until it's smooth and then enjoy! The natural sugars in the fruit will take away a lot of the bitterness of the raw greens, and you'll feel like a million bucks afterwards!
6. Know which kale to use
The long leafy green stalks are typically the ones most thought of when it comes to kale, and they may just be the most popular. But did you know that there are different kinds of kale, and that they can each be used for particular dishes?
Curly kale is the type sold in most grocery stores and supermarkets and it's best used for sautéing, soups, and braised dishes because it's so hearty. But if you want to try kale raw, use Tuscan kale and give it a little massage first to loosen up the fibers or, if you want to skip that step, use baby kale. If you want to add kale to a dish that already has a lot of green and not much other color, use purple kale, which will be a showstopper for sure.
7. Blanch it
Sometimes an entire head of kale is just too intimidating when you're trying to get a quick weeknight dinner on the table. After all, you'll need to trim the leaves and then wash them before you can even go ahead with your recipe. Luckily, there's a trick you can do on the weekend or while watching TV at night that will take out a lot of the work for you.
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Prepare the kale as you would by trimming and washing it. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil and then toss your kale leaves in. Let them sit in the boiling water for about 3 minutes and during that time, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. When the kale has finished cooking, use tongs to remove it from the boiling water and immediately place it into the ice water. The coldness from the water will shock it and get it to stop cooking immediately. Then just remove it from the water, blot it dry, and store in an airtight container. You'll have parboiled kale that can easily be thrown into any dish throughout the rest of the week.
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