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Kale – Nutritious and Hip

Photography by Ashley Rodriguez
I’m not sure when kale became so hip. Perhaps it was when people realized you can toss the leaves in olive oil and salt and turn kale into a crispy, nutritious and satisfying snack or when they realized just how good it is for you or that it’s so much more than the frilly leaves that decorate salad bars. I’m not sure when or how, but I am glad kale is “in” right now.

When shopping for kale, I often bypass anything that isn’t Dinosaur or Lacinato. This variety—a very dark, almost black-green with a tender leaf with gentle ripples that run throughout—is mild in flavor and texture. In the winter, when the produce aisles are nearly bare, kale abounds. It’s then that it becomes an almost daily staple in our house in the form of juice, a warm side dish or fresh salad. When vitamin D is lacking it is nice knowing that we are flooding our bodies with all the good stuff in kale that lowers cholesterol and reduces the likelyhood of 5 different types of cancer. 

After many meals of sautéed kale, kale floating in soup or suspended among pasta noodles, I want something bright and fresh. The recipe I’m sharing today is that solution—Jalapeno & Lime Kale Tostada. After a lazy soak in lime juice and spice, the kale surrenders a bit of its heft while retaining a freshness that is so often lacking in food this time of year. It’s like a kale ceviche, as the acid in the lime tenderizes the leaves and almost cooks them as they sit in the juice for a while. 

To prepare kale for cooking, grab the thick stem with one hand and then gently run your other hand down the stem to the tip of the leaf. Whatever pulls off easily is what you want to eat. Most recipes call for kale to be sliced in ribbons. To do this, lay the now stemmed leaves in a pile and slice 1” strips. 
One of my favorite winter side dishes is kale (or any hearty greens) sautéed in olive oil, garlic and chile flake. Add a good amount of oil to a large sauté pan.

Add a pinch of chile flake and a couple cloves of sliced garlic, then cook until fragrant and just lightly golden. Remove the garlic from the pan then add the kale—a lot of it (it’s amazing how much it cooks down). Sauté until the color brightens and the leaves just start to slump. Serve. Or take it a step further and put the greens in a roasting dish along with some cream and cheese (I am particularly fond of gruyere), top with bread crumbs and bake until the crumbs are toasted and the interior is bubbling. 

Now, I’ve let myself wander off subject. We’re talking about bright and fresh kale. This tostada is vibrant and healthful, especially if you choose to bake the tortillas rather than fry them. Add to this recipe as you please. Grilled or roasted corn kernels would do nicely, as would some grilled chicken or steak. Or you could skip the tostada part and just turn it into a salad. Either way, you are eating kale, so now you are nutritious and hip.

by Ashley Rodriguez
food blogger

Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 less hungry

4 flour or corn tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil
Brush 4 tortillas with butter or olive oil, sprinkle with salt then bake at 400* for 10 – 12 minutes or until completely crisp.

Kale Marinade
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 T olive oil
½ jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups kale, washed, thick ribs removed and roughly chopped
Mix first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chopped kale and toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Black Beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 T shallot, finely chopped
Pinch salt
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
In a small saucepan saute garlic and shallots in oil over medium heat until just fragrant. Add beans and simmer about 5-7 minutes, until soft and warmed through. Taste and add salt if needed, keeping in mind the kale and Cotija add a brightness and salt as well.

1 avocado, roughly cut
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija (available at Mexican markets or many fine grocery stores; if you can’t find it you may substitute Feta or Chevre).
Place baked tortilla on plate, top with warm beans, marinated kale, chunks of avocado and about 1 Tablespoon crumbled Cotija cheese.