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Published July 03, 2012, 11:30 PM

Doeden: Discovering the wonders of versatile kale

Sometimes it takes baby steps, or baby tastes, before we realize we actually like a certain type of food. For some, it might have been a first bite of a Reuben sandwich that led to a love of sauerkraut. For others, a bit of tapenade dabbed on a goat cheese-topped cracker that led to an appreciation of olives.

Sometimes it takes baby steps, or baby tastes, before we realize we actually like a certain type of food.

For some, it might have been a first bite of a Reuben sandwich that led to a love of sauerkraut. For others, a bit of tapenade dabbed on a goat cheese-topped cracker that led to an appreciation of olives.

For me, it was my first taste of crispy baked pieces of torn kale that led to an affinity for the firm green leaves with thick hardy stems.

I’m a newcomer to the versatile world of kale. Last summer when I was at a pizza party in Duluth at the home of food writer and business owner Arlene Coco, baskets of crisp and salty kale chips came out of her kitchen just before homemade pizzas were carefully positioned into the large wood-fired oven on her patio high above Lake Superior.

The dark chips had crunch similar to a thin potato chip with a distinct hint of flavor of a cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli or cabbage or cauliflower. I couldn’t eat just one. After my enticing introduction to kale, I began adding the leaves to stir-fry dishes and pots of soup. Before I knew it, I was eating salads of fresh, raw kale. It took baby steps that began with uncertainty, progressed to like and blossomed to big love for kale.

The versatility of kale as well as the abundance of nutrients it offers has made the green leafy vegetable a new star in the produce department. A one-cup serving of kale delivers staggering amounts of vitamins K, A and C as well as dietary fiber, B vitamins, calcium and iron, all for only 36 calories.

Summer Quinoa and Kale Salad is a scrumptious way to ease into the sweet and bitter taste of kale. Green, curly kale or flat-leaf, bluish-green Lacinato kale, after a little massaging to turn the tough, fibrous leaves tender and silky, can be tossed into this salad of hearty quinoa, crunchy cucumbers and sweet ripe tomatoes and plums. Parsley adds a cool, bitter flavor that balances beautifully with an apricot-flavored dressing. Add some sunflower seeds at the last minute and you’ve got a bowl of bright, attractive colors, satisfying texture and astonishing flavors.

If you’re already a fan of kale, you can add this salad to your repertoire. If you are ready to add a new green vegetable to your table, Summer Quinoa and Kale Salad is a dish that can turn baby tastes into big love.

Sue Doeden is a food writer and photographer from Bemidji, Minn., and a former Fargo resident. Her columns are published in 10 Forum Communications newspapers.

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