Kale is a Sneaky Vegetable

Grocery GardeningI’d like to introduce you to Jean Ann Van Krevelen, author and edible gardener extraordinaire. I met her at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago when she and co-host Amanda interviewed me for their podcast “Good Enough Gardening.” She gave me a copy of her book, Grocery Gardening, and it’s a must for both the garden shed and the kitchen. Whether the topic is planting, purchasing or preparing it’s one of those books that will have you saying, “I can do that.” I highly recommend it for both gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

If you want more of Jean Ann’s gardening wisdom check out her blog, GardenerToFarmer.Net and definitely pick up a copy of Grocery Gardening.

I have long espoused the virtues of growing and cooking kale‚Ķfrankly, I am nuts about this particular vegetable. First of all, it is insanely easy to grow…just sow the seeds in late winter and as soon as the ground warms a bit, little green sprouts will emerge. If you have cool damp springs, you likely won’t have to do much else. In other areas, keep fairly well watered to produce tender greens. In all regions, the plant benefits from soil that’s been amended with compost and a bit of fish emulsion fertilizer once a month or so.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t sure how to prepare kale. I suspect it is due to the sense that it should be cooked like a traditional “green”. And while kale can be prepared this way, it is far more versatile than tradition might dictate. Personally, I like to think of it as the ultimate “sneaky vegetable”. Its flavor is so mild that it adapts to almost any recipe. I have used it in pasta dishes, meatloaf, meatballs, shepherd’s pie…the possibilities are endless.

To get your creative juices flowing, here’s one of my favorite kale recipes.

Photo: Jean Ann Van Krevelan

Asparagus and Kale Pasta

This dish is a great way to use two seasonal ingredients together. Combine it with a handful of asparagus and a big can of chopped tomatoes and this dish is absolutely full of nutrition.

  • 1 lb ground hamburger
  • 1/2 lb kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 1 12 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Splash of half and half (optional)
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, and 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • generous amounts of flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package of conchiglie pasta

Brown hamburger and onions in skillet. Drain some of the excess fat leaving enough to prevent burning, omit draining if meat is lean. Add spices and herbs, salt and pepper, sauté for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Let simmer to combine flavors and reduce liquid from tomatoes.

Start a pot of water to boil. Add conchiglie pasta and cook according to directions on package. Conchiglie is also known as shell pasta and is great for this recipe. Since this isn’t a really sauce-y pasta dish, the cupped shape of the pasta will grab up the bits of veggies and meat really well. To blanch the kale, add to the boiling pasta for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add half and half and cheese. The Parmesan and half and half create a lovely pink sauce. Add pasta and kale to sauce. Toss to combine and let stand for a minute or two to allow the pasta to soak up the fantastic flavors. Serve.

19 Responses to Kale is a Sneaky Vegetable

  1. Mary Lou robson says:

    What do you do with the asparagus? It isn’t even listed in the ingredients.

    • Doris Hensley says:

      I love Kale,yes you are write kale need a frost period like brussel sprouts and cabbage,the are sweater wen you kook them.i am from the Netherlands we eat a lot of Kale.

  2. Sally Moran says:

    Being born and reared in the south I was taught that kale needs at least a light frost (also collards and turnip greens) to be “sweet”. I have found this to be true. Floridians even put them in the freezer to sweeten the leaves, however I have found that these greens sweeten best in their natural habitat. You will find the young tender leaves bitter if you do not follow this rule. And we southerners like them best cooked with a lean piece of ham or a ham hock. Pass the cornbread, please. Yum!!

  3. Donnalee Hiorns says:

    I love Kale in any soups with beans (especially Canellini, Baby Limas, or Pintos)–you can just “sneak it in” if Kale is cut small enough, stems removed, AND–Kale or Spinach gives a very smooth, almost creamy taste to Lentils as they cook.

  4. Kathy Gibb says:

    I use Kale in a wonderful soup, Caldo Verde. Even my picky vegetable eaters love it. Just great for this time of the year.

    • Norma says:

      I make a potato soup that has carrots and onions, add finely chopped kale in it, then thicken it slightly after adding the milk

  5. Paul Begick says:

    I too am looking for the asparagus. Not listed in ingredients or
    mentioned in directions.

    By the way someone at IGC show walked off with my shopping bag that contained one of your signed books.

  6. Jo le says:

    Hello: This is a great recipe. As for “where is the asparagus?” question — it mentioned at the top of the recipe as a “side dish” — “Combine it with a handful of asparagus and a big can of chopped tomatoes and this dish is absolutely full of nutrition” — this means ladies — serve up some asparagus with a big can of chopped tomatoes as a side dish. Get it?

  7. Hi ladies,
    The asparagus can be added in any amount to the recipe or served as a side dish. Also, I eat kale all year long without cold weather. I find that if you pick it before it is fully mature, there’s no bitterness. In fact, if you pick it when it is very small, it can be used in salads. I think the bitterness is at its worst when the leaves are mature and tough.

  8. E.J.Radican says:

    For pete sake who gives a hoot about the aspergrass…..Kale is amazing….would you believe I am almost 75 and only just discovered it????

    I am looking for a recipe to bake Kale Chips….I understand they are terrific.

    • Mary Louise says:

      E.J. Giada, the beautiful and talented Italian chef, has a recipe for baked Kale chips! It’s an interesting twist for an old Southern favorite! Also, Kale is much better with a tinge of frost. Easy to plant from seed, too. The baby leaves can be tossed into most anything for added robust flavor and a heaping of good health. ML

    • MamaPat says:

      Kale Chips
      Tear, wash, pat kale dry.

      Gently toss over baking sheet that has sides. Sprinkle with 2 choices of seasonsings: Jamaican Jerk, Italian Seasoning, Fine Sea Salt, Fresh Ground Pepper. Toast in 375 degree oven approximately 15 min.

      Feel free to experiment. Fun to make and moe fun to eat. Surprise people with it as side dish with sandwiches. Great as side to very flavorful meat dishes. Kids love it.

    • MamaPat says:

      Kale Chip ingredient omitted!
      Oh, bad. It must have EVOO sprinkled over it, best spray it on
      leaves. We do want the flavors to stick !

  9. Mary Louise says:

    PS. Here in the Southern region, it’s time to sow the seeds now!

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