Using the Right Kind of Kale for the Right Recipe

The Kale explosion continues! I am seeing recipes on a daily basis all over the blogosphere and often they don’t direct what type of kale to use. Until recently, the only type of kale I was familiar with was the one I didn’t pay much attention to that I often saw at the grocery store. Then I discovered a local CSA had a farm stand just a few doors down from me once a week! I bought a share (meaning I pay a set price to receive a share of all the crops weekly) and am now trying all sorts of new veggies, including various types of kale. 

At the grocery store, you typically see curly green kale (just called “curly kale”) and sometimes curly purple/red kale (usually just called “purple kale” although I have also seen it referred to as “red kale”). There is also the beautiful dinosaur (also called lacinato or Tuscan kale)  kale which is the hardest to find and my favourite. My lovely CSA farmer explained to me one day that they all have their best uses – here is a rundown for you.

types of kale infograph

types of kale infograph

Curly Kale

  • beautiful shiny green leaves, a little less hearty than purple kale
  • BEST FOR: cooked kale dishes, smoothies, and as a backup for salads or chips when you can’t find the other two kinds of kale

Purple Kale

  • hearty, curly, and fibrous 
  • BEST FOR: kale chips (recipe coming soon!)

Dinosaur Kale

  • smooth, tender, long leaves (not curly)
  • BEST FOR: raw uses like salads (check out this “kale hater`s“ salad!) Try making a caesar salad with half romaine, half dinosaur kale – delicious! Can also be used in cooked dishes and for smoothies. 
Storage Tips:

Tear leaves off stems, wash and dry well in a salad spinner, then store in an airtight jar. It will last up to two weeks this way! Alternatively you can also just throw it in a bag in the fridge, and if it is a little wilted when you get to it, refresh it like you would a bouquet of flowers by cutting a bit off the bottom of the stems and placing in cold water on the counter for half an hour (then eat it -don`t restore after the revival). 

My favourite thing about kale (other than it being a nutritional powerhouse) is how you can store leftover salads… even after they are dressed. In particular, creamy dressings are even better the next day. 

Preparation Tips:

Kale must be massaged during preparation for raw uses (like salads). This sounds strange but is so easy and quick – after tearing the leaves off the stems and washing in a salad spinner, place in your salad bowl and sprinkle with a touch of salt and oil (or some of your dressing) and rub/scrunch it into the leaves 5-10 times or until it begins to wilt. This rubs off the natural waxy coating on the kale, avoiding any roughness on your mouth. Dinosaur kale benefits from massaging but does not really have the same waxy coating as curly types of kale, so it is not as essential. 

Dissapointed that you can’t find anything other than curly kale locally? Grow your own kale next summer (it is a very hearty plant) or even indoors this winter! 

Dinosaur Kale Salad

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Finally – a post about kale. I am admittedly late to the game as the kale explosion has been going on for a few years and this leafy green is everywhere! A few things I have learned about kale recently through much research and experimentation:

*There are three common types of kale : curly (most common), red leaf, and dinosaur (aka lacinato/Tuscan) kale. They can be used interchangeably but in general red leaf is best for chips and dinosaur is best for raw salads (and converting so-called kale haters).

*Massage your dressing in and let the salad sit a few hours (or 24!) in the fridge to soften and flavour everything.

* Kale stays fresh SO much longer than lettuce ! Mine keeps for several weeks in the fridge (just in a bag or de- stemmed, torn, washed, dried and in a salad spinner or jar in the fridge). If you find your whole bunch has wilted, cut 1/2″ off the bottoms and place in a glass on cold water on the counter for a few hours – it will crisp right up! Once it is yellowing at the edges it is time to be sacrificed to the compost gods.

*Green smoothies aren’t worth it. We should only be having raw kale a few times a week to avoid thyroid issues (read more about why here). I would much rather enjoy a few kale salads each week than drink something concocted to mask the texture and flavour of my beloved green.

This salad started off with the common lemon-garlic-oil blend seem all over the blogosphere but has a bit of a twist (basil and tomatoes). Think of deconstructed caesar salad meets bruschetta. The gentle textured dinosaur kale and unique blend of flavours and will win over those previously claiming to “hate kale”.

This recipe is about a balance of flavours. Most of the lemon-garlic-oil kale salads I found looked like garlic salads to me – start off with just half or a whole clove – you can always add more.

Adapted significantly from Marin Mamma Cooks

Bruschetta Dinosaur Kale Salad or Kale Haters Salad

1 bunch of dinosaur kale , destemmed and cut in a chiffonade

1 pinch of salt

1/2-1 clove of garlic

Juice of 1 lemon or 3 tablespoons

3 tablespoons of olive or grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon of sugar

Fresh cracked black pepper

Two small handfuls of fresh Parmesan

5-10 grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon of fresh chives, minced

5 basil leaves, cut in chiffinade

Small handful of sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or butters breadcrumbs (opt.)

Mince the garlic then add salt and smash into paste with knife or pestle.

Put garlic and salt in jar and add lemon juice, oil, chives, and sugar and shake well

Massage into kale (rub into leaves with your hands until wilted)

Sprinkle pepper and one handful of cheese on salad and toss

Sprinkle the rest of cheese on top of salad and arrange tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with basil and refrigerate 1-24 hours or more before serving. If you are adding nuts or buttered breadcrumbs, add these just before serving.