Kale is a powerhouse food. Just one cup has up to 3g of protein and 2.5g of fiber. It contains vitamins, A, C, and K, as well as nutrients that help with brain development and protect against macular degeneration.
Storing Fresh Kale:
If you don’t want to worry about rinsing and chopping your kale until you’re ready to eat it, simply wrap the whole bundle in a tea towel or paper towel, place it inside a sealed container or plastic bag, and store it in the coldest part of your fridge.
If you’d rather get the prep out of the way before storing, begin by removing the stems. Whether you want to keep the leaves whole or chop or tear them into bite-sized pieces is up to you. Now it’s time to rinse! At this stage, I would highly recommend a salad spinner because getting the rinsed leaves as dry as possible is extremely important to making the kale last as long as possible. Spin your kale, wrap it in a tea towel or paper towel and store it in the coldest part of the fridge.
Stored this way, your fresh kale will last for up to 2 weeks!
Like other greens, kale should be blanched before freezing. Once the leaves have been cleaned and trimmed, blanch by plunging in a boiling water bath for 30 seconds. Make sure that the water is boiling for the full 30 seconds. Removed quickly with a strainer and shock in an ice water bath for 2-3 minutes.
Gather the blanched leaves into handfuls, squeezing out as much water as possible as you go. Once excess water is removed, form handfuls of chard into baseball-sized spheres, packing them together as if they are snowballs. Freeze these spheres on a baking sheet and then package them into airtight bags or containers.
Quick Prep Tips
Raw kale is best if tossed in something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar and then massaged or marinated. This makes the leaves more tender and sweet and perfectly suited for cold salads. Another popular use of raw kale is in smoothies.
Kale can also be sautéed on its own or in stir fried dishes or even baked into kale chips. The possibilities are endless!
Further Prep Tips
First, a little background: when eating kale raw, you’ll discover that the variety with the curlier leaves is a little tougher and more fibrous. The flat-leafed varieties, such as Lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan or Dinosaur) or Red Russian kale are naturally a little sweeter and more delicate.
Here are a few basic tips for preparing raw kale:
- First, remove the stems. You can do this by either tearing the leafy greens off or using a knife to de-stem.
- Next, tear your leafy greens into small, bite-sized pieces or slice them into ribbons. The latter is preferable for any kind of grain salad, in which you don’t want the large chunks of kale to overpower the other ingredients.
- Rinse and dry the greens. (I highly recommend a salad spinner for the drying portion.)
- Place the kale greens in a large bowl, and drizzle them with the following “pre-dressing”:
- an oil–I really like the distinct flavor of extra virgin olive oil in salads
- an acid – anything from lemon juice to your favorite kind of vinegar will do
- salt – a coarse salt, like Kosher salt, is nice to help break down the leaves.
- Now for the fun! Stick your (clean) hands right into the greens and toss them all together until they’re evenly coated.
- Wait–it get’s better! Start massaging those greens, rubbing the pre-dressing into the leaves to break down that fibrous toughness that will have you chewing for hours otherwise. Working the leaves also releases more of their sugars, so as the kale becomes more tender, it will simultaneously become more sweet. Do this for 3-5 minutes, until the greens have become darker and begun to shrink, are silky, but still have some oomph to them, and are sweet to the taste, and you’re ready to use them as the base of a delicious salad!
If you don’t have time to massage your kale greens or don’t feel like getting your hands dirty, you can instead drizzle and toss them as described above, and then leave them to marinate and tenderize in the fridge overnight.
A few final kale salad tips:
- Raw kale pairs wonderfully with sliced apples or raisins to bring out that natural sweetness.
- It is also delicious with white beans and pickled red onions.
- Kale is a robust enough green to hold up to more flavorful, creamy dressings as well as nut-based dressings; however, you might find that the pre-dressing has made it flavorful enough!
- A kale salad will be sturdy enough to dress in advance and can even sit in the fridge this way overnight.
- For a twist, try using a warm dressing on your kale salad. This will wilt the leaves just a little, making them even more tender and delicious.
If you’d rather eat your kale cooked than raw, follow the same beginning prep steps of removing the stems and chopping or tearing the leaves and then sauté or bake according to your recipe of choice.