Over the years of slinging veggies at farmers markets, I’ve often chatted with savvy shoppers cooking for picky eaters. I always enjoy hearing their sneaky tips and tricks to slip some healthy food to their loved ones.
Kale held a ‘superfood’ stardom for a time where nobody cared how it tasted because some telephone game of nutrition news had us all convinced that a bitter green smoothie would grant its imbiber immortality. But there are so many foods that are loaded with nutrition and as a farmer its always interesting to see what’s ‘hot’ and wonder what’s next.
For example, I think radicchio should get a moment in the limelight. How do I get this gorgeous crunchy cabernet globe a piece of the superfood pie?
Guess what: Radicchio doesn’t taste great on its own. It’s a chicory: bitter like dandelions, tough to chew on. But guess other what: It’s loaded with Vitamin K and antioxidants, and you probably don’t even know you’re eating it all the time. Radicchio’s bright red color and distinct taste make it a lovely accent to light, tender ‘spring mix’ lettuces, but I haven’t seen it go mainstream in smoothies or hyped up at juice bars quite yet. Maybe its day in the sun of ‘superfood-dom’ is coming but more likely radicchio will continue to ninja-feed us all kinds of good nutrition from the midst of a side salad, remaining a veggie underdog.
Back to kale: if you like the taste of kale, good for you. If you don’t, you should know that kale thrives in cooler temperatures. When you’re eating seasonally, you’ll find that spring, fall, winter kale tastes far better than summer kale so set your expectations accordingly and that might help you jump on the kale train to kale camp. Ultimately, though healthy, let’s not try to tell ourselves to love on kale like its a box of Girl Scout cookies. Let’s agree to be realistic and absolutely honest.
Kale chips, not that great; kale smoothies, possibly the best way to ruin a perfectly good food. Now that we have that out of the way, drum roll:
My top 3 tricks to feed people kale without them knowing it in order to avoid unsubstantiated complaints:
1. Massaged Kale
Turn down the lights, slip into something comfortable, and warm up your hands; it’s time to relax your brassica. That’s farmer talk for kale and all her cousins like broccoli, arugula, radishes… anyways, relaxed? Let’s move on. Let’s get to the part where we hide the kale in our unsuspecting family’s food and wait for just the right moment to tell them they ate something healthy and didn’t gag.
Prepare the kale by washing it if you’re so inclined. Then, holding the stem end up in one hand, rip the leafness off the stemness in bitesize chunks into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt; this adds the grit to help the massage tenderize the kale. Massage the greens for 2-3 minutes, tasting for readiness, i.e. increased tenderness to your liking . Toss the kale in with other ‘normal’ greens like leaf lettuce, arugula, and that beautiful though bitter radicchio. Toss with dressing of choice and giggle inwardly as your family enjoys KALE.
Finely chop kale leaves and add ’em to your burger mixture. I personally prefer a veggie burger but I don’t judge if you’re beefin’. Different strokes, they say. My go-to veggie burger baseline recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s in “How to Cook Everything”, an amazing starter book for those learning Kitchen. The burger recipe is very adaptable once you get the basics down.
Ratio: don’t overdo it. Try 1 packed cup of chopped kale per 8 burgers. Mix well prior to dividing.
3. Cold Salads
Potluck! You can feed your kale to the masses at a gathering of pasta salad and friends. Kale’s strong flavor is well-countered by vinegar, so though you can tuck kale into many a dish, you’ll have best results with recipes calling for some type of vinegar. If you’re just getting started with healthy cooking habits, my #1 piece of advice to you is to buy several types of vinegar, and start experimenting. Any cold salad like a coleslaw or pasta salad, or my cowboy quinoa dip can handle some kale, so chop it up finely and toss it in the mix. I would be so impressed with anyone daring enough to take all this advice in one swoop: experiment + potluck can only lead to great life success, right?
Oh, I’m so sorry kale chips didn’t make the top three. If you have more ways that you sneak kale to your loved ones, please share!