North Fork kale prepared 4 ways: Chef column

North Fork kale creamed

Creamed kale served in a roasted pumpkin. (Credit: John Ross)

According to the internet publication “Medical News Today,” the top 10 healthiest foods in the world are: 1) apples; 2) almonds; 3) broccoli; 4) blueberries; 5) oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel; 6) leafy green vegetables such as kale, collards and spinach; 7) sweet potatoes; 8) wheat germ; 9) avocados; and 10) oatmeal.

Eating these foods on a regular basis can help prevent many diseases and eliminate the need for a long list of pills. The challenge is to make them part of a delicious meal that you want to repeat time after time.

This column will focus on kale, one of the healthiest of leafy greens that is becoming more popular every day. In addition to a long list of vitamins and minerals, kale contains antioxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates. Here are some ideas for how to enjoy this “super” food:

Creamed Kale

Remove the stems from 2 heads of kale with a sharp paring knife. To do this, hold each leaf by the bottom of the stem and run the knife along the stem towards the top. This will remove the leaves. Place the leaves in a large bowl of cold water and push them up and down to remove all sand and grit. Lift them out of the water and drain in a colander.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Put the kale in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. It will turn a dark green. Drain it in the colander and then plunge it into a bowl of ice cold water.

After cooling for about 3 minutes, pull it out of the water with your hands and squeeze it into a ball, squeezing as much water out of it as possible. It will only be the size of a baseball. Place this on a cutting board and chop coarsely with a chef’s knife.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 5 strips of bacon. Cook at medium heat until bacon is almost crisp and renders its fat. Remove the bacon and set aside.

Add 1 cup chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic to the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and continue cooking on low heat. Add 1 cup milk, whisking it into the roux until it thickens. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Add the chopped kale and fold it in with a rubber spatula.

Continue cooking at low heat until it begins to bubble. It is now ready to serve.

Makes 4-6 portions.

Kale Pesto

Purchase 1 head of kale and 1 bunch of fresh basil. Remove the kale stems as in the above recipe; wash and drain.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and blanch the kale and basil together for about 30 seconds. Remove, cool in ice water and squeeze out the moisture with your hands.

Place 3/4 cup toasted salted almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are small pieces. Add the kale and basil along with the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process for about a minute, then drizzle in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Finally, add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pulse a few times.

Scrape the pesto into a bowl and serve with spaghetti squash, roasted root vegetables or pasta.

Kale and Chickpea Soup with Chorizo

Remove the stems from 1 bunch of kale, then wash, drain and blanch as in the above recipes. Squeeze out the water and chop coarsely.

Heat a soup pot and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 1 chopped onion and the white part of 2 leeks. Cook for 3 minutes and add 3 minced cloves of garlic.

Drain and rinse 1 can of chick peas and add to the onion mixture along with 1 cup chicken stock. Simmer for 5 minutes and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Process until almost puréed, then transfer back to the soup pot.

Add to this 7 cups chicken stock, another can of chick peas and a small can of chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and add the chopped kale.

Cut 3 fully cooked smoked chorizo sausages into small pieces and add to the soup. Continue to simmer at low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 6-8 portions.

Stuffed Collard Greens with Kale

Purchase 1 bunch of collard greens and 1 bunch of kale. Carefully remove the collard stems, leaving the leaves whole. Wash the leaves, then drain and lay them out on a sheet pan. Remove the stems of the kale, then wash and drain.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot and blanch the collards for 30 seconds. Lift them carefully out of the boiling water and drain.

Blanch the kale in the same water; drain and squeeze out the water as in the above recipes.

Cook 1 cup brown rice, following package directions.

For the filling, combine in a bowl 1 pound of meatloaf mix (ground beef, veal and pork), the cooked rice, 1 cup chopped onion and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill. Stir in 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Chop the blanched kale and fold it into the filling with a rubber spatula.

For the sauce, combine 1 can of crushed tomatoes, 1 cup tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring this to a simmer and set aside.

Lay out the collard greens on a cutting board one at a time and stuff each with about 1/4 cup filling. Roll them up tightly and set aside.

Drain 1 package of sauerkraut and place it in the bottom of a shallow casserole. Put the stuffed collard greens in rows on top of the sauerkraut. Ladle the sauce over all and place in a 350-degree oven. Cook for 1 hour and remove.

Makes 4-6 portions.

John Ross