Hail to Kale: Green on Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Sunday, March 15th, 2009


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Main sources of information: http://whfoods.com and the book,The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.


Note: In researching kale, considered one of the healthiest foods we can eat, I learned that kale was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Since what we know about the Celtic culture comes from Ireland, this vegetable is a perfect choice for St. Pat’s Day. Also, the website from which I obtained much of my information (See Above) has so much valuable information that I urge you to read it in its entirety. What I have presented here are merely a few highlights from the article and also from Jonny Bowden’s book, to be reviewed soon.

Kale belongs to the same Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and collards. As the star member of the Brassica family, it has an outstanding nutritional profile, including high levels of vitamins K, A, and C; very good levels of dietary fiber, tryptophan, calcium and vitamin B6, with good levels of many other vitamins and minerals listed in the article. Two caveats are noted. One is that kale contains oxalates, natural substances that can cause health problems to the kidney and gallbladder when the oxalates are too concentrated. The other is that the naturally occurring goitrogens interfere with the thyroid, so check with your doctor if either of these caveats apply.

If neither caveat applies to you, then kale is definitiely a “superstar” vegetable, according to Jonny Bowden. He notes that kale holds the highest ORAC rating. (ORAC means oxygen radical absorption capacity, which helps the body fight cell-damaging free radicals.) Kale’s rating is 1770, with spinach coming in second at 1260. Like the other Brassica foods, kale contains compounds that seem to be protective against breast, cervical, and colon cancer. Another compound in kale appears to be protective against ovarian cancer, more good news for women. Other foods rich in this same compound, kaempferol*, include green tea, onions, broccoli, leeks, spinach and blueberries. (*See the Glossary for more information on kaempferol.)

There are three types of kale: curly kale, ornamental kale (also called salad savoy), and dinosaur kale (Lacinato). I used dinosaur kale in the recipe below. While kale is available all year round, its peak is now, midwinter to spring, when it is tender and most flavorful. So try it soon, maybe for St. Patrick’s Day. By combining other common veggies, I hope you will take a chance on kale if you have not already done so. If you really like it, feel free to increase the amount used in the recipe. Since I also use leeks and broccoli with the kale, all of which are rich in kaempferol, you will get a bonus of protective foods.


Green on Green

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Utensils: Cutting board, knife, pot for steaming and one for boiling water, bowls, cookie sheet
Prep. Time: 20-30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
Category: Vegan

Ingredients
one leek (white part only), washed, trimmed and sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves (peeled and sliced into slivers)
2 cups Brussels sprouts (15-18 count), washed, trimmed, and cut into halves or quarters if they are large. Place in a heatproof bowl.
6-8 leaves of dragon kale, or other kale of your choice, washed well and green leafy part ripped away from stems
one cup edamame beans (green soybeans)
one to two broccoli stalks, washed, trimmed and cut lengthwise into thinner pieces
olive oil
salt & pepper
herbs of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
sesame seeds (or a mix of dill, sesame, & fennel seeds)

Directions
Note: This dish requires several steps and the use of both the stove and the oven, so it is a little more complicated than most of my recipes, but I think it’s worth the effort to obtain The Good Taste of Health, my cooking motto.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, place one to two cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, lightly oil a cookie sheet or baking pan, using as little olive oil as possible.
2. Next, prepare the leeks, garlic, and Brussels sprouts as noted above. Place the leeks and garlic on the lightly oiled cookie sheet and the sprouts in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over the sprouts and let sit for about 2 minutes, drain well, and add to cookie sheet. Toss leeks, garlic and sprouts with 1- 2 tablespoons oil, dash of salt and pepper, and place cookie sheet in oven to roast.
3. Next, place water in a large pot with a steamer basket and bring the water to a boil. Once you have started the steamer water cooking, return to the oven and change the setting to broil, setting the timer for about 4 minutes. (Check and stir if necessary after 2 minutes.)
4. By this time, the water for steaming should be boiling and you can steam the rest of the veggies in this order: edamame beans on the bottom of the steamer basket, ripped kale on top of the beans, and sliced broccoli on top of the kale. Steam for 7-10 minutes. Don’t overcook.
5. Remove veggies from oven and place in an attractive serving dish. Remove steamed veggies from stove and add to oven veggies. (If needed, add another tablespoon of olive oil and toss all the veggies.) Toss veggies gently with 21 Seasoning Salute, sprinkle on seeds, and serve. (If you have difficulty tossing the veggies in a flat dish, use a bowl and transfer to your serving dish.)

Yield: Approximately 5 cups of greens.
Note: This can be served hot or cold.

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