By Dan Shapley
If you're looking for a food that divides the health nuts and the farmers' market crowd from the others, kale is probably it.
It's abundant, cheap and super nutritious but the closest many people get to it is the meat counter at the supermarket, where it's often used as a green base to show off the red cuts of beef.
Before we offer recipes for a kale conversion, let's sing its praises: First, it's a superfood, ranking among the foods with the most Vitamin A, Vitamin K and beta carotene. In many climates, it's an easy-to-grow perennial vegetable, and it's available from the winter farmers' market, given it's tolerance for cold weather.
One word of caution: In the Environmental Working Group's ranking of the dirty dozen foods with the highest pesticide residues, which is based on government testing data, kale and other dark leafy greens have often made the list. So it's a good vegetable to buy organic.
But how do you make it taste good? Some people can drink it raw, in a smoothie, but this article is not for them. Here are a few out-of-the-box ideas that go beyond sauteing or tossing in a salad.
Kale Chips: Simply trim and toss kale greens with olive oil and salt, and bake until crisp for a unique snack, garnish or side dish. One big bunch makes enough kale chipsfor four people to taste, but expect the greens to cook down considerably.
Soups: Kale can be paired with other vegetables, especially potatoes, for a delicious soup. Try peasant-style potato-kale soup or Curly Kale Soup, found in The Big Book of Quick & Healthy Recipes: 365 Delicious & Nutritious Meals in Under 30 Minutes.
Kale-Stuffed Peppers: Chef Louisa Shafia, author of Lucid Food, mixes kale with tempeh, onions and spices for a full-flavored vegetarian stuffed pepper recipe that can even be described "meaty."