Kale Craze- Meat and Vegetable Week
ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Garcia

Photo courtesy of Daveeza.

By now, at least one of your friends has probably gotten on a kale kick – they’re blending it, baking it, drinking it – whatever it is, they’re obsessed and can’t stop talking about it. Along with trends towards vegan and vegetarian living, the hype on kale has caught the world by storm as chefs, bloggers, and food fanatics everywhere have taken notice. People are digging the green leafy goodness of a vegetable with more muscle than lettuce, less exhaust than broccoli, and, because of its versatility, even those not as enthused are finding a way into the mix.

“I’m not sure when and why there was a ‘big break’ for kale, but that does seem to have happened in the last handful of years,” Nava Atlas, chef and author of numerous cookbooks including Wild About Greens, tells BTR. “I always say that kale is the new broccoli, though people seem more passionate about kale. The rising interest in veg/vegan lifestyle, plus the raw foods movement have probably contributed much to the popularity of kale. I wonder, too, if the rise of Community Supported Agriculture farms and farm markets everywhere have contributed to the popularity and availability of greens — they’re so easy to grow, and very abundant.”

Kale, in its purest form, often gets tossed into a salad as a sturdier replacement for romaine. It looks, smells, and sounds like lettuce, but, oh, it’s so much more. Health-wise, comments Atlas, the vegetable offers a variety of nutrients, including several vitamins from the B family and vitamin K, which “contributes to bone health.” It’s also stacked with minerals like potassium, magnesium and iron.

Yet what’s most impressive about kale is its variety of uses. From smoothies to chips, the vegetable satiates numerous palates.

“Kale is versatile because it’s just as good raw as it is lightly cooked,” says Atlas. “To use in salads, simply “massage” stemmed and sliced leaves with a little olive oil, Celtic sea salt, or whatever dressing you’re using, and it becomes soft and palatable. Toss a leaf into your smoothies, where its flavor becomes almost undetectable, though it offers a host of phytochemicals and chlorophyll, most available in raw form. Kale is also delicious in stir-fries, soups, and stews. Seriously, there are few types of dishes where kale would not be welcome, once you learn how to harness its best qualities in each type of dish.”

And people far and wide have done just that. In fact, there’s even a “How Stuff Works” devoted solely to the fabulous veggie. The site lists the preventative health perks to eating kale, and points to the fact that the antioxidants it possesses are considered a “major player” in the battles against heart disease, cancer, dementia, and osteoporosis. The web page also links to more places you can find out details on the coolest vegetable around, and assuredly, there are many.

Nevertheless, despite the experimental nature of kale, Atlas prefers to keep her fascination simple, using it more as the base to her salads. She also recommends combining it with heartier foods and grains, like quinoa or potatoes.

“A pilaf of quinoa, kale, and corn or sweet potatoes or squash is a great dish for holidays and everyday meals,” she notes. “And one of my favorites is combining sautéed potatoes and garlic with kale and briny black olives.”

Slice it, dice it, stir it, chop it, blend it, or “massage it,” kale’s got the menu covered, all day every day.

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