Whenever I talk about kale, my vocabulary becomes very healthy as I launch into a diatribe about this nearly ever-green superfood. But even as I do, I can see a weariness creep across the faces of the people I’m talking to; sometimes, that look is accompanied by a slight rolling of the eyes, or a little exhalation of breath, almost a deflation, as if to say, “Not again.”
I’m not a kale evangelist, perhaps an enthusiast, yes, but not an evangelist. I’m certainly not a bore (please, God, don’t let THAT be true). And I’m certain that I don’t wear the subject out, so I can hardly be blamed for the fact that this nutrient dense member of the Brassica species suffers from overexposure.
Kale fatigue is not my fault.
But that doesn’t change the fact that kale is awfully good for you and that it’s available and seasonal when green, leafy vegetables usually fly south for the season. So we should talk about it even if our friends roll their eyes. Kale fatigue be damned.
But I’m convinced that this weariness has less to do with conversation than with an urge to get too much, too fast. No food will change your life after a single serving – well, that’s not entirely true: once, a cupcake made me believe in Paradise. But in terms of health and well-being, it takes more than one big bowl of leafy greens to cure what ails ya. Furthermore, kale’s a tough cookie – it’s at its most nutritious when it’s raw, and, believe you me, raw kale is no fun to eat.
It reminds me of my cousin Bruce. Bruce loves pecan pie, and I’m pretty sure that he’d love spiced pecans and pecan cinnamon rolls, too. But Bruce won’t touch any of those things – it’s torturous to watch him agonize over pecan pie at Thanksgiving – his mouth practically waters! But once upon a time, Bruce got a bite of that pithy bit of fiber that separates the two halves of pecan meat. I’m sure Mamaw didn’t mean to leave in the pie, but that brief moment of unwelcome bitterness, coming, as it did, in the midst of sugary heaven, put Cousin Bruce off pecans and all nuts for the last 35 years.
I feel certain that that’s what’s happened to many a potential kale lover. We know that if you gently massage the kale leaf and remove the rib, then the little bite of Brassica becomes much nicer to nibble and exponentially more delectable for the digestion. But like Bruce and his nuts, even a single bite of tense, unrubbed kale or a chew of wayward, fibrous kale rib can put you off the vegetable for a very long time.
That’s why it may be better to cook the kale a little. Sure, you diminish some of the vitamin concentration in a single serving, but, over your lifetime (unlike the sad but safe exclusion of pecan pie in Bruce’s life) I’m betting that you’re better off having kale in your diet.
This recipe is a great example of how to use kale without risking kale fatigue. Combining the gently cooked and seasoned leafy greens with earthy and sweet, roasted root vegetables makes an incredibly delicious – perhaps even sneaky- way to get good food on the plate and in the body. Plus the crunch and light sweetness of fennel bulb adds and irresistible texture and perkiness that gives the whole salad a lift that is seasonal and guaranteed to fight off a whole list of kale fatigue symptoms – especially the dreaded rolling of the eyes.
Tomato Head’s Warm Kale and Root Vegetable Salad
1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1.5 cups beets, diced into 1 inch pieces
2 cups potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss each vegetable separately with 1 Tbl Oil, ¼ tsp Salt and ¼ tsp Black Pepper. Place vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in separate clumps. Bake Carrots for 20 minutes until soft, Beets for 30 minutes until soft and Potatoes for 40 minutes until soft, removing each vegetable from the oven as they cook and setting them aside.
½ cup Fennel Bulb
6 cups Kale
Cut the green stems off the Fennel, rinse the bulb, and cut in half. Remove the core then thinly slice the fennel with a knife or a mandoline slicer and set aside.
Wash Kale and cut into 1 inch strips.
To assemble the salad:
½ cup balsamic vinegar reduced to ¼ cup
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar
Place ½ cup balsamic vinegar in a large skillet over medium heat and reduce down to ¼ cup. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining ingredients and whisk well. Add the kale to the hot skillet, allowing the Kale to wilt a little.
Place Kale in a large bowl, and add the roasted vegetables, and Fennel. (if your skillet is large enough you can add the vegetables directly to the skillet). Toss everything together until all the vegetables are coated with dressing and serve.
Serves 2-4 people.