Kitchen Confidence

How to Prep Kale

By • September 18, 2013 • 15 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Stop avoiding kale. All it needs is a little massaging to reveal its soft, sweet -- well, sweeter -- side. 

You can't avoid kale. It's in salad! It's in pilaf! It's even where you'd least expect it: on pulled pork sandwiches! But then again, why would you want to avoid the leafy green that's turned the salad world on its head? 

Kale's healthy, easy to prepare, and with the right set of recipes, kale is downright delectable. "But," you'll argue, "kale is bitter, tough, and just plain unenjoyable." Don't worry: we've got a trick to solve that. 

Give in to the kale craze. Pick up a bunch of those dark, leafy greens and get chopping. 

De-ribbing: Unless you're using baby kale, you'll probably want to remove the tough stems running down the center of the leaves.



To de-rib, simply fold the kale over along the rib and run a sharp knife down the side:



Chopping: If you're making a dish where you need big pieces of kale -- kale and corn quesadillaskale chips, or a sausage and kale dinner tart, for example -- you don't have much work to do.

Just stack the de-ribbed kale leaves and chop into rough squares:



Slicing: If your recipe calls for finely sliced kale -- maybe an elegant salad or a crustless quiche -- prepping your kale will take a bit more effort. (But don't worry, it's still pretty simple.)

First, roll your kale leaves, starting from the top and rolling downwards. You'll end up with fat, wide tubes:

Starting at one of the open ends of the tube, slice the kale into thin strips as if you were making a chiffonade:

You'll end up with millions of thinly sliced kale strips:

When you're planning to slice kale this thinly, you can get away with only removing the bottom part of the stems, depending on your preferences. 

Tenderizing/Massaging: Known for being tough and bitter, all kale needs is a little massaging to reveal its soft, sweet -- well, sweeter -- side. 

Once the kale has been de-stemmed and cut, dump it into a bowl. Add a teaspoon of oil (olive oil, not massaging oil) and a bit of salt. This will make the massage more enjoyable for the kale. (Okay, that's not true, but it will help the kale break down more easily.) 

Now it's time to get massaging. Knead and squeeze with your hands:

You'll know the rub-down is over when the leaves are dark and silky (the time may vary depending on the type of kale you're using): 

Your kale -- feeling refreshed after a great massage -- is ready to be the base of the most delicious salad you'll ever eat

Photos by James Ransom

What's your favorite way to use kale? Tell us in the comments below!

Tags: kale, greens, vegetables, produce, how-to & diy

Comments (15)

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2 months ago BETTY

thank you !

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3 months ago Whites5

Any recommendations for mustard greens? How to clean, cook etc. thanks.

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5 months ago Bill McKenney

I just yesterday returned from a trip to Tuscany. Lunch with a group of my winemaker friends on Saturday featured a crostini/bruschetta that was utterly simple and utterly delicious: cavolo nero cooked to just wilted, placed on a slice of rustic bread that had been rubbed with a garlic clove and brushed with the new olive oil from this year's harvest (olio novello). Bread. Garlic clove. Olio. Cavolo. And a pinch of salt. What could be easier?

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5 months ago aaur

Been doing this for months, now addicted. Big bunch of organic kale, wash and dry throughly. Break off leaves, discard stems. Break leaves into small pieces and spray or toss them in enough olive oil to coat all sides. Then sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Place in a large pan so they are not all crowed together and bake for 20-25 minutes @ 290F. DELICIOUS!

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5 months ago jeanne

Always wanted to try kale .. never knew what to do with it .Thanks for the info.Just think of the health benefits

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7 months ago Laura Brown

Thanks for the help! Bought my first bag today and have just been staring at it. I'll probably start by trying to strip it like a collard green, but the 'massage' technique definitely like like it's worth a try.

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7 months ago joy wener bang

Joy in Mpls
Layer with Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/8" round slices and onion..with the potato as 1st and last layer. Baking dish, 350' oven, 35min. Perhaps cheese on top! Yum. I have more kale than I know what to do with. Planted in straw bales & it's prolific!

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7 months ago Brotha Percy

When cooking Kale, should it be massaged beforehand? I find it rather tough sometimes. Thanks.

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7 months ago Bill McKenney

I have found that cavolo nero, aka "dino", or "dinosaur" kale, or lacinato kale, takes very well to freezing, which is helpful when I find myself with way more fresh leaves than I can use at one time. Remove the ribs. Chop or slice the leaves, if desired. Then simply blanche in hot water for 30 seconds or so, immerse in an ice bath, portion into ziplock bags, and store in the freezer. I ineveitably used mine within a month, but I'm guessing it would last longer.

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7 months ago dchu

Even faster than slicing off the midrib (and another fun thing to do with your hands): strip the leaves! Hold the stem with one hand. With the other hand grasp the leaf where it meets the base and, pinching firmly, ziiiiiiip it off the midrib.

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7 months ago MsDivinaLoca

Figuring out that method was a life changer for me, dchu :)

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3 months ago Joan - Downstairs

I was just about to add that zipping off greens stems between index finger and thumb is more fun and faster when I saw your comment. Like minds! It is the best method and leads naturally to leaf massage.

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is an editor at Food52.

Sometimes I complain about kale that's cut into ribbons (sorry), so when I have extra time, I like to pull them into wider, oblong, irregular shapes -- kind of like in Amanda's salad (http://food52.com/blog...). It makes it easier to spear individual pieces.

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7 months ago sarah jampel

A-ha! Torn kale! Just goes to show that the most useful kitchen tool is, more often than not, the hands.

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7 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Associate Editor of Food52.

Well put. For the record, I'm the one who forces her to eat ribboned kale salads for lunch. (Sorry!)