Kale adds a lot more than a dark verdant color to the Thanksgiving plate—it brings stellar nutritional value to a meal that can often contain as many of 5,000 calories for many Americans. According to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman), kale receives the highest possible nutritional index score, with an incredible punch of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other essential elements in every ounce. Kale’s high levels of calcium, iron, vitamins A and K, omega fatty acids and phytonutrients like lutein and zeaxanathin, also propelled it to the very top spot in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s ranking of 83 vegetables.
But all those nutrients doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good. Kale can also win a top spot for taste as a holiday side dish, if cooked right and paired perfectly. It doesn’t take much, as these two sides show. One highlights kale’s affinity to squash and love of sweetness with a combination of pan-browned butternut squash and crunchy sweet corn, with a touch of cayenne and lime. Its bright flavor is nice contrast to the often-heavy and sweet holiday dishes on the table. The combination is both colorful and vibrant. In the second side, kale pairs with sautéed apples, dried cranberries and walnuts for a touch of sweetness, tartness and crunch. The apples are sautéed along with shallots in a bit of brown sugar and butter before and being mixed with kale pre-blanched for 4 to 5 minutes. This method of cooking brings out the pleasant taste in kale, and achieves optimum tenderness often lacking in kale dishes. The combination is classic and autumnal, perfect for the Thanksgiving table.
If there are any kale skeptics at the table, you might even win them over in the process!
Squash, Kale and Corn Sauté
This attractive combo of 3 fall favorites is perfect for the holiday table. Plus, corn was one of the few vegetables that made an appearance on the original Thanksgiving table, back in the Pilgrim days.
1/2 bunch kale, stripped from stalk, chopped into bite-size pieces, and rinsed (4 to 5 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 – to 3/4-inch dice (3 to 4 cups)
2 ears corn, kernels removed from cob (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 lime, quartered
- In a large skillet with a lid, bring 3 to 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the kale. Cover and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander, shaking a few times, to release steam and stop the cooking.
- Dry the skillet and add the olive oil and butter over medium heat. (The pan should be large enough to fit squash in a single layer) Add the butternut squash and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked without falling apart, about 15 minutes. Add a few pinches of salt while cooking. Add the corn, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 4 to 5 additional minutes, until corn is cooked. When ready to serve, add the kale (squeeze out any excess moisture from the kale if necessary) back into the pan and stir gently to warm. Add another pinch of salt for the kale. Squeeze a little lime juice into the dish or pass lime wedges around for people to squeeze their own.
Sautéed Kale with Apples, Cranberries and Walnuts
This is a recipe your whole family can enjoy – it’s so simple to make and it goes especially well with roast turkey on the holiday table. Shallots, quicker cooking than onions, cook along with sautéed diced apples. That hint of sweetness is just what kale often needs.
1 bunch kale, stripped from stalk, chopped into bite-size pieces and rinsed (about 6 to 8 cups)
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium-size shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 crisp apples such as Braeburn or Granny Smith, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- Place about 4 cups of water in a 10- or 12-inch skillet or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and add the kale. Cover and cook over high heat, stirring
occasionally until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain. Shake a few times to release steam and stop the cooking.
- Dry the skillet and melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and apples and sauté until the apples are browned and nearly soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cranberries and sauté a few minutes more.
- Add the cooked kale (squeeze out excess moisture if there is any), a pinch or two of salt, the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and mix well. Top with chopped walnuts, and serve hot.
Excerpted from Kale, Glorious Kale © 2014 by Catherine Walthers. Photographs © 2014 by Alison Shaw. Reproduced by permission of Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Author Bio: Catherine Walthers is a food and cocktail writer and recipe developer with four published cookbooks, including Raising the Salad Bar and Kale, Glorious Kale. She lives on Martha’s Vineyard where she also offers cooking classes at her West Tisbury Cooking Lab. For more kale recipes, go to amazon/kalegloriouskale.