One Ingredient, Many Ways: Kale

Packed full of antioxidants and fiber, kale is a staple of the autumn and winter kitchen

Caitlin Santomauro

If discovering a love of kale is the home cook's version of finding religion, consider me one of the converted. I was introduced to the sturdy, leafy green during my last year of college, right around the same time that I first sampled kale's fellows in the dark-and-leafy category, Swiss chard and collard greens. Within a few bites, I was hooked: I loved its sweet-spicy flavor and robust raw texture, which grew silky and tender after a slow saute in garlic and soy sauce.

After college, my obsession only grew. I made weekly trips to the farmers market and stocked my vegetable crisper with leafy bunches of pine needle-green Lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale, Cavolo nero and, curiously, Dinosaur kale). Two, three, sometimes even four nights a week I ate steamed kale topped with crispy slivers of garlic and a soupy fried egg - my rendition of the starving college grad's ramen noodle diet. A few years on, during my first date with my now-husband, I snapped off a stem of kale at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that had been planted as decoration and ate it raw, indignant that something so delicious could be relegated to ornamental status. (Luckily, this act of produce protest didn't deter him from a second date.)

Its savory applications are seemingly infinite (I've yet to find a dish that doesn't benefit from throwing a handful of chopped kale into the mix).