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Five ideas for cooking with kale: Stew, smoothies and more

Kale and Chickpea Stew. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.
Kale and Chickpea Stew. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.
Published Apr. 1, 2019

Ah, kale. The leafy green has been the subject of much praise ("It's a superfood!") and ridicule ("It's gross!") the past couple of years, ever since it exploded on the mainstream food scene and found its way onto everything from Caesar salads to T-shirts. Kale isn't going anywhere, so it's good to have a handful of go-to recipes to turn to for your next vibrant bunch. These five recipes show how kale's distinct texture and fresh, leafy taste can play nicely in a variety of dishes.

Kale and Chickpea Stew

This is from food writer Alison Roman, who developed this recipe for the New York Times. It soon went viral online, probably for how ridiculously simple it is. It's equally tasty as a weeknight dinner and a leftover work lunch. To make, heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1 (2-inch) piece minced ginger and 1 medium diced onion. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Let cook for about 7 minutes, until onion is slightly translucent. Add 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Cook for about 10 minutes, until chickpeas are softer and sort of fried from the oil. Add more oil if pot is dry. Reserve 1 cup chickpeas for serving. Lightly crush the rest in the pot with the back of a spoon. Add 2 (15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk and 2 cups vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, then cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until chickpeas are completely soft and stew thickness if to your liking. Cook longer if needed. Add 1 bunch roughly chopped kale and let cook for a couple of minutes until kale has wilted. Serve with fresh mint leaves, Greek yogurt and reserved chickpeas. Recipe adapted from Alison Roman.

Kale Caesar Salad

Warning: This salad can be quite addictive. Hearty kale holds up well to a healthier homemade Caesar dressing, and crunchy chickpeas serve as the croutons. Got some leftover chicken? Throw it in. You could leave out the chickpeas and opt for traditional croutons, if you'd like. Start by tossing 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas with ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon paprika and salt and pepper to taste on a baking sheet. Roast in a 450-degree oven until chickpeas are golden and crispy, about 20 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Now, make a dressing. To a food processor or blender, add 1 garlic clove, ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a dash of heavy cream, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of black pepper and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Blend until mixed well and set aside. Wash 1 bunch kale and remove leaves from ribs. Roughly chop leaves, then add to a large bowl. Toss with desired amount of dressing and ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Top with chickpeas. Recipe adapted from

Kale Ricotta Pizza

Remove the ribs from 1 bunch kale, then cut the leaves into 1-inch strips. Toss kale with ¼ cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Massage dressing into kale with your fingers and let sit at room temperature 2 hours to soften. (This will keep the kale from getting too crispy when baked.) When kale is ready, preheat oven to 525 degrees. Take a ball of homemade or store-bought pizza dough and press into a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Top with 8 ounces grated mozzarella and 1 cup ricotta. Add kale and top with 2 ounces grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve topped with red pepper flakes. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

Kale Slaw

This slaw is quite versatile, good on the side of sandwiches or as a base for a baked protein or fish. You could add dried fruits or more nuts to jazz it up; swapping the olive oil for nutty tahini would result in a creamier dressing. Start by making the dressing. In a small bowl, mix the following: 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper to taste. Roughly chop 1 small bunch kale and place in a large bowl. Thinly slice ¼ head red cabbage and ¼ red onion. Roughly chop ¼ cup parsley. Cut 1 or 2 carrots into matchsticks. Add all to bowl with the kale. Top with 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds. Add dressing and toss well to coat. Let sit for a few minutes to allow kale to soften slightly, then serve with a big squeeze of lemon over the top.

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Kale and Matcha Smoothie

Hiding kale in your smoothies isn't as seamless as some recipes would have you think. But this one gets the job done, with a variety of other flavors to mask any harsh kale flavor. The green veggie blends nicely with things like pineapple and matcha. To a blender, add 1 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen pineapple pieces, 1 cup kale leaves, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 2 tablespoons almond butter, 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey, 1 teaspoon matcha (green tea powder) and ½ teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger (optional). Blend until completely smooth. This recipe makes 2 smoothies. Recipe from Appétit.