I was excited when the publisher sent over my review copy of the new cookbook Kale: I absolutely love the stuff, and love finding new ways to incorporate it into my kitchen plans! But when I started cooking with this book, I admit it wasn’t exactly what I expected.
The first couple chapters are great: everything you ever wanted to know about kale, but were afraid to ask! The author offers an impressive introduction to this delectable cruciferous leafy green — covering different types of kale, nutrition values, and preparation tips. For example, pre-chopped kale can lose up to 25% of its vitamin C and carotenoids due to oxygenation. Who knew?!
After also reading T. Colin Campbell’s new book Whole (review pending!), I’m not sure that means much in terms of what it does in your body — spoiler alert: human nutrition is complex, and can’t be reduced to simple quantitative equations! So when pre-prepping makes life easier, I still do it. But: interesting stuff!
I also like the unusual ingredient combinations in some of the recipes, especially the Vegan Cocoa-Kale Cupcakes, Cocoa Dusted Kale Chips, and the Blueberry Kale Pops. And I love the chapter titled Kale-Growing Guide, for aspiring gardeners seeking some backyard leafy green goodness!
Ok, look, I admit a certain bias. I LIKE KALE. I think it tastes lovely! So I have a bias towards a cooking style that doesn’t seek to hide the flavor of kale with the flavors of heavy foods like sausage, eggs, cream, and other foods that I don’t think bring healthy things to the table. A cookbook doesn’t have to be all-vegan to appeal to me, but there’s a difference between recipes that include animal products — which I can easily omit or modify — and a preponderance of recipes that rely on those ingredients for flavor.
And I was somewhat taken aback at how many of the recipes in Kale rely on these ingredients for flavor. The author reports a vegan personal history, and offers vegan substitutions sometimes (i.e. by adding the phrase ‘or nondairy milk’), but personally if I’m cooking with kale I want to taste the kale; and if the recipe is designed to rely on flavoring from ham and/ or prosciutto and/ or bacon and/ or goat cheese and/ or feta — or a whole stick of butter (as in the Potato and Kale Galette) — I’m probably not going to bother with substitution gymnastics, in order to make that recipe.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the recipes are healthy and tasty — especially the juices, smoothies, and desserts (well, ok, maybe more tasty than healthy per se, for the desserts)! But I do wish the author had mentioned that you can massage kale, to totally transform it into the perfect salad green; and I wish there were more breakfast, lunch, and main dishes relying on spices, marinades, dressings, or creative ingredient combinations (like those awesome cupcakes!) rather than saturated fat for flavoring.
… & The Juicy
I especially enjoyed some of the juice combinations the author shares. To get the most bang for your kale buck, save the pulp after running kale through the juicer — it’s great for recycling into smoothies.
The Stay-Well Kale Juice is one of my favorites, even with cold and flu season left far behind in the chilly past — with pineapple, kale, mint, and ginger, it packs a tasty vitamin-rich punch. Yummy!
I’m glad I received a copy of Kale to review — it offers some interesting information and recipes, though most of the dishes will appeal more to omnivores just starting to try cooking with this nutritional-powerhouse veggie. If you like the juices, smoothies and other lighter, plant-centric recipes, be sure to also check out Wild About Greens and 40 Days of Green Smoothies.
Viva la Kale!
Image by the author, all rights reserved.