Kale takes its place at the Thanksgiving table

Posted 11/29/23

Sidonie Maroon, Culinary educator for The Food Co-op


In Scotland, “Come to kail” was an invitation to dinner, because people ate kale so often. In our climate it is king …

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Kale takes its place at the Thanksgiving table


Sidonie Maroon, Culinary educator for The Food Co-op


In Scotland, “Come to kail” was an invitation to dinner, because people ate kale so often. In our climate it is king of our winter greens, but needs P.R. Kale could be a mainstay, if only we liked it.

Planted in late summer for the fall garden, it sweetens as temperatures dip. It’s easy to grow and continues to give into spring with leaves and kale rabe (the unopened florets, like broccoli, before its yellow flowers bloom). Kale is versatile, adding nutrition, texture and flavor to soups, casseroles and sides. We can braise, saute, bake or blanch and it tastes delicious. Yet, I’m frequently asked how to prepare kale so the unenthused will give it a chance.

I didn’t grow up eating kale, so it took experimentation and perseverance to make it a family favorite.

Now, kale is near the top of my vegetable list. I grow several varieties and frequently add it to meals. My kale game changed when I learned to chiffonade. I’m not a raw kale lover, nor do I like sizable pieces of unwieldy leaves on my plate. Kale, unless broken down, reminds me of seaweed fronds, so reducing the size of the leaves was a key strategy in my “Let’s all eat more kale!” campaign.  


Kale Techniques

Chiffonade (shee-fohn-aid)

In French cuisine, describe leaf vegetables, laid flat, rolled lengthwise into a log, and sliced into thin ribbons. (I create smaller pieces by chopping the ribbons crosswise.)


Saute and Steam

Chiffonade the greens. Then saute them in a skillet, over a medium-high heat, until they soften 3-4 minutes. Add about ½ cup of liquid and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Cover with a lid and allow them to steam until they’re as tender as you prefer.


Instant Pot

For very tender greens, chop the kale and add to a steamer basket with 1 cup of water in the bottom of the inner pot. Cook at high pressure for 3 minutes with an instant release. Chop fine after cooking. Add butter and salt, or add to a salad with olive oil and lemon.


Parchment Wrapped

Chiffonade the kale and toss with olive oil, and seasoning salt. Wrap in parchment paper and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 F.


What to do with stems?

Hard kale stems are fibrous and unpalatable. I cut the stems off, below the leaves, while holding the bunch. For flat leaved collards, I slice the stems from the individual leaves. If you are harvesting young leaves from the garden, the stems are tender. 


Best Kale Types

 Tuscan, also known as lacinato or dinosaur kale, has long primeval green leaves and full flavor. It has an affinity for rich foods such as olive oil, bacon, and cheeses. It works well with starches like polenta, buckwheat pasta, barley and simmered beans. Try it seasoned with ingredients like smoked chilies, anchovies, garlic, citrus rind, fennel or cumin seeds. 

Russian Red is also called Siberian kale. Its silvery green or blue-gray leaves have bold reddish stalks and veins. The Russian kales are in good company with grilled sausages, poached eggs, braised turkey or combined with dried fruits and nuts.  

Curly kale has frilly leaves and has a rounded sweetness when properly cooked. It works well with potatoes or added to savory pies. Try it mixed in casseroles with cottage cheese or ricotta.

Celebration Spiced Kale with Dried Cranberries and Pecans

Serves 4 as a side dish

45 minutes preparation and cooking time

Nothing ho hum here! Tender kale with holiday spices, onions, ginger and garlic sweet and sour hits of apple and cranberry — this side dish makes the perfect counterpoint for turkey, potatoes, winter squash, or sweet potatoes. 



¼ cup olive oil 

1 large yellow onion, cut into a medium dice

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1/3  cup dried cranberries

1 medium baking apple, unpeeled, cut into a medium dice

1 bunch Russian red, curly or collards, remove stems, chiffonade and then chop across the thin ribbons into smaller pieces

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped



¼ teaspoon decorticated cardamom

¼ teaspoon whole allspice berries

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seed

¼ teaspoon peppercorns

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt



1. Ensemble and prep all ingredients. Using a spice or coffee grinder, grind whole spices and salt together into a coarse powder. Toast and chop pecans and set aside.

2. Preheat a large saute pan with oil on a medium heat. Adjust heat if needed. Add the chopped onions and saute for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Add the dried cranberries, ground spices, salt and apple and continue to saute for another 7 to 8 minutes.

3. Add the chopped kale and fold in. Saute for several minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and pour into the saute pan. Cover with a lid, turn to a simmer for 5 minutes or until the kale has softened. Take the lid off, return the heat to medium high and cook off the remaining liquid.

4. Stir in the maple syrup. Taste. It will take several minutes for the flavors to settle.

5. Place in a serving bowl and garnish with pecans. Serve warm. You can cook this dish ahead and reheat.


 Find more recipes at www.foodcoop.coop/recipes