Outside the Comfort Zone: A Recipe With Kale


Hopefully I'll feel enthusiastic enough to add an exclamation point to kale after trying it again

Here I am, standing in the produce aisle, suspiciously eyeing the kale. I’ve been challenged to try something new, something different, and kale, well ... we’ve met, but I wouldn’t exactly say we’re friends. First of all, kale is deceiving. It looks like a leafy green, but it’s actually in the cabbage family, right along with broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  You’d think kale would taste a bit like spinach, but it tends to be bitter, something to disguise in among other things. I’ve thrown a leaf or two of kale into juices now and then, but I haven't ventured much further. Super food, schmooper food ... I’m only going to eat it if I like it. Why am I challenging myself? Well, the folks at Harvard Pilgrim reached out to me and Mommy Niri (another great blogger who I’ve known for a while now) and asked us to challenge each other. We’ll be doing so every Tuesday in October with different projects. For week one we’re both cooking with kale. Next week we'll be taking a fitness class that we’ve never tried before (believe it or not, I’ve never done Zumba ... until now). In week three, we'll be trying to find balance through meditation, and week four will be about playing outdoors with the family. (I'm thinking hiking, but maybe kayaking if we get a warm day.) The idea is to wake ourselves up a little bit through these challenges, and we hope anyone else aiming to live more healthfully will also be prodded to try something different too. Feel free to report back if you give it a go. Which brings me back to the bag of kale staring back at me from my kitchen counter. A quick survey of online recipes confirmed my suspicions: most people cook kale with other stuff to help even out the bitterness. Out comes the skillet, some onions and a red pepper get cup up, a splash of olive oil and salt get added, wait for them to soften, and then in goes the kale. Paired it with a chicken tomato basil sausage and, voila, dinner! Now for the taste test … Husband: I like the crunch of the stem. It’s better than other times when it's just the leafy part and fully wilted. Son: It tastes like Brussels sprouts. (My kid has always impressed me with his foodie taste buds.) Me: Well it was definitely bitter before I cooked it. The red pepper really mellowed out the kale and the sautéed onions added a nice touch. I am declaring a success, and since I have a lot more kale left in the fridge, I’ll be trying another recipe later this week. One tip I did learn: if you’re just trying kale for the first time, buy the red kale if you can find it. It’s the least bitter. Week one of my October challenge is done and I’m excited (and a touch scared) to go to my first Zumba class later this week. I’ll report back on my Hour of Latin Power next Tuesday. (Full disclosure: Harvard Pilgrim is paying me for this series of posts, but I am very definitely writing with full editorial control. Mommy Niri and I came up with the challenges on our own.  Don’t forget to check out how she made out with her kale recipe!) Cheers, Lisa

photo credit: K Rupp

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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6 Responses to Outside the Comfort Zone: A Recipe With Kale

  1. curlsz October 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    maybe it’s a southern thing but I grew up eating cooked greens so cooked kale is actually a favorite – I heat a sauce pan, throw in some salt, take the kale off the stems, put it in the pan and drizzle it with an oil of some kid and then put the lid on. That’s it. Toss it a bit and serve – it’s so yummy sometimes I crave it

  2. Lisa Johnson October 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Curlsz, collard greens are in the same family as kale, so yep, it’s definitely easy to adapt to Southern recipes. Thanks for saying that … I have a few Cooks Country magazines kicking around, I’ll have to go check them out to see if I can adapt any recipes. :-) L–

  3. Niri October 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Girl, you are so fast in writing you already make me feel like a slacker. Did I already make the “have mercy” on me request for pilates?

  4. Scott October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm #


    All kale is not created equal. I’ve found organic kale from California (dino kale) to be the easiest to clean and prepare. Although I’ve used it more in green smoothies more than any other, I like kale and leaks in a soup-like preparation. Both smoothies and soup cover any bitterness. Have fun with the challenge. Scott

  5. Lisa Johnson October 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    ha! no mercy! I’ll see you Thursday … :-)

  6. Lisa Johnson October 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Scott thanks so much and thanks for the tips. I usually get organic red kale when I can find it … although this time I used Tuscan Kale … this was my first attempt in a non-juice recipe though and I can use all the help I can get!

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