11 January 2009

Underappreciated Vegetables

OK, let´s talk about kale. Until recently, all I knew about kale was that it´s unbelievably healthy and fairly tough. I mean tough in the "tough to chew" sense of the word. Kale is basically a good-for-you leafy green with a terrible reputation. In Holland, it's used mainly (only?) to make stampot. Stampot is a classic Dutch winter dish that is made by boiling potatoes, kale, and onions until everything is soft enough to mash. It's served with smoked sausage and gravy. Foreigners in the Netherlands are a bit obsessed with it because it's so... well, Dutch. It's cheap, filling, and not exactly a gastronomic delight. As a result of its popularity, though, washed, cut kale is in all the grocery stores in great quantity and low prices all winter long.

For the past four years, I've walked by the kale. For the past four years, I have been missing out. Thanks to a tip from mom (best cook ever), kale has become a favorite in our house. It's delicious, easy, and quick thanks to the double Dutch staples of pre-cut smoked bacon cubes and kale. I cook up this stir-fry recipe to accompany Chinese food and anything else. You can leave out the ginger if you want a more western flavor. I'll add in some amounts on the recipe, but my habit is to guess and toss and adjust as necessary. You can't really go wrong. Cooking the bacon over low heat first helps render out most of the fat, eliminating the need for any additional fat when you cook your vegetables. If you end up with too much, this vegetable stores and reheats well.

Kale Stir-fry
serves 4

300g kale
1/2 tsp ginger
1 clove garlic
100g bacon

Cut the bacon into cubes or, if you're using strips, 1cm wide pieces. Cook them over low heat while you prepare the vegetables. Wash and slice the kale into thin pieces, removing the hard ribs. Cut the ginger in slivers and crush the garlic. When the bacon is starting to brown, add the ginger and garlic. Stir for a minute. Add kale. Allow to cook down, stirring occasionally for about 3-5 minutes. It will take on a rich green color. Toss in a wee bit of salt to taste (this will depend on how salty your bacon is). Serve hot and enjoy!

All credit for this little recipe and my love of good vegetables goes to Mom.


  1. Kale is just about the best food in the whole world. I heartily recommend ribollita, which is usually made with cavolo nero but most any kind of kale will work.

  2. Kale has appeared in my life in two suspect forms. Once as a health munchy food (Kale Puffs, I kid not) and once as an ingredient in Veggie Boy (as fictionally promoted in an episode of Cheers). You could put that stuff on a spoon and make all the airplane noises you want, but it's got too much bad press.

  3. ah...what a revelation! Fantastic recipe! and such a nice alternative to the "boil 'till you spoil" philosophy! lekker!

  4. What is the next vegetable of the week?

  5. Want to know my crazy Dutch kale story? In Canada I was so used to buying kale in its natural, bushy form, that when I went to Nederland and started shopping at Albert Heijn, I could never find it. I was like, what, don't they have kale in this country? Then one day almost two years into living there, I went to the market and saw real kale. I was like, "Ik wil graag... die groente... hoe heet hij alweer?" and they were like "Boerenkoel!" And I was like oh my God, these little ubiquitous bags of ground up green stuff I see at the AH are really kale. Who knew. Not me. Turns out Dutch people have not only an intense national love for kale, but an equally intense desire to domesticate it.



  6. Ha! How great to read this - I also didn't realize boerenkool was kale - I knew they had to be closely related, but who's ever seen kale in the round form in the states? It grows as long big leaves, not like white cabbage, right? At any rate, it tastes a whole lot better here to me. Our favorite way of eating it is sauteed with onion or leeks (prei), zucchini (courgette), white wine, and camembert! Yum, yum.


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