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Kale, So Tasty Stir-fried

Kale.  A recently-discovered vegetable, thanks to my eldest daughter.  While home for a visit, she made braised kale with turkey bacon, and it was delicious.  I had seen kale at farmers’ markets and in the produce section, but didn’t know much about it or how to cook it.  After researching kale, I discovered that it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, helps prevent cancer, lowers cholesterol, and aids digestion.  It has omega-3 fatty acids and is loaded with vitamins K, A, and C. It’s also a good source of calcium.  Reason enough to include it in one’s diet, but can it be delicious?  Try this recipe from NY Times Food Editor, Martha Rose Shulman.  If the thought of tofu scares you away, try adding poached chicken instead.  If you haven’t tried tofu before, jump in feet first with this recipe.  (Tofu takes on the flavor of the other tasty  ingredients.)

Tips for Kale

  • Look for firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems.  The leaves should look fresh and not wilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes.  Smaller-sized leaves will be more tender and have a milder flavor than those with larger leaves. The growing season for kale is winter to spring, so it is available fresh at a time when other seasonal vegetables are shipped from other countries.
  • Refrigerate, unwashed, in a plastic bag, for 5 – 7 days.  The sooner it is used, the better, because the flavor tends to become stronger with longer storage.  Kale needs a good cleaning.  To wash, fill a bowl with cold water and soak for a few minutes.  Then, rinse well under running water.

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu With Kale and Red Pepper

Kale is a good choice of greens for a stir-fry because it retains its texture.

1 bunch curly kale (about 10 ounces), stemmed and washed

1 14-ounce package firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, preferably white pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced

1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch julienne

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

1. Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the kale and blanch 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and place in a bowl near your wok.

2. Cut the tofu into dominos and place them on paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and prepare the remaining ingredients.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, stock and cornstarch. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your wok.

4. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the canola or peanut oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the tofu. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds.

5. Add the red pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the kale, salt, pepper and sugar and toss together. Add the soy sauce mixture and the sesame oil.  Stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and serve with grains or noodles.

Yield: 4 servings.

Advance preparation: This is a last-minute preparation, but the blanched kale will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator. We left the serrano pepper out because heat doesn’t do well with my husband.

Nutritional information per serving: 194 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 14 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 283 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 12 grams protein

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