In 1976, New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton wrote about the virtues of kale. At the time, the green was pretty obscure in America, but Sheraton helped make it popular. She praised it for its high vitamin content and broccoli-like taste, and the superfood started taking off. Now, it’s ubiquitous.
Sheraton is having regrets. In an essay for The Daily Beast titled “I’m Sorry for Helping Make Kale Cool,” she writes:
“Digging out that 40-year-old article and reading through it, I realised why I liked kale then and cannot stand it now: It’s not the kale that’s at fault, it’s the cooks who now serve it raw, grilled, roasted, toasted, dried, so that it has the texture of broken ceramic chips.”
In other words, kale isn’t served right anymore. It’s best used as a niche, winter-only vegetable. Unlike most greens, kale benefits from the cold because “the frozen cell walls would expand and break, thereby tenderizing the fibrous stalks before cooking.”
Sheraton told NPR that grilling and roasting kale is totally wrong. And drying it into hard chips brings out kale’s dirty, bitter flavours.
Kale is best served soft and with fat, Sheraton said:
“When I liked kale, it was cooked in traditional ways — very soft, always in a stew or soup and always with some kind of fat. Whether it was olive oil and garlic by Italians, whether it was soul food — simmer it for a long time with ham hocks or salt pork. In certain parts of Northern Europe it would have been sautéed first in goose or duck fat, then liquid added and simmered. And that softness made it palatable and pleasant.”
So there you have it: chill out with the kale. Have it just during the winter, after it’s been frozen, and cook it so that it becomes soft, not dry and crispy.
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