Lacinato Kale is a popular vegetable, not just because of its impressive nutritional profile of vitamins and fiber, but because it's an incredibly versatile leafy green. When prepared properly, it's delicious cooked or raw, as an element in soups, and salads, and can even be baked until crispy for kale chips!
But how much do you know about this wonder green? Here are some basics, a bit of history, and 10+ great recipes to try.
What is lacinato kale?
Lacinato kale is a dark blue-green, heirloom variety of Kale that has been enjoyed in Italy since the 18th century. It goes by many names: dinosaur kale (said to resemble what dinosaur skin may have looked like), Italian or Tuscan kale, and cavolo nero (which translates literally to 'black cabbage' in Italian, as it's a member of the cabbage family).
What is the difference between kale and lacinato kale?
Lacinato kale is a cruciferous vegetable among many others (like Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collards). Its flavorful leaves tend to be sweeter and more delicate than other kale varieties, like curly kale (the most common variety, pictured below), and Red Russian kale.
How to Buy:
When you buy Lacinato kale, look for dark blue-green leaves, without brown spots or wilted edges. The stem ends should look recently cut, not brown or dry. Smaller leaves, are more tender and their stems and ribs may need very little if any trimming.
You'll find it it most grocery stores, but it will likely be fresher if you can find it at your local farmer's market.
How to Store:
Make sure that your Lacinato kale leaves are dry before transferring them to a zip-top plastic bag or grocery store produce bag. Store bunches in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator where they will stay fresh for 5-7 days.
How to Prepare:
It's important to wash Lacinato kale leaves well before cooking as grit tends to hide in the leaves many bumps and folds. For a small bunch, rinse both sides of each leaf under cold water.
If you're washing a lot of kale at once, it's best to remove the stems and center ribs (optional - see below) and coarsely chop the leaves or cut them into ribbons and submerse in water. Slosh the kale leaves around to allow the grit to drift to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the kale out and transfer to a strainer. (Never pour the kale and the water used to rinse it directly into a strainer, as you'll end up pouring all the grit that's fallen to the bottom right over your clean kale!)
Should you eat kale stems?
Though kale stems and ribs are edible, but can be tough. They are typically removed by running a sharp knife along the stem and center rib to separate the leaf. (see video / image below for how to cut away the rib and stem). If the stems and center ribs are tender, they're often sweet and crunchy and can be finely cut into ribbons for use in salads and soups. (The center ribs on smaller leaves are often tender and can be left intact.)
If you don't want to discard the stems, you can cook them separately from the leaves or add them to stocks that will be strained. To cook the stems, finely chop and cook along with other recipe base aromatics like onion and garlic, so that they are sautéed long enough to become tender.
Can you eat lacinato kale raw?
Lacinato is a great choice for making kale salad. It's best to cut the leaves crosswise into thin ribbons or tear into bite size pieces. Then massage with a pinch of salt or fresh lemon juice to soften and season the leaves before dressing them and adding other ingredients. In the images below you'll see how the kale softens and turns a deeper shade of green when massaged.
How to Cook Lacinato Kale
The simplest way to cook trimmed, chopped lacinato kale is to cook and stir it along with minced fresh garlic in olive oil until tender and then season with salt. This makes a wonderful side dish to almost any preparation of meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
Raw kale is also a great addition to many soups (it's a typical ingredient in the classic Tuscan soup: Ribollita). In as little as 5 minutes it will be tender enough to eat, yet holds its texture for long simmering times and reheating.