We need to talk about kale

By Mir
January 8, 2016

Well I, myself, need to talk about kale. Maybe you don’t. But you’re here and I do, so we’re going to talk about kale.

[Possible alternatives to talking about kale: Talking about the fact that I just got 10″ of hair chopped off and now I have no idea how the hell to manage my hair, because even though I was tired of just putting it up in a massive bun every day, that doesn’t mean I’ve figured out how to do an actual hairstyle ever in my life; talking about the fact that my kids are going on yet another school trip and this morning when I was trying to assist Monkey with his packing he got RIGHTEOUSLY PISSED OFF at me for not letting him do it on his own and it was so age-appropriate but also so aggravating that I had to hide in my office to both take some deep breaths and giggle; talking about how Duncan is ONCE AGAIN becoming allergic to the food he’s eating and I’m switching the dogs to another option, but in the meantime he is itchy and unhappy and his ears smell like cheese. In other words: You really wanna hear me talk about kale.]

Kale is stupid. I mean, I know not everyone is into salads, but I happen to quite like salad-things, and I love, like really LOVE spinach (honest and for true), but kale continues to infuriate me. I KNOW it’s a superfood, I KNOW it’s good for me, blah blah blah, yes, got it. Still: kale is stupid. Kale mocks me with its pretentiousness. Kale can be made palatable but it is SO MUCH WORK and in the end, what? You’ve found a cure for cancer? Celebrated a job well done? Helped the homeless?? No. You’ve eaten some kale. Whoop-de-do.

You know how we (the royal we; we as a society) are always talking about how healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy ones? Kale is more expensive than Twinkies, yes, we get it. A bunch of kale is even a lot more expensive than a bag of mostly iceberg lettuce. But it’s not just that it’s more expensive—it’s way more WORK.

I’m trying to be healthier in the new year, like everyone else in the world. The holiday season may have brought me a little more chocolate and cheese and wine than was, strictly speaking, healthy. So it’s time to get back to being conscientious about my health, or at least about my ability to fit into my pants. Details.

So this is me, grocery shopping: Here I am in produce. I shall buy bananas and apples and pears and oranges and onions and garlic and peppers and spinach and… hey, maybe I should buy some kale. I think I saw some good kale salad recipes online. Sure, I have a vague memory of kale being a pain in the ass, but I’m a big girl, I can handle it. Yes. BUNCH O’ KALE IT IS!

I brought my groceries home and put everything away and felt like a productive human. The next day I rummaged around in my freezer, extracted a hunk of meat large enough to feed a small army, plopped it into the crock pot at breakfast-time and patted myself on the back. Later that evening I roasted some potatoes and braised some red cabbage to with it, and dinner was DELICIOUS. I was very impressed with myself. (I am easily impressed, especially when it comes to food.)

The day after that, we ate leftovers.

The next day, I remembered the kale. Oh, right. I bought kale. Kale is stupid. I looked at some recipes online; I rummaged around in the freezer and pantry; I formulated my game plan. That night, I took the kale out of the fridge. I carefully swished each leaf around in a giant bowl of cold water to remove any dirt and sand. (This took about fifteen minutes.) I lined up the clean leaves on a fresh kitchen towel so that they could dry. Then I gathered up my other ingredients and set to work cutting up artichoke hearts and cooking them in some garlic and lemon and various spices. Once that was done, I checked to see if the kale was dry. It was not, because kale is curly and stupid and I had to get ANOTHER towel to finish drying it off. (Another five minutes.) Then I started cutting the center stems out of the leaves and ripping up the usable bits and chucking them into a bowl. (This took another six hours. Or maybe twenty minutes. It’s all a bit fuzzy.) Once all the kale was ready in my big bowl, I seasoned it, tossed it with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and MASSAGED THE LEAVES because the Internet told me to (and also that that would make it more palatable). (That was maybe another ten minutes.) After that, I added my artichoke mixture, some dried cranberries, some sliced almonds (ALMOOOOOOOOOONDS!!!!!), a little more seasoning, and tossed it all together. I tasted it. It was… not bad. Not the best thing I ever made, but palatable.

I then placed the bowl containing the salad back in the fridge while I made the remainder of the meal.

The rest of the meal? Cheese ravioli for my gluten-eaters (a frozen bag of ravioli added to boiling water because I’m a GOURMET) tossed in tomato sauce (jarred sauce, because we have used up all the sauce I made this summer), and some sautéed beef sausage for those of us who eat meat. Grand total of time spent on LITERALLY EVERY COMPONENT OF THIS MEAL WHICH WAS NOT KALE SALAD: 10 minutes.

When I called the family to dinner, having set out a line of salad, ravioli, and sausage, the children regarded the salad with deep suspicion. “Just taste it,” I said. “Monkey, you LIKE kale!” It’s true—Monkey’s never met a leafy green he didn’t like. He took a smallish amount of salad, while Chickie assured me that she couldn’t possibly, she doesn’t like kale, she has never liked kale, kale ruined her life, etc. Otto also took a small amount of salad.

I had a giant bowl kale salad for dinner. I spent half my life making that damn salad, I was gonna eat a large quantity of salad. (Also: I couldn’t have the ravioli. Stupid wheat.) And as I said, already: It was fine. Not bad.

Monkey carefully ate around everything ELSE in the salad, devouring the kale and leaving all of the almonds, cranberries, and artichoke hearts on his plate. Otto ate his portion but didn’t look too happy about it. Chickadee spent a full five minutes soliloquizing about how artichoke hearts are the devil’s work.

In the end, there was just enough salad left over for me to have it again for breakfast this morning. I know, that’s weird. But I was not going to waste this when it took so much time, plus I am pretty sure Oprah promised me it would make me sexy.


The salad in question, looking stupid, as it does.

So it was fine. But was it worth all of that prep? I’m not sure it was. I don’t always have an hour+ to make a salad, people. If I’m going to spend that kind of time cooking, it had better yield a cheesecake, or at least something that makes me say, “Oh, this is really good,” rather than something that makes me say, “This… isn’t the worst thing I ever ate.”

1200+ words later and I probably could’ve just stopped at “kale is stupid.”


  1. alexa

    Here’s a faster kale salad that my husband and I love. Not much of a salad, but take some kale tear off a bunch of bite size pieces run them through the salad spinner. They don’t have to be 100% dry. Toss them in a big ziplock bag, squeeze in a lemon and some olive oil, add salt and pepper. Then massage and mangle in the bag for a few minutes. Maybe whilst urging your children to do their homework…its therapeutic. All done! 5-8 minutes max. Bright and fresh.

    I tend to eat it with a pasta dish like my husband’s meat sauce and the next day will usually just put the meat sauce on the kale instead of noodles and just microwave the whole thing. It gets a little softer when heated up. I’ll also nuke it with a sweet potato and a left over BBQ chicken thigh. After I make it I usually just keep the ziplock bag of it in the fridge and add a handful to whatever meal I’m eating (not breakfast) for something green and light.

    I’ve gotten so I’m not crazy about any kind of sautéed kale, but I love it all mangled with a lemon dressing.

  2. StephMA

    I just had a conversation about kale before reading this. I like kale. I have been eating it since way before it was trendy. Mainly in soup. I remember the days when I could not commit to making my favorite Portuguese soup until AFTER I knew I could buy some. In those days it came frozen or cut up in a cellophane bag. No whole leaves tied together, except maybe at a farm stand.

    That said …. Kale is way overdone these days! And although I have tried several times I absolutely cannot put it in a smoothie and drink it done. The scent, the bits of leaves and the color do me in!

    I feel your kale pain ;)

  3. Tenessa

    I was in charge of cooking Christmas dinner for my husband’s family, and my go to for the “day after” meal is to use the leftover ham bone in a stew. Well, there are people on my husband’s side of the family who are vegan so ham bone stew won’t fly. I decided to make another stew I love that’s easy and amazingly flavorful for such a simple meal. It’s this white bean and kale stew ( http://www.marthastewart.com/1050688/white-bean-and-kale-stew ). It really is good and those vegans? They hate kale. But turns out, this soup had them singing another tune. (I left out the Parmesan rind in the vegan version I made). If you ever feel the hankering to give kale another shot, try this.

  4. Ani

    Kale-potato-kielbasa casserole. Healthy? Nah. Tasty…oh yeah.

  5. Lisa

    Two words: salad spinner ;-)

  6. Genevieve

    I like leafy greens a lot: everything from arugula to chard, spinach to watercress. I cannot like kale – I have tried a bunch of times, prepared different ways. Which means half the salads in restaurants are off the menu now. (That plus I don’t like beets or brussels sprouts – thank goodness cauliflower has become trendy so there’s a veggie I like on many menus).

    Is kale really all that much healthier than greens that don’t need to be massaged, broken down, and denuded of sand?

    • Jodie

      Points for using denuded! (former English teacher here)

    • Rachael

      Former brussels sprout hater here. Until I cut ’em in half, coated them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them in a 350 degree oven until slightly charred. Easy, unlike kale. I like kale chips, but so not worth the time.

      • Carrie

        Late to the party, BUT I refused to contemplate brussels sprouts until I cooked them this way, then drizzled them with some good balsamic vinegar and a little bit of honey. As it turns out, I like brussels spouts A LOT, properly prepared. A my nine year old who hates all veggies… asks for brussels spouts and brags that they are her favorite veggie!

  7. el-e-e

    The kale chips I attempted last week were definitely stupid. They were NOT just like potato chips, which is what the interwebs wanted me to believe. I call foul, PINTEREST.

  8. Sarahd

    I’ve only bought kale frozen (good as a substitute for any recipe requiring frozen spinach; and CHEAP) or already washed and trimmed in a bag (not so cheap). Why? Because the idea of MASSAGING

  9. Nelson's Mama

    I had a really good kale salad at Cheesecake Factory yesterday; I’m thinking that the cheesecake that followed negated the kale.

    Check on Apoquel for Duncan. It’s a new allergy drug for dogs, Nelson can’t take it because he’s on steroids, but some dogs are seeing good results. :)

  10. Sarah Heat

    Salad spinner? Chop it up and then put it in a salad spinner.

  11. Sarahd

    my produce made me stabby! If I don’t get a massage, neither do the greens!

  12. Jodie

    Ok, so you’re doing kale wrong. You buy the pre-cut, pre-washed stuff. Secondly, you should add it to your chilis and stews. I HATE Kale in salads, but really like it in soups and stews. It holds up much better (actually, it holds up texture well!) in crock pots and cooking all day makes the flavor rich vs. bitter.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY – you haven’t done a hair post in AGES! First – let’s see a picture of just how long this hair had gotten. Second, what’s the new cute? Many of us remember the great hair grow out of a few years ago ;)

  13. Jean

    Hair is wayyyyy more important that kale. And it looks beautiful :)

    However, I am not a fan of kale. I mean it is fine. If there is something on the salad bar with kale I will eat it, but really? I am not a huge fan of it. I would stick with spinach and stuff that is easier :)

  14. Arnebya

    I’ve never once been interested in a kale salad, but thanks for making sure I never will be. My middle daughter loves kale chips, but I’ve never actually mastered making them, so it’s always sort of warm sort of but not fully crispy kale with sea salt. I like kale, I do. I just tend to steam it mixed in with collards in some chicken broth.

  15. Laura

    I feel the same way you did (though I got the chopped bag kale because it is easier) and I think quinoa is the dish of Satan but I forced myself to eat it because yay, superfood. All that changed when I had the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with almonds at Panera. It is now the only way I will eat kale or quinoa. Worth EVERY penny. I get chicken on it and feel so healthy and virtuous and totally deserving of one of those pecan braids they sell.

  16. Karen

    I have tried kale so many times and so many ways that it isn’t allowed even NEAR our house by the hubs!

  17. Caz

    You’re making it way too much work…
    First, for salads I tend to prefer the dinosaur/black/latcino kale to curly kale (which is better for kale chips and sautéing). Also there is less crevices for sand to hide, although the kale I buy (admittedly from Whole Foods in Canada) is never really sandy.

    As for washing I tend to just hold the bunch by the stems and shove the leaves under the running faucet for 10 seconds or so and then chuck it in the dish drainer for a bit to drip dry. Except for kale chips, wet kale isn’t much of a problem.

    To remove the leaves from the stalks (with both curly or black kale) I just hold the stem with one hand and run my other over it, pulling the leaves off. Kind of like how you would de-stem rosemary or thyme etc. Then I chop instead of tear.

    Finally, as others have said, massage kale in a bag (I just use a produce bag I don’t mind throwing out after) to save your hands but again with black kale I often skip this step.

    My recent favourite salad is black kale, granny smith apple, carrots, toasted hazelnuts and pecorino grated on top with a shallot vinagrette. Can also add bacon and/or dates but vegetarians meant I skipped this.

  18. Carolyn

    I buy pre-washed Kale. Sautee it with olive oil and salt/pepper. It is delicious!

  19. Carla Hinkle

    Seriously I only ever buy the pre-washed, trimmed, bagged kale. It is $$ but my time is worth SOMETHING and I am not massaging my vegetables. Nope.

    • Carmen

      Hear hear. My favourite is the pre-bagged salad at Costco with kale, chicory, broccoli, thin slices of Brussels Sprouts & dried cranberries. Then I can feel all righteous for eating such a healthy salad with KALE! and Brussels Sprouts! but without having to put any effort into it at all. :)

      Also, I have never heard of massaging kale. If this is a requirement, then I agree: kale is stupid.

  20. Therese

    This just made me laugh! Especially the part about the time involved should result in cheesecake or something.

  21. Diane

    I bought a bag of frozen, tiny-chopped kale. I throw it in my knock-off Olive Garden zuppa Toscana instead of spinach or whatever the heck green thing is in the original, sometimes add enough to pasta sauce to make me feel virtuous without changing the flavor (and scrambled eggs and similar things where you can hide the flavor) and sometimes make a kale-orrichette-parmesan dish with it.

    The frozen stuff is no good for salad, but at least I can say I eat kale :)

  22. Chris

    I have never “massaged” my kale. That’s just… No. But I do quickly rinse, then cut, and then soak it quickly in my salad spinner, dump the water, and then spin until it’s dry enough. One of my favorite recipes for kale (& a great way to get people who are all “Kale to the No” to eat it) is here: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2015/01/twice-baked-spaghetti-squash-with-kale.html
    It definitely needs additional seasoning IMO so I add chopped red and poblano peppers to it. I also skip putting everything back in the skillet and or doing the kale in the skillet at all and just mix in my baking dish. Easy and delicious.

  23. Kendra

    I’m the Duncan front have you tried kangaroo. Dogs are rarely exposed to it so most wth good allergies can eat it. I’m Canada it’s available at the vets office.

    Also the only way to eat kale is to juice it!

    • Mir

      Oh yes, we’ve gone that route. It didn’t seem to help. We’re trying a fish formulation, right now. Fingers crossed.

  24. Jess @ Fashion By Committee

    I love kale!!! In exactly 2 recipes. Recipes that require neither massaging nor drying (and I exclusively buy the pre washed, pre chopped, pre everything kale, so no hassle there, either). If I don’t get massages, then my vegetables sure as hell don’t either. Here are the two recipes:

    Sausage, kale, and quinoa cider skillet:


    Kale and Wild Rice Bowls with Honey Balsamic Dressing (the important parts are the grain, the kale, and the dressing – everything else is negotiable)


    • Pamela

      Ingredients for that second recipe are now on my grocery list.

  25. Jeanie

    I’m a fan of veggies and do love my greens. I believe the only time I’ve eaten kale was when I added it to a Portuguese bean/soup recipe. Honestly? I don’t think it added a thing. And a “massaged” kale salad just kind of turns my stomach. Wouldn’t it be the sweat and oils from your hands that wilts the kale? Ugh.

  26. Katherine

    DH made a tasty black eyed peas and kale soup/stew/dish for New Years Day (pleasing my traditional Southern mom who insists they must both be eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck). He used chorizo in it, but I’m sure it could be done vegetarian (even if not quite as tasty to me). I’m not generally big on greens, but I like them in stews. And this recipe seemed pretty easy.
    I also vote for hair pics.

  27. shan

    Until reading this post and the comments, I had NO idea kale was so hated. I actually really love it, in all kinds of ways – salads, smoothies, soups, sauteed, raw even. The kale in my area must not be all that sandy because it’s never really been an issue for me. And I’ve definitely never bothered with drying it off completely, I just give it a shake over the sink and call it good. But I’ve been enjoying all the kale recipes links, so I guess that means I’m kinda glad you decided to hate on stupid kale today. :)

  28. Brigitte

    Ha, much opinionage on kale! While logically I don’t think it’s the culprit, I can’t eat it because it was the last thing I ate before I had a major case of food poisoning. Ugh, the mere thought sets off a twinge in my guts! I do other greens, though, usually sauteed with garlic, lemon and olive oil, or chopped up in soup.

  29. AJ

    Easy kale recipe off my invention…a sort of fried rice. Great for lunch.
    Grab a few stalks of kale. Rinse under running water. Use small paring knife to cut greens away from stems. Tear up and toss greens into salad spinner. Chop greens after spinning.

    Brown 1/4 lb of ground turkey. Remove turkey from wok. Add bit of olive oil and then kale to same pan. Add a splash of water and briefly saute. Toss in warm leftover rice and cooked ground turkey. Stir well. Liberally add ground salt and pepper.

    (I substitute thinly sliced Brussels sprouts for kale if I have those on hand.)

  30. Cran

    I avoided kale until I started getting it in my CSA box. Found a salad recipe that requires no massaging or tearing (but some chopping). It is very simple and dressed with a lovely peanutty dressing. The best part is that you can eat the leftovers the next day without any worries of sogginess. Here’s the link: http://www.thekitchn.com/autumn-salad-recipe-kale-slaw-99767

  31. Beth

    I think your kale instructions were somebody’s idea of a practical joke. Massage? Really?

    My son’s favorite is sauted kale, which also has the advantage of not requiring you to remove every drop of water (???). Garlic and kale, saute until dinner is ready. Maybe add some salt.

    I mean, I could give you instructions that would make boiling raviolis time consuming. After all, sorting them for blemishes alone can take twenty minutes. And then you have to line them up in exact order of size, and drop them in the water from largest to smallest. And the water — first fill the pot with hot water, then dump that water and refill with cold, adding the water 1/3 at a time and swirling it around the pot to acclimate. Then bring to a boil and start adding your sorted ravioli. Make sure you stand on one foot while adding the ravioli while whistling an Italian aria. To drain, quickly weave a strainer out of small bamboo shoots and leaves. Bon appetite!

    • 12tequilas

      Love this, Beth.

  32. Lizneust

    Cooked kale = yum!
    Raw kale = ick.

  33. dad

    Girl, you can spin a story about anything!

    Making something out of nothing is even harder than making something out of kale and makes me laugh out loud.

  34. skubitwo

    dude, you’re southern. it’s a leafy green. you saute it in bacon grease and put bacon on it and a splash of vinegar, just like spinach, and then biscuits to sop up the pot likker.
    actually, i grow the russian or red kale which is less bitter and loves the high alpine tundra of the part of wyoming i now live in. it’s pretty good in indian curries, or soups, or used in place of spinach, or in addition to spinach, in just about any dish. but, kale chips are just silly.
    the russian kale is better in a salad than any other breed of kale as it is smaller and less bitter and less stringy, but i still blend it with other greens for a salad. for me, the main feature is it can handle our much cooler temps and early frosts with relative ease.
    i massaged it once, and decided that was also silly. if anything needs massaging, it’s me over my vegies.

  35. sassymonkey

    I actually really like kale salad. I just buy a bit bunch of kale, rip it off the stems, dump in a salad spinner to clean and then spin until dry. Then I dump in a big bowl, add a bit of olive oil and crunch it all up until it changes colour (my version of a massage). I just stick the whole bowl in the fridge where it keeps for days. I like it really simple with a lemony vinaigrette. (Kale needs lemon. It just does.)

    And now I want kale salad. I might need to buy kale today.

  36. Karen B

    I will mention that I have tried multiple kale recipes because I’m so sure that I’ve done something wrong because while it was not terrible it was never AMAZING. Kale is the overhyped movie of the vegetable world.

  37. liz

    Buy the pre-washed, and then dump it in a skillet with garlic and butter until it wilts.

  38. Daisy

    I grow kale because it’s pretty. Occasionally, I add a leaf to a salad or feed a leaf to the pet rabbit. Spend money on it? Nope. Growing it from seed is cheaper and leads to less waste and fewer guilt feelings.

  39. Wendy

    Hi Mir. Long time, no comment. ;)

    You’ve probably got more kale recipes than you could wish for at this point, but there is one way and one way only I will eat Kale and that is in soup. Specifically, a copycat of Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. And to top that off, I’ve made it so it takes exactly 5 minutes of prep total on my part to make the whole soup. Because I hate cooking things.

    1 bag of Potatoes O’Brien (near the french fries. chunks of potato with peppers and onion)
    1 bunch Stupid Kale
    1 package ground hot italian sausage
    1 box thing of chicken broth
    Milk, half and half, or cream – your choice. We prefer whole milk for this recipe

    Brown the sausage, poor in the broth and the potatoes. Add the milk. heat to just below a boil and then let simmer for a bit (15 minutes is usually fine. just enough to mix the flavors and heat the frozen potato mixture).
    after 15 minutes of simmering, rinse the kale and then I usually just hold it by the stem and run my knife down the stem away from my, which cuts off the leaves and is kind of fun. Then chop the kale with the knife because it’s easier than ripping it and we’re not food snobs in my house. Then, because it’s going in soup, no one cares if it’s wet. Additionally, we rinse it by just tossing it in a sink full of water and then swishing it. Weee!

    At any rate, at the stupid kale to the stupid soup. Heat for 2-3 minutes (just enough to get the kale a bit tender, but you don’t want it mooshy because mooshy stupid kale is gross stupid kale).

    Serve. Add a dollop of butter or a wee bit of parm to the top. Season with salt and pepper as desired at any point in any of the above.

    Super easy soup in 20-30 minutes with very little prep time. My favorite kind. Add some crusty bread for the gluten eaters.
    It reheats well too, even with the stupid kale.

  40. Wendy

    FYI – the above is an adaptation of this slow cooker version (even better! But I can never remember to set it up before I leave for work). I could never find the simply potatoes she uses so used the potatoes o’brien


  41. Michelle

    Add me to the ‘not fond of kale’ list, however I buy it cut and frozen and sneak it in where ever I can just because I’m like that. Definitely more expensive but I’d rather spend my time reading than bathing and massaging a leafy green so I consider it an all around win.

  42. Jamie

    This is the Zuppa Toscana version I use. Sorry if this is a repeat, I didn’t read all the comments yet. Though the one using O’Brien potatoes sounds interesting!

    Other than this, I’ve made a stupid kale salad once, with wild rice and an orange vinaigrette and it was tasty. But I’ve never made it again…


  43. jessica fantastica

    BABY Kale. I get it mixed with (baby) chard and (baby) spinach and some weird lettuce I can never remember. It’s called Power Greens from Kroger. But I’ve seen other brands with similar naming. Works in salads, smoothies, sautees!

  44. Wendalette

    Yeah…I grew up in a “pick your own” farm visiting family, and my summer’s were full of curly kale. The eating part, I think I was okay with. The washing part, not so much. BUSHELS of kale, with millions of curly edges where sand, worms, caterpillars, and my nemesis (nemeses?), hundreds of aphids could and did hide, and I could never get them quite perfectly clean, which was itself a horror for a vegan 12-year-old. By the time I was 16, I didn’t eat kale unless it was the store-brought frozen kind.
    Fast-forward to recent years and pre-washed, bagged greens. Yay! I still rinse them well before cooking or salading, though. Just in case.
    But all that to share this tip for non-massaged salad. After the rinse, drain the greens a bit in a colander, then turn on the HOT water and give those greens a quick hit with the hot water, just enough to Wilt them slightly. I like to think a hot shower can be almost as relaxing as a massage. :-)

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