It might be the darling of the health food world year-round, but kale is actually at its natural peak right about now, in early winter. In fact, after a heavy frost, the sugars in kale transform and make the plant even sweeter, softening some of the bitter, vegetal edge the greens can have when grown in warmer weather. If you’re prowling the farmer’s market at this time of year, you’ll see more of a variety of hearty, leafy greens like this, and you should take advantage of every last bit of kale season. (Also, we’re in that starch-and-dessert-heavy time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah right about now, and we know you’ve probably not been eating very many green things.) Even if you’re not the type that would eat kale chips on the side of your kale salad and wash it down with a kale smoothie, it can’t hurt to get a little bit of the cruciferous leaves into your life, especially when they’re at their peak. Here’s some of our favorite recipes for kale—from salads, to soups, to smoothies.
Like the chopped antipasti salad you’d find on an old-school red sauce restaurant’s menu, but with more kale and cabbage than meat and cheese. (But still with plenty of olives and tangy vinaigrette!)
Italians might also get mad at our suggestion that—gasp!—pesto can be made with anything other than basil, but let us tell you this kale pesto pasta salad is good. Make a big batch and it’s the kind of dish that holds up well in the fridge for days, making it the perfect make-ahead work lunch.
This kale salad is anything but boring, with a spicy chili, lime, and fish sauce dressing and crunchy fried kale and Brussels sprout leaves. (Watch out when frying those bad boys! They might spit.)
Cooked with chicken stock and then seasoned with Turkish Urfa pepper and lemon zest, this pilaf has way more going on than your average rice side dish.
Curly kale is maybe the last hurdle that lots of kale lovers have to cross in order to really embrace the green, since it takes a little more effort to make the leaves soft enough to be palatable. So don’t be shy—get your hands in there and give your greens a good rubbing to soften them up.
A simple but satisfying side salad for any night of the week, with a dressing recipe you’ll want to keep in a bottle in the fridge all the damn time.
Perfect your citrus supreme-ing skills for the extra sweet punch this raw shaved salad needs.
High-quality wagyu beef deserves a side dish better than your average steakhouse creamed spinach. Do kale two ways—pureed and in salad form—and give your fancy meat the fancy accompaniments it needs.
The kale salad accompanying this steak gets a funkier treatment, dressed with lemon, brown butter, and yuzu kosho, the Japanese fermented chili and yuzu orange spice mix.
This salad is basically what happens when the late fall/early winter farmer’s market is really popping off and you can’t resist buying a little bit of everything—Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots, kale, and frisée lettuce, all tossed in an apple cider-mustard vinaigrette.
This smoothie might get it’s Hulk-like hue from spirulina powder, but there’s also a half a bunch of kale per batch.
Caldo verde is a traditional Portuguese soup made with a whoooole bunch of leafy greens—kale, collard, or spinach all make appearances in different versions. This is chef Jose Garces' take on it, using kale right from our Brooklyn rooftop garden.
To stand up to the sweet maple-roasted squash, brandied cherries, and apple-bourbon vinaigrette, you’re going to want a mix of peppery baby arugula and tender baby kale for this salad.
All of your Thanksgiving leftovers on a pizza, with some soft cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale, strewn across the top like basil on a Margherita pizza.
This recipe works just as well with a braised flat-leaf kale, like Portuguese or Beira kale, which is so close of a cousin to the collard you can barely tell them apart with the naked eye.
Working on getting closer to that recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Start with this savory, cheesy breakfast porridge with braised greens and a soft-poached egg.