Kale has become a popular vegetable in recent years due to its outstanding health benefits. It is rich in a large number of vitamins and minerals, along with essential antioxidants. Because it is also affordable, it may be the most important vegetable to receive the superfood label.
Before it became trendy, kale was also one of the more popular vegetables in Central Europe because of its ability to thrive in low temperatures. As a result, many of the popular ways to cook it and the ingredients used to season it are European. Here is a look at some of those seasonings with this list of the best spices for kale.
With its pungent earthy notes and strong nuttiness, garlic adds an intense umami kick to kale. Garlic is a feature of many of the classic methods for cooking kale. You will see it in German and Portuguese recipes that feature this member of the Brassica family. Use it whether you are sauteing the kale or making garlic chips. Not only does garlic enhance the flavor of kale, but it also pairs well with the other kale seasonings below.
Strongly flavored greens are often better with sources of acid, which is why collard greens are traditionally served with vinegar. The acidity of the citrus helps to cut the bitterness of the greens. That principle is one of the factors that makes lemon just such a great accompaniment to kale. Squeeze half a lemon over a plate of sauteed kale before eating it or use lemon juice in your dressing for a kale salad.
Red pepper flakes
While some varieties of kale such as curly kale can have a bitter note, others like lacinato kale may be milder-tasting and in need of a flavor-boost. The moderate spiciness of red pepper flakes is great for adding a subtle spicy kick. Use it to flavor the oil when sauteing or stir-frying kale or sprinkle over the cooked kale at the table. Pepper flakes are also great on kale chips or as a seasoning for a kale soup. Gochugaru is a good alternative if you don’t have regular pepper flakes on hand.
If red pepper flakes are a little too spicy for you, black pepper can deliver a milder spark. Fresh ground black pepper is best if you want to maximize the flavor. You can add it as the kale is being cooked or at the table. Black pepper works with different kale cooking methods. It is an excellent seasoning for sauteed kale or kale chips.
Extra virgin olive oil
You can use extra virgin olive oil to lightly saute kale, or you can add it on as a dressing to steamed or raw kale. In any case, the grassy notes of the oil will complement the heavy flavor of curly kale or add to the relatively light flavor of lacinato or red Russian kale. Extra virgin olive oil also makes an excellent dressing for a kale salad and is great in kale pesto. If you are making kale chips in the oven, it should also be the first oil you consider.
You will often see mustard included in classic European dishes that feature kale, such as the German grunkohl und pinkel (kale with sausage). The tanginess of the mustard can work like the acidity of lemon juice and help to mitigate the bitterness. Dijon and whole-grain mustard are both excellent options.