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tips for sauteing kale

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hey, i have tried sauteing pretty much every bitter green out there. i like them all in general and i specifically remember really nailing it a few times with kale. but yesterday when i again tried it (first time in a few months) the product just wasnt too good. it wasnt bad at all, just not as full of flavor as that one memory...
i used coconut oil (prolly about 2-3 tablespoons) preheated in a good medhigh saute pan. tossed in some sliced garlic. let that become fragrant and the littlest bit brown, added the finely chopped (think chifinade) kale with freshly ground black pepper and tossed around to hopefully coat with the garlic oil mixture. covered with a lid and let saute/steam for one minute. tossed again to kind of redistribute everything and then covered and gave another minute of steaming. off the heat, at the very end, i drizzled a little bit of nice extra virgin olive oil and salted to taste only right before eating.

so, sounds good doesnt it? but it just didnt really have a flavorful taste. kale is pretty hearty...maybe i had to actually cook it more..? i try to always err on the side of undercooking, yknow? anyhow, tell me what im doing wrong!

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  1. i never use coconut oil. i would have started with olive oil, a bay leaf and some onions. in the meantime, rinse and chop the kale. squeeze dry, but some water clinging is ok. sautee the onion til fragrant. add the kale, some chopped garlic and a generous pinch of salt. toss to coat, cover or not. toss every few minutes and keep checking for doneness. when nearly done, add black pepper. you can finish it with some extra virgin and lemon zest, and check the seasonings again.

    in addition to the oil at the start, you can also add some white wine or chicken stock. or both.

    you need to salt greens in the beginning of cooking, not just at the end.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I sautee kale as hotoynoodle does with the omission of the bay leaf. However, about halfway through the cooking I set seasoned cod or halibut steaks on top of the kale and let them steam till done. The juices of the fish flavors the kale, and vice versa.

    2. im glad that you said that. see, i had actually avoided salting till the very end on purpose becuase i thought that adding the salt at the beginning would cause too much water to leak out of the kale (or any green) and create too much of a steaming environment. i think ill try this again today and see what happens. thanks for the tips tho.

      1. I’d agree with everything hotoynoodle says and add this....

        I almost always add some vinegar to greens when I cook them. Doesn’t need to be a lot, (you don’t need to make it “about” the vinegar), just a shot or two will really make a difference.

        I also usually throw in some crushed red pepper flakes, but that’s far from necessary.

        Uncle Ira

        1. I'd cook it a little longer. Kale is very tough. Try sauteeing and steaming it for another minute each.

          1. My favorite variety for sauteeing is cavolo nero. I like regular Kale for soup only. Here's a bunch I used this weekend for the cookbook of the month project! YUM!!


            Anyway, my typical way to prepare is to lubricate the pan with one cut up bacon or table spoon of chopped panchetta. Then under lowish heat, just fold it into each other as it is about to wilt. I find this helps with the evaporation of the liquid and keeps it from turning brown.

            One trick David posted on Carb Lover's Kale soup post for the CBotM was to trim the stem which then just leaves you with the leafy goodness... I will for SURE do that next time I make Kale. :)


            1. with most greens, i wilt them first in a pot that has a little salted boiling water in the bottom. once they're wilted, remove them and let cool. meanwhile, sautee a lot of sliced garlic in olive oil. squeeze & wring the kale to remove any excess water, then roughly chop it up and add it to the oil & garlic, sautee all for a few minutes with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, S&P to taste.
              the double cooking / extra water removal method always yields very flavorful results for me.

              1. thanks everyone! no time today but tomorrow im on try #2!