It doesn’t take too much eﬀort for us to start thinking about kale, one of the world’s most delicious and nutritious vegetables. So we were tickled green to discover Fifty Shades of Kale, by Drew Ramsey, MD and Chef Jennifer Iserloh. This clever pair ﬁrst teamed up to self publish their kale opus as an ebook, and last month HarperWave introduced a redesigned, four-color hardcover edition. This gorgeous cookbook introduces kale as the perfect kitchen seductress and shows how easy it is to make it a go-to ingredient for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks and yes, even desserts.
We recently caught up with the authors to learn a bit more about their bright and beautiful book.
OLDWAYS: When did you ﬁrst meet kale and what’s the story behind your love aﬀair?
DREW: I ﬁrst ate kale in Kenya in 1999. It is a traditional food there. But my kale craze started last summer. My favorite farmer at our West Village farmer’s market had 4-5 varieties. I started using kale with eggs for breakfast and making kale chips. Then kale became a muse for me and a perfect example of how food choices can impact health.
JENNIFER: The ﬁrst time I tried kale it was prepared by my aunt, who was really into macrobiotic cooking. It wasn’t my favorite preparation but when I started simply sautéing it with olive oil, garlic and sea salt, I was instantly hooked!
OLDWAYS: If you were cooking for someone who professes to hate kale, which recipe from the book would you choose for its persuasive charm?
DREW: The kale-onaise, the blueberry smoothie, or one of the amazing soups. People who hate kale are either 1) supertasters to whom all cruciferous veggies taste very bitter or 2) were traumatized by boiled kale when they were kids. Don’t boil kale.
JENNIFER: Kale chips are ideal for newbies, and kale-onaise is a must-have dip for seafood, chicken ﬁngers, and even chips.
OLDWAYS: How did working on this book change your thoughts about kale?
DREW: Working with Chef Jen, I got a new look at how versatile kale is in the kitchen. Kiwi and kale?! Delicious. The book also inspired us to launch National Kale Day this October 2 and I have a huge kale patch with 50 varieties of kale growing on my farm. Kale has really helped frame my thoughts about eating for health and the food system.
JENNIFER: I’ve always wanted to write a book with Dr. Drew to combine our love of healthy food and fun perspective on healthy living. We shot the book at his family farm where he grew up and the photographer Ian McSpadden is a childhood friend, fellow farmer, and bee keeper. Drew and I did the food styling and Drew’s parents did a herculean shopping trip so we could work quickly. I think the beauty of the book reﬂects how well we worked together. We all support local farming, appreciate good home cooking, and enjoy our happy hour after a long shoot day!
OLDWAYS: Have you discovered anything since the book came out that you wish you had included?
DREW: I wish we had compared kale to other greens. Any dark leafy green is a good choice, but I get lots of questions about swiss chard and spinach. Kale trumps both. I found a study that showed the calcium from kale is better absorbed than the calcium from milk.
JENNIFER: I wish we could have more shots of kale growing, and more varietals so people can see the magniﬁcent color variations. I think we need to do 50 Shades Part II so we can also include some step-by-step shots to show people how easy the recipes are to make.
OLDWAYS: What mistakes do you think people make in their ﬁrst encounters with kale?
DREW: They start with a raw salad and don’t chop the leaves ﬁnely, so it is too chewy.
JENNIFER: They overcook it so all the sulfur compounds are released which makes kale taste bad and ruins the texture. It also kills the nutrient load. Don’t ever boil kale, or any cruciferous veggie for that matter.
OLDWAYS: Can you share a few of your favorite kale prep tips?
DREW: Start with fresh kale from a farmer. I love to strip the stem as an easy way to separate the leaf.
JENNIFER: I “sear” it in a skillet like meat. Wash and dry the kale, remove the stems and save for soup. Rough chop. Add a high smoke point oil like canola, 1 tablespoon per 5 ounces. Toss in the kale and a pinch of salt. Press it down with a spatula for about 1 minute, until it browns, then ﬂip the kale. Cook another 1-2 minutes and serve. The browned bits are the tastiest!
Kale is amazing chopped in the food processor if you’re looking for a raw salad that isn’t chewy.
Kale Kiwi Gazpacho
This light and tangy gazpacho makes for a refreshing treat—and at just 110 calories per serving. Want to really turn up the heat? If you’re a
5 ounces kale, stemmed and chopped (about 5 cups)
2 kiwis, peeled and quartered
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 small jalapeño, quartered and seeded
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving.