Kale is one of my favorite vegetables. Growing up, I thought it was delightfully sweet, mainly because of the melted butter my mother poured over it. This was long before studies revealed the unhealthy effects of saturated fat. Once I knew changing the type of fat and reducing the amount was essential, I began trying other ways to prepare kale.

The challenge was finding pleasing ones, since this vegetable's basic flavor is - let's face it - strong and somewhat bitter. Pursuing good-tasting, healthy ways to enjoy kale, I eventually discovered that one dish, caldo verde, a stew-like Portuguese soup, captivated everyone.

The secret is combining kale with a variety of other ingredients, particularly beans, potatoes, or pasta - or even all of them. Ideally, this technique is used in dishes that simmer for a while, because kale becomes sweeter as well as more tender as it cooks. A bit of acid from vinegar, lemon juice, or tomatoes also helps make kale more appealing to conservative palates.

Another trick is to remove all of the hard, central vein running from the stem up the leaf, so the cooked kale is all meltingly tender, particularly if using the long, plume-shaped variety called lacinata, dinosaur, or cavolo nero.

Despite its list of ingredients, this Portuguese dish is simple to make because everything goes straight into the pot and simmers into a rustic blend of nicely-balanced flavors.

Content Continues Below ⤵ ↷

Braised Kale with Black Beans and Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings as a side dish or 2 as a main course.

  • 1 bunch kale (about 8-10 leaves)*
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 large or 6 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 can (15 1/2 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the hard, central vein of each kale leaf. Stacking 3 to 4 leaves at a time, cut them crosswise into half-inch strips. Rinse in a colander or sieve and shake well, leaving some moisture clinging to leaves.
  2. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saut� onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add kale and mix until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Add beans and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until kale is tender, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve as a side dish or over brown rice for a main course.

    *Lacinata, also called "dino (dinosaur) kale" or cavolo nero, is the best choice, but any kale, including curly green and red Russian, can be used.

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
177 calories,
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
28 g. carbohydrate,
10 g. protein,
8 g. dietary fiber,
591 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Meat, 1 Bread/Starch, 2 Vegetable