Kale can be an overlooked ingredient that adds pleasant bitterness to a dish, thus creating a bridge of harmony to red wine.
Bitterness is a taste sensation I enjoy both in food and in wine. Black olives, walnuts, spinach and radicchio are all ingredients I put into salads, along with fresh rosemary and blue cheese. I also particularly love kale.
Kale, part of the cabbage family, is an autumn and winter vegetable and a seasonal ingredient that can be highlighted in any dish – a salad, soup or entrée. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
It is believed that kale cultivation reaches as far back as fourth century BC in Greece.
During World War II kale was a popular addition to the British Victory Gardens. In 1939, the same year Britain and France declared war on Germany, the British government distributed a pamphlet called Dig for Victory. The pamphlet taught people how they were to dig, plant and harvest vegetables. Kale was among the long list of vegetables suggest, along with potatoes, carrot, turnip, parsnip, onions, tomatoes, shallots, cabbage, broccoli and beets, to name but a few.
This dark leafy green is an anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory super food containing sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have anti-cancer properties, as well. Kale is packed with fiber, folic acid, calcium and vitamins C, A, K and E.
The leaves are quite hard and so need to be blanched, sautéed, braised or even puréed for an extended period. Do not boil the leaves as this reduces their healthy properties, unless you intend to use the boiling liquid in your recipe. Try to incorporate about 1 ½ cups of kale into each serving per person.
Due to its hardness, kale actually freezes well. In fact, freezing makes the leaves slightly sweeter. To prepare kale remove and discard its tough center stalks. Even without the stalks kale can be chewy. I chop up the stems quite small so they are not as tough.
Kale adds great balance and depth to any dish and pairs especially well with garlic, lemon and olive oil. The lemon helps to balance the taste sensation of its bitterness.
If you’re preparing kale with garlic, lemon and olive oil, partner the dish with a crisp dry white wine. Lemon is sour and so demands a wine with tart acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc has refreshing acidity on the front palate. But as you swallow this white, bitterness sneaks up from behind on the mid, but mostly back palate. It is this piquant finish that almost neutralizes the bitterness in kale, thus creating harmony on the palate between the wine and food.
Full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon have a bitter aftertaste, sometimes soft and sometimes strong, due to their tannin and astringency, making them equal partners to dishes highlighting kale. Cabernet Sauvignon would work well with risotto with kale, bacon and parmesan. The bitterness from the vegetable, saltiness from the bacon and parmesan will tame the big tannins in a red Bordeaux fermented grape.
Braised kale with pancetta and caramelized onions has so much depth of flavour that this dish demands a big red wine. The saltiness of pancetta and bitterness from the kale works nicely with a red offering forward fruit flavours and soft tannin on the finish. Try Zinfandel or Shiraz. The sweetness from the caramelized onions would clash slightly with a red wine offering too much austerity like a Cabernet. Go for fruity, big reds.
Supertasters, those with very sensitive palates, often dislike bitter foods like kale and big, austere red wines. But that’s why it is important for supertasters to find ways to enjoy both. Kale and wine offer nutritional values that should not be ignored.
Kale, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Risotto
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Category: EVERYTHING FOOD AND WINE