I'm a fanatic for cold-weather greens, and kale is one of my favorites. It grows well just before the first frost and just after the last, making it seasonal in most places twice a year and available (if not local) almost all year round.
Kale grows into deep beautiful colors -- purplish red, glowing green and the warm blue lacinato -- that get more brilliant with cooking. It isn't as bitter as other winter greens. When cooked, the leaves hold their shape but go tender, making them perfect for long-simmering soups and stews.
Step 1: Wash and Dry the Kale
No matter how I'm using kale, I usually chop it. Here's what I do:
First I clean it by plunging the whole bunch into a big bowl of cold water. I then spread the leaves out on a large kitchen towel and roll them up into a cylinder. This dries the leaves and gives them a hospitable place to chill until I'm ready to use them.
Step 2: Cut Away the Stems
For most dishes I fold each leaf in half, then cut away and toss the stems. Sometimes I slice the stems into slivers and use them, too.
Step 3: The Cigar Roll
Next, working in batches of several leaves, I roll up the leaves like a cigar to consolidate them for easy chopping.
Step 4: Chop the Rolls
Finally, I chop across the rolled up leaves, coarsely for longer cooking, and into thin strips for shorter cooking.
Step 5: Cook With Kale
I cook kale all kinds of ways. Stirred into stews. Sauteed with white beans and lemon zest. Stir-fried with garlic, ginger and chiles. In soups with chicken, beans and vegetables.
My favorite way to cook kale pares it down to its essence: braised with a little water over medium high heat until tender, about 10 minutes, sprinkled with salt & pepper and red pepper flakes, drizzled with the best olive oil and vinegar in the vicinity, and eaten immediately.