Like kale? Then this recipe for pasta with kale pesto, chicken and roasted tomatoes is for you

Kale

Source: Pond5

Want to improve your health? Eat kale. I confess that I tried it once and didn’t like it. Turns out it wasn’t cooked properly.

But I’m committed to improving my overall health, so I decided to try it one more time.

What is kale?

Kale is a leafy green vegetable. It belongs to the Brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

What’s so special about kale?

  • Contains nutrients that protect against macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects against heart disease, cancer, and certain chronic diseases.
  • Rich in folic acid, which protects against heart disease and birth defects.
  • Good source of dietary fiber and protein.
  • Excellent source of several vitamins, including A, C and K.
  • Low in calories.

Better health on my mind

When I decided to try kale for the second time, I found a beautiful looking bunch in the produce section of my local grocery store. It’s also usually in abundance at farmers markets and, if you’re so inclined, is easy to grow in the garden. I know that because we now grow it in ours.

I turned to a trusted source of plant-based recipes for guidance on the best and easiest way to cook kale —  Meg Wollf, or to be precise, her cookbook A Life in Balance.

Meg Wolff’s recipe for cooking kale (it couldn’t be any simpler)

1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped into bite-size pieces (stem and all)
1/2 cup water
pinch of sea salt

Put water, kale and a pinch of salt into a pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn to low, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.

At my daughter’s suggestion, I tossed in some sesame seeds.

Serves 6 (about 3/4-cup servings)

My kale verdict

Amazing how good something can taste if you just cook it properly. What was different from my first encounter with kale? This time, it was chopped into little pieces. Last time, it wasn’t chopped up at all and it was cooked too long. Cooking it Meg’s way made all the difference in the world.

Kale caveats

Make sure you rinse the kale thoroughly before you cook it to remove any possible pesticide residue. Rinse even if you buy organic. Also, if you have untreated kidney or gallbladder problems, you may want to check with your doctor before eating kale because it contains oxalates, which may interfere with calcium absorption.

Go ahead and try it

I think you’re going to like kale. I did when I gave it another chance. I read somewhere that you’ll get maximum health benefits if, after you rinse and chop it up, you sprinkle it with lemon juice and let it sit for about five minutes before you cook it.

The best way to store kale is in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator. It should last for three to five days. You can add it to lots of different recipes or steam up a little in the morning and nibble on it all day long. That’s what Meg does!

Want to get even more creative?  Here’s a recipe from Hannaford for pasta with kale pesto, chicken, and roasted tomatoes.

Pasta with kale pesto

Source: Hannaford

Pasta with Kale Pesto, Chicken and Roasted Tomatoes
Author: 
Serves: Serves 6
 
Ingredients
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 (12 to 13.25 oz.) pkg. whole wheat rotini or penne pasta
  • 6 cups packed coarsely chopped kale, leaves and stems
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • walnut halves for garnish (optional)
  • basil sprigs for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place chicken on sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with ¼ tsp. of the pepper. Bake until meat is cooked through and an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, chop chicken into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Toss tomatoes with 1 Tbsp. of the oil and thyme; spread out on baking sheet used for the chicken. Bake until tomatoes are softened and beginning to shrivel, about 12 minutes.
  3. While chicken cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare pasta according to package directions, cooking until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, then transfer back to the pot used for cooking.
  4. While pasta cooks, prepare the pesto. Place kale, basil, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and remaining ¼ tsp. pepper in a food processor and process until kale is minced. With the machine running, pour in 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil through the feed tube and blend until pureed. Add pesto to pasta, along with chopped chicken, and toss well to coat.
  5. To serve, divide pasta among 6 plates and top each with roasted tomatoes. If desired, garnish with walnut halves or basil sprigs.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 520 Fat: 18g Saturated fat: 3g Carbohydrates: 59g Sodium: 170mg Fiber: 9g Protein: 32g Cholesterol: 55mg

If you try this recipe, let us know how you liked it. And, please, share your own kale recipes. Also, let me know if there’s a healthy food you’d like me to feature. Enjoy your kale!
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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now, she's a baby boomer not interested in retiring. She writes the Catching Health blog and is a regular guest on the WCSH6/WLBZ2 Morning Report. She's also a college art student at USM. You can read about that adventure on Diane's other blog mylatestart.bangordailynews.com. She says it's good (and healthy) to be busy!