Defending Kale - Sesame Kale


Sixteen years ago, after more than a decade working in restaurants, I punched out from my last kitchen shift and took a job running the deli in a natural foods grocery store. The place was adorable. Our produce was 90% organic. (It was also 90% ugly and bruised but that’s what you got with organic back then.) We sold nuts and grains from huge, bulk scoop bins. We sold herbal cures and tinctures. All our meat was 100% hormone, steroid and anti-biotic free. And my deli? We served some good food (house made gravelax and pate spring to mind), but ultimately we were as crunchy as could be. We served hippies and the hippies loved us. They wrote songs about us! They named their bands after us! Really, they did. It was incredible.

The store and my deli should have been a haven for all things kale. But it wasn’t. We ordered exactly one case per week and we used it exclusively to garnish platters in the deli case. We never cooked it. We never served it. We never ate it and nobody ever asked us to. I don’t think I even realized it was edible.


Today things are different. The natural foods grocery where I currently work is more than 900% busier than the store I joined sixteen years ago. Likewise, kale is now much more than a tacky garnish. Most weeks we run two or three kale dishes in our deli. Raw, it sells great from November to March. Unfortunately, in the summer it’s still an anchor. From April through October it’s sales are miserable. Very few people buy kale in warm weather.

I think this is a shame. I’ve really learned to love kale. And while it can be grown locally for cold weather consumption, it’s really a four season vegetable that thrives in summer. Kale is most prolific and at it’s best between June and October. Exactly the time when people stop buying it. The market has responded to low summer demand. Last week at our farmers’ market we were one of very few growers offering kale. While this is great for us as business people (we sell out most weeks, this wouldn’t be the case if others offered it), it’s bad for kale. People are missing out when it’s at it’s very best.

I think the problem lies in the recipes. Most people either saute or braze their greens, kale included. Unfortunatly, neither saute nor braze are great in the summer. When it’s hot I want something cold and I certainly don’t want to fire the oven.

So in defense of kale, in an attempt to get people eating it all year around, I’ve found some good, cold weather kale recipes. This one is among my favorites. It’s fast, easy and is great served cold. Best of all it tastes fantastic. I usually serve it as an entree or as a small plate with cold dumplings or pot stickers. Give it a go.


Sesame Kale

Great for kale in the summer and shouldn’t we all eat more kale.


  • 1 lb. Curly, green kale
  • 2 Tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons tamari
  • 1/2 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 Teaspoons hulled, white sesame seeds


Cook the Kale:
Stem and rough chop kale into large, bite sized pieces. Steam the kale quickly, for 2-4 minutes so it softens but remains crunchy. Remove it directly to an ice bath to halt the cooking and lock in the color. When cool, remove kale from the ice bath and let it dry.

Make the Sauce:
Combine oils in your pan and bring to saute temperature (med hot). Add crushed pepper and cook until it’s color brightens and you can smell it (one minute). Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add ginger and brown for one minute. Add sesame seeds, reduce heat and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the tamari, remove sauce from the heat and cool to 40 degrees of below. When cold, pure the sauce in a blender or with a burr mixer.

Finish the Dish:
Combine the cooked, dry kale with the blended sauce. Toss to coat leaves. Serve with a garnish of chopped red pepper or more sesame seeds.

Cooking time (duration): 15

2 comments to Defending Kale – Sesame Kale

  • I love kale, and think it’s a very under-appreciated green. Your recipe sounds tasty. One of our favorites is to make a winter greens pizza with it, with caramelized onions, and a little blue cheese.

  • Your recipes sound very tasty. I am going to have to give it a try. Last night we watched a movie entitled, Food, Inc. and after watching it … i am all for organic! I just wish it was a little bit less expensive. Enjoyed your post.

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