How I Learned to Actually Enjoy Kale in My Lunch: Dino Kale

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Dino kale and I, we're best friends 4evah. But it didn't happen overnight. There were some bitter encounters early on that led to unhappy meals and mutual mistrust. But we kept at it -- a wilted raw kale salad here, a handful of ribbons in a lentil soup there -- and these days, we're daily lunchtime companions. Here's how I shop for it and cook it (or not), along with a few favorite lunch-worthy recipes.

Part of the problem was that I picked the wrong kale for the longest time. I figured all kale was basically interchangeable in any given recipe and used it as such. Curly kale and I are still on the outs, but I eventually learned that my most successful dishes were being made with dino kale. This took some time to discover as dino kale can go by many names: dinosaur kale, lacinato kale, tuscan kale, black kale, to name the most common.

The dark green, pebbled leaves of dino kale have a hearty texture and an earthy-sweet flavor that I really love, either raw or cooked. This said, I've found that dino kale is best when you can buy it very fresh, particularly when it's at the peak of its season in midwinter. The longer it sits in cold storage, the more likely it is to develop a rubbery texture and astringent flavors. I don't often see dino kale at my local big chain grocery store, but smaller food co-ops, farmers' markets, and Whole Food all regularly carry it.

I do love a good raw kale salad, and yes, I massage the vinaigrette into the leaves! One that has some diced fruit, a few nuts, and a scoop of beans will keep me satisfied well into the afternoon. I also like to slice the kale into thin ribbons and stir it into a pot of lentils and grains. Dino kale doesn't need to cook for very long to make it tender and this makes a hearty meal when I want something warm. A few of my favorite lunchtime kale recipes are listed below.

If there is a kale conspiracy, then I have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. What are your favorite ways to eat dino kale?

(Image: Emma Christensen)