05/13/2014 10:13 am ET | Updated Jul 13, 2014

How to Use Kale Stems

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: We love kale's leaves, but its tough stems stump us. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that.

We love kale, and that's no secret. We have no problem eating its leaves in bulk -- in salads, soups, pilaf, beans, at breakfast -- really, pretty much everywhere except dessert. (And even that's not totally off the table. We like parsley in cake, so you never know...)

But when dinner's over, kale's stems still stump us. Where its bitter leaves will relax for a raw salad, its tough stalks don't let down their walls -- deep-tissue massages and mood lighting are no use. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that. Felicia M asked for ways to use kale stems beyond the compost pile, and the community was full of ideas:

  • Naomi cooks them fresh: "I cut them into small pieces, sauté them first (they take longer to cook), then add the cut-up leaves, and then some freshly grated nutmeg, minced fresh garlic, salt, and pepper at the end. Can't be better (or any easier)."
  • Break out the canning jars and try your hand at preserving, like claire miller, who pickles them or breaks them down in a food processor to ferment, kimchi-style.
  • Several of you suggested the classic scrap treatment: a good simmer in the stockpot. Says Eliz.: "We're told that members of the brassica family are too assertive for such use...but kale does not overpower." First We Eat agrees, but suggests adding other vegetables to balance the flavor.
  • Try blending them into your juice and smoothies, like lisina does. The fibrous stems are best paired with creamier add-ins -- think banana, avocado, or yogurt.
  • ChefJune and magpiebaker both wondered about the possibility of prepping them as one might prep chard stems -- braising or dredging and frying à la The Zuni Café Cookbook. The jury's out on this one -- others note that kale's stems are tougher than chard's -- but it may be worth a shot for the experimenters among you. (If you try something great, let us know!)

How do you use tough vegetable stems? Tell us in the comments!

This article originally appeared on How To Use Kale Stems.

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