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balsamic braised kale

Recipe by
Served With Love
Denver, NC

I have found that I can consume my weight in kale in multiple ways. Here lately, though, I've mainly had it braised and as a side dish. The sesame seeds and minced garlic give it texture, the balsamic vinegar with the maple syrup makes it tangy and sweet at the same time, and the crushed red pepper flakes gives it that extra layer of spiciness without overpowering the dish. I confess that I typically just eat it by itself, the bowlfuls, but it's also good as a side to my vegan stuffed squash. I have been known to heap a spoonful in my soup as well. Eat it however you want!

yield 4 to 6
prep time 40 Min
cook time 15 Min
method No-Cook or Other

Ingredients For balsamic braised kale

  • 2 bunch
  • 1/4 c
    white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp
    dried minced garlic
  • 1/4 c
    balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp
    maple syrup
  • 1 tsp
    crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp
    grapeseed oil

How To Make balsamic braised kale

  • 1
    This recipe is for fresh curly kale, so it will take some time to "look it", as we say here in the South. This just means that each leaf will need to be inspected for dirt, bugs, and damage before it is actually rinsed. Two bunches of kale will take about 20 minutes to look. Uncurl each part of the leaves as you do so. Pull the curly parts from the stems and straight, tough pieces and place into a strainer. Don't discard the stems and tough portion of the leaves! They can be boiled for homemade vegetable broth.
  • Looked, washed, and squeezed kale :D
    Rinse the kale, making sure to squeeze or "massage" it as you do. This will make it tender instead of tough "roughage". Also, squeeze it to remove the water from it. It's alright if some remains. That'll just get soaked up as it cooks.
  • 3
    "Fluff" the kale in the strainer to separate it before adding to a pan and set it to the side to drain more.
  • 4
    Add a teaspoon of grapeseed oil to a medium-high heat pan and allow it to get hot.
  • Although this isn't a full 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, the kale was still tasty.
    Slowly and carefully add the white sesame seeds to the pan and allow them to brown. Be careful during this step! The seeds can pop up like popcorn if the oil is too hot or they are added too quickly. (In the image, clearly, I have not used 1/4 cup of sesame seeds. This is because I didn't realize how low the jar had gotten and ran out. I used all I had left to make this pan of kale.)
  • Huge pan of kale!
    Slowly add the kale. Again, exercise caution and patience! The remaining water on the kale, combined with the hot seeds, can pop up and cause injuries. Unless a large pan is used, all of the kale might not fit in the pan. Let some cook down before adding the rest, but stir what is already in the pan. I do use a smaller pan and add all of my kale at the same time, but I stir very, very carefully and use my lid to help get the seeds from the bottom to the top so they don't burn.
  • Kale stirred and ready to just simmer.
    Add the minced garlic, stir, lower the heat to medium, and allow the kale to cook. Do not cover it. There needs to be minimal liquid remaining before the braise is added, so allow as much as possible of it to cook out.
  • 8
    Stir frequently.
  • 9
    Add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup to a bowl or jar with a lid and stir with a spoon or shake. Be sure to use balsamic vinegar and not balsamic vinaigrette! If you accidentally use too much maple syrup, as I often do as a result of the wide mouth spout on my jug that I forget about every time, just add more balsamic vinegar to balance it out. In fact, it's perfectly fine to use more of one than the other, depending on preference. However, remember that maple syrup becomes sweeter as it's cooked. Less will be more. It's important to get the ratio right before adding to the kale. Once it's incorporated, there's no going back. Trust me! If more vinegar is added to the kale to reduce the power of the syrup and it ends up being more tangy than preferred, more syrup will need to be added. The back and forth will drown the kale, making it a soggy, inedible mess. It'll burn the eyebrows right from your face, too :-)D
  • Just enough balsamic braise for the kale.
    Add as little or as much crushed red pepper flakes to taste. A little goes a long way, so add a little at a time and adjust from there. Half a teaspoon might be too much for some, but it's perfect for me.
  • Still bright green. Kale needing more cooking and braising.
    Turn the heat up to high. Continue mixing the braise as it's slowly poured over the kale. (Tip: pour the braise directly on the surface of the pan and stir the kale into it. Do this a little at a time and slowly until all the braise liquid is used.)
  • Braised kale.
    Continue to stir until the liquid has reduced to less than a teaspoonful in the pan. (Tip: to accurately measure how much of the braise liquid actually remains, tilt the pan and let the liquid pool to the bottom and use a teaspoon to scoop it up.)
  • 13
    If the kale needs to be cooked more, reduce the heat to prevent scorching.
  • 14
    Serve immediately with love!