Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Kale florets (or napini) is becoming a new favorite in this house. Slightly bitter and full of flavor, it reminds me a bit of broccoli stalks. Give it a try if you see any at the farmers market.


You may not have ever seen kale florets before unless you visit a farmers market or get a CSA share. Here’s what Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm wrote about napini in the Western Wake Farmers Market newsletter:

“Napini, also called ‘Run Ups’ in East Carolina, are the flowering stalks of over-wintered greens such as collards, kale, cabbage, turnips, tatsoi, etc. Napini is the less refined but very delicious cousin of Broccoli and Broccoli Raab. Cook as you would Broccoli in a stir-fry, oven roasted or sautéed. Store for up to a week in a cool and damp (but not wet) place in the fridge.” 

Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

We love napini. I also saw them referred to as kale florets so I’m using that name for the title of this post and recipe.

If the stems of your kale florets are rather thick, let’s say, more than a quarter inch diameter, the bottom part might be tough and woody. Treat it like asparagus. Hold the middle of the stem between the thumb and first finger of your left hand (if you’re a rightie) and hold the base of the stem between the thumb and first finger of your right hand. Carefully bend the bottom woody part of the stem until it snaps off. You’ll have to find the right place (where it transitions from woody to edible) by bending the stem just at the bottom and then moving up until it snaps.

I read that wooly aphids love the buds of kale florets so give them a good rinse. I let them hang out in a bowl of water for a bit. Don’t dry them when you take them out of the water—you want to leave the clinging water on the greens. I transfer them directly into the pan from the water.

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

To prepare the kale for the pan, I pull the leaves and buds on the lower half off, then chop the lower half of the stem into 1” pieces.  I leave the top half of the stem together with its leaves and buds.

You could change the recipe by adding lemon zest and juice, or maple syrup, or vinegar — I think sherry vinegar would be especially good– or white wine or dry vermouth.

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sautéed Kale Florets (aka Napini)

You’ll need a large pan and maybe a lid.

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped (or 2 slices pancetta, chopped)
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (or 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale florets (napini)
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook bacon over medium heat in a large pan until the fat starts to render, about 3 minutes. Add onion and red bell pepper, and cook until softened, about 3-4 more minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute.

Add kale florets and stems, any clinging water, and salt. Cover, if you wish, and cook a few minutes. Check after a minute or two to see if it’s sticking and if you need to add more water. You only need the water to help it cook. Cook until the stems are crisp-tender, maybe about five minutes total – a lid makes for a faster cook. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese when they’re done.

3 thoughts on “Sautéed Kale Florets (aka Napini)

  1. Ariella says:

    Reblogged this on After the Knot and commented:
    Remember how I said I’m not much of a recipe person? Well, thankfully, there are bloggers out there that can create a good recipe for people to follow. Check out this napini recipe from another member of my CSA.

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