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What's Fresh At: Paladar 

Kale for everyone

Though Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar launched in Woodmere, the restaurant has grown to six locations spanning the Eastern seaboard. Fueled by the bold flavors of Latin American cooking – and the fun and festive mood inspired by countless mojitos – this Cleveland-born export shows no sign of letting up. Despite its growth, the chefs at Paladar haven't neglected their Northeast Ohio roots, cooking seasonally as often as possible. That's why the chefs love to use kale, a robust winter green that goes back to ancient Greece. In today's culinary world, kale is used throughout winter in everything from soups to hearty entrees.

Embracing diversity in their menu, Paladar's use of kale is tactical. "California is coming out of winter while the southern hemisphere is entering it," says executive sous chef and Vermont transplant Michael Slater. "Kale and other styles of cabbage thrive in the cold weather."

Kale makes a few appearances on the Paladar menu, including in the vegetarian wrap – a sort of winter-meets-summer dish. This wrap features mojito-marinated mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese and a roasted red garlic and pasilla pepper aioli. Paladar's kale side dish is another winner. This simple yet satisfying accompaniment is prepared by sautéing kale with lots of garlic, making it a nice complement for flavorful dishes like the mango-jerk marinated half chicken.

Slater's love of kale doesn't stop at the four walls of the restaurant. In fact, Slater incorporates the hearty green into numerous dishes at home. "My wife Tara and I create many Asian-influenced dishes, being that her mother is from the island of Taiwan," says Slater. Their personal favorite is pork ramen with kale. "The kale doesn't become mushy in the ramen as most vegetables would," he says. When Slater's carnivorous side comes calling, he also reaches for a head of kale, saying that it makes an excellent side dish for a meaty steak or chop.

If this culinary tale has taught us anything, it's that diversity and creativity are the keys to happy cooking in every season. Uniting various flavors, ingredients and textures – culled from disparate cultures – is one of the reasons Paladar Kitchen and Rum Bar continues to expand. Viva la kale!

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