It’s taken a lifetime for me to get around to eating greens, especially any green other than lettuce. Growing up, greens were just not part of my vegetable lexicon (not much was). In college, I started to eat some varieties of lettuce and learned to appreciate spinach, but for years I contemplated the acres of leafy green stuff in the produce section at the supermarket with incomprehension. Who, I wondered, really ate that stuff? Surely it was merely decorative, but if so, did it actually get replenished, or did it just languish there, somehow, miraculously and perpetually green?
But thanks to my CSA box, the past few years I’ve undergone a conversion experience. The first year, I admit, a lot of green stuff found its way into the compost heap. But my guilt got the better of me, and in year two, I started tentatively exploring some ways to cook greens. The third year was the turning point. When CSA season had passed, I actually went to Whole Foods and plunked down money for kale. There’s been no going back. This year? Bring on the greens, baby.
Once you’ve learned to appreciate kale, you can feel really smug, because it is indisputably good for you. Vitamin A? Check. Antioxidants? You betcha. Fibrous? Oh yeah. But like so many of us, kale’s a little hard to learn to love. A ways back when I wrote about our CSA, my niece Elsa, the coolest United Church of Christ minister in the state of Maine and young single person learning to cope with her first CSA box, said something along the lines of “I sure need those recipes for kale.” I failed her, until today.
So Elsa, this one’s for you, and for all those who are finding their way into the kale fold.
I had two gateway drugs:
The first is a non-recipe, really. Remove the tough stems of the kale, chop what’s left, saute it in some olive oil at medium high heat until it’s melted down, pour a little liquid in the pan, enough so the kale steams a bit in it, cover and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, saute some garlic, onion and crumbled hot Italian sausage in some olive oil; at the same time prepare some pasta — I like penne for this dish. When the sausage has cooked through, add the kale and cook together for a few minutes. When the penne is done, drain, reserving some of the pasta water, add the penne to the sausage and vegetables and moisten with the pasta water as desired. Grate a ridiculous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.
The second, and I’ve turned this one out week after week after over the summer, is a frittata recipe over at Orangette. Eggs, cheddar, red onion and kale. What’s not to love? The kale you say? Try it and see.
Kale actually seems to be quite trendy now. I think the turn toward local sourcing has made necessity the mother of invention. Kale is easy to grow in cool climates and has a long growing season, so it’s often readily available when the more glamorous vegetables are gone. If you’re ready to move on to greater kale adventures, try one of these:
Danny Meyer writes on Bitten about the Wonders of Stale Bread. One of those wonders? A bread soup with lamb sausage and kale, a simple soup of sautéed sausage, carrots, celery, onion, kale and garlic, simmered in crushed tomatoes and water (or stock) with chunks of crusty bread stirred in right before serving.
A couple of days before, on the same blog, Emily Weinstein explored three kale recipes: with a poached egg on top of toast, flash-fried and in white bean soup.
And just today, The Wednesday Chef cooked up some Taglietelle with Braised Kale and Ricotta
Work your way through those, and you, too will be thinking “kale, it’s what’s for dinner.