THE JOY OF KALE
An oxymoron, I know, because I hate kale… and yet I figured out a way to make it delicious.
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Everyone who knows me knows that I utterly hate kale. I consider it a garnish, not a food. It survives winter because even starving deer won’t eat it. They grow it in shopping plaza parking lot islands because no one will steal it. I believe that kale should be extirpated as a life form. But… I’m not the only one living and eating in this house.
My bride Andrea loves kale; I don’t hold that against her. However, I rarely cook it for her because there are so many other vegetables that we jointly enjoy. But I was recently inspired by my visiting daughter to give it a go (in other words, I was outnumbered) so I found a way to not only make it work, but also make it delicious. With my method we actually cook it three times– once to break its spirit, another to remind it who’s boss, and a third to properly flavor it.
Do not actually purchase kale! Walk right past that purple and white crap to the dark green TUSCAN kale, available either in bunches or bags. (The bunches require some manual labor to remove the edible leaves from the stalks.) Tuscan Kale has been a thing in Italy for several centuries, and it is a featured component of Ribollita, a.k.a. Tuscan Kale Soup. As you shop you might conclude as I did that anything this green must surely be packed with nutrients, right? And although it looks like it tastes like it’s good for you, it has a complex and deliciously earthy flavor that can be marshaled into actual cuisine– either the aforementioned soup or a sturdy side dish.
Prep and wash as needed. Dry it as much as practicable.
I like to use a sturdy stockpot for this. Pour a substantial splash of proper cooking oil into the pot. (By “proper” I mean grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or PURE-grade olive oil rather than Extra Virgin, which breaks down to ill effect when heated. Some nutritional experts recommend that you avoid cooking oils made from soy or corn, and Canola oil is also the subject of controversy.)
Get the oil nice and hot, then sautee the greens in it, stirring constantly with a set of long tongs. The volume will diminish considerably.
Once you’ve cooked them down to about a third or less than their original volume, lower the heat and add a cup or more of water. By doing this we segue from a hotter cooking method to a gentler one; however, we want to steam the greens rather than boil them in so much water that the flavor is leached out of them.
When the greens get nice and tender, crank up the heat and cook off the remaining water. Here is where you add your seasonings of choice– salt & pepper, of course, and then whatever strikes your fancy. You can go Asian with soy, ginger, and/or sesame; I find Tuscan Kale a perfect vehicle for garlic.
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For a grumpy old mansplainer, I like to think of myself as fairly open to new ideas. And if I can learn to love kale, then just about anything is possible. I hope you enjoy your Tuscan Kale as much as I do.