Is kale the boy-next-door who just might become the love of your life, if you only paid attention? Like that boy, kale is always there, steady and patient. Like most greens, it's especially obvious during the late months of winter, during the weeks and even months when we so long for fresh foods, straight from the earth. But thanks to the miracle of global food distribution, kale is available and inexpensive year-round. (Miracle? Yes, really. Just think what we'd be eating, week in, week out, without it.)
But kale is also the one who gets invited to the party at the very last minute. It's often an after-thought, just something to throw into a soup or a stew at the end of cooking for texture and color contrast, rarely raised onto a deserved pedestal of adoration.
Well, lemme tell you. Kale has lured me in, slowly, slowly, ever so slowly. It started with an after-thought salad, just a few greens thrown into a skillet with a little bacon grease and some boiling water, then chopped and tossed with a little honey and salt. And here's where it's ended up, the reason why in the last weeks, I've brought home a big bouquet of kale every single trip to the grocery. I finally learned how to cook it. For me. For my taste. For my can't-get-enough, been-eatin'-it-like-candy obsession.
Boiled. There, I said it. OUT LOUD and IN PUBLIC. I like – no, love – kale boiled in salted water. I just throw it in until it's done. I know when it's done when a little taste test reveals a kale that's bright green but almost silky on the tongue, still chewy, mind you, not in the least bit mushy.
From there on, it's easy. Pull it out of the water and drain in a colander. If you want, cut into ribbons, if not, no big deal. If you want, chill it for later. So I guess, in a way, this is a variation of my long-time favorite Greek Greens, the technique I use to hold tender leafy greens like chard and beet greens for a day or two.
But kale is different. It's moist. It tastes so green and alive. It sings me cowboy songs and picks me spring daffodils and wakens me for red sunrises. (Oh wait. That's another love.) Hello, kale, so sorry to ignore you all these years. Will you marry me?
RECIPE for SEDUCTIVE KALE SALAD
Time to table: 20 minutes
Well-salted water to cover plus an inch
1 bunch curly kale - or just a few leaves, if you prefer
Bring the water to a boil. While the water boils, rinse the kale well under running water; if it's gritty, rub the leaves with your fingers under running water; if it's still gritty, soak and then rinse again. A stalk at a time, strip the leaves off the heavy stems with your fingers, just by running your fingers, bottom to top, along the stem. Discard the stems.
In one big bunch, drop the kale leaves into the boiling water, pressing to submerge if needed. Bring the water back to a boil, submerging again as needed. After the water has boiled for about 5 minutes, start pulling out a small leaf for a taste test, to see when it starts to taste good and have a palatable chew.
Once cooked to your taste, pour through a colander and let cool. Can be eaten immediately, otherwise, refrigerate until ready to serve.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS Drizzle with lemon juice. Toss with a little olive oil and honey. Toss into garden salads. Mix into fresh-egg omelets. Make tostadas, a layer of corn tortillas in a skillet, topped by a little cooked steak, kale and a little cheese. Eat it like berries, a leaf at a time, just sitting in a bowl sitting on the counter.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
When you're washing kale, you'll likely wash it a leaf or two at a time. Just be sure that the leaves you're NOT working on aren't underneath, otherwise you'll end up washing that kale with gritty water.
Some people like the stems but to me, they are bitter and too fibrous. If you like the stems, great, no need to strip off the leaves. Extra easy-peasy.
Trader Joe's sells a decent bag of frozen kale. But I find it even more fussy than bouquets for kale from the grocery, because the TJ kale has been chopped cross-wise with the stems intact. This means removing the stems, one by one, piece by piece. Can you spell TEE-di-us?
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~ Quick 'Massaged' Kale Salad ~
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~ Crispy Salty Kale Chips ~
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