I am feeling virtuous this a.m. as many do . . . for eating kale for dinner last eve. Now I’m not going to boast about it all over the stratosphere (oops!) and generally don’t talk about it. Because it was not an “accomplishment ” or an ordeal — I actually do it regularly and enjoy it. The reason everyone is talking about it is that *^%#$ raw kale salad, which can be annoying to eat. I am firmly in the school that one’s plate of food at the table should not be irritating in any way. There are good kale salads and annoying kale salads. That happens. Just as there are good sandwiches and annoying ones where the bread gets saturated and falls down or the ingredients do not go together. You get the idea.
Anyway, so I like kale. Before it reappeared in my life several years ago when I moved up to the country and joined Roxbury Farm CSA and it was part of my weekly share, I knew it as a frozen block I thawed off with a special frozen food knife to feed to my hamster. My first hamster, named Hammy (oh, c’mon I was only 10) had a, er, virility problem as diagnosed by Martha Hunter, my science teacher at Oak Lane Day School in about 4th or 5th grade who let me adopt him. I bought a, no my mother bought, a block of frozen kale, and I sawed off chunks to feed to Hammy. It apparently worked and he begat my second hamster (and many others in the litter, as hamsters are big breeders) Butterball with some participation by Amy, the female hamster involved. So all this to say for much of my life I thought of kale as health food — for hamsters.
But kale was back in my life thanks to my CSA and I am happier for it. One of my favorite little restaurant dishes was my first plate of “beans and greens” at Cafe Cappricio in Albany, NY. I consider garlic to be a major food group and there it was in all its garlic-ly glory sauteed and stewed with broccoli rabe or some other bitter green and some white beans. It is spectacular, if you like that sort of thing. Which I do; I love. So I repeat it many times in my home.
I will give you a recipe, but first I want to simply describe the whole idea of cooking it. You rinse a bunch of kale — I prefer Red Russian (the flat leaf kale) or lacinato (aka dinosaur kale). That curly leaf heavy-duty variety still does not have a very warm place in my gustatory heart. I do this by tearing the leaves from the stems in pieces so I am both removing the leaves from the stem AND tearing into kinda large pieces AT THE SAME TIME (efficiency) and dropping into my little sink that is designed in my mind for cleaning greens. A large pot will do if you don’t have a second sink. Then you take out: vegetable or chicken stock that you have made ahead of time. (You are going to see a theme here with that homemade stock.) Also, a few garlic cloves, dried red pepper flakes, and a can of Westbrae or Eden or some natural kind of cannellini or northern white beans. Also some parmesan cheese. You saute garlic and red pepper flakes for a minute, add your rinsed kale, S&P and your stock, toss and cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, add your beans to heat through, and serve with grated parmesan. Deliciousness in a bowl.