i'm not sure why i was afraid of kale for so long. Maybe (but i'm not sure) when i first tried it, i made the mistake of cooking ornamental kale--those gorgeous heads that Bowlspringgreenappear every autumn. Those leaves are pretty to look at, but are so tough that they never become anything tasty. If you've made that same mistake, then you are in for a real treat.
When an assortment of kales have turned up at our local farmers markets i decided it was time to confront my negative history and try a recipe that has been going around the 'net. While they may not be as pretty as their ornamental cousins, or rainbow chard edible kales are comfortably tender and delicious. And, here is the best part: they are very, very good for us. Kale is part of the cabbage family--and packed with health-promoting compounds. It has the greatest antioxidant capacity of all fruits and vegetables. (sorry, Popeye) It’s an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C, as well as manganese, and a very good source of dietary fiber, calcium, iron and potassium.
Armed with this info, i brought some home and tried a recipe that has gotten a lot of attention since it comes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers. This version comes from Molly Wizenberg, whose writing inspired me to give kale another chance.
Try it...especially on some chilly evening. You'll like it. And make sure you consume all of the lovely "pot liquor"...because that's where the vitamins go when we boil kale.
Kale with Egg & Toast
About 8 ounces kale
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
A pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 to 4 cups mild chicken stock, or water, or a combination of the two
Thick slices of country bread
Bacon, torn into bite-sized bits (optional)
Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
First, prepare the kale: trim away any discolored spots, and then remove and discard any thick and woody ribs and stems. Stack a few leaves at a time; then slice them into ¼-inch-thick ribbons. Dump the sliced kale into a salad spinner, and add plenty of cold water. Swish the kale around to free any trapped dirt. Let stand for a minute or two – this lets the dirt fall to the bottom – and then lift the basket from the spinner. Pour out the dirty water. Replace the basket, add fresh water, and repeat. Spin dry. If you don't have a salad spinner see below for an easy alternative*
In a large (4-quart) saucepan, warm the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent but still firm. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and the kale, and stir until the kale is fully wilted. Add stock to cover by about ½ inch. Bring to a simmer. Cover, and continue to simmer until the kale is tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes. Taste, and salt as needed. This dish needs quite a bit of salt, so don’t be shy.
To serve, toast one slice of bread per person. While still hot, lightly rub both sides of the toast with raw garlic. Place the toast in the bottom of a wide soup bowl. Now, fry some eggs – one per person, probably – in olive oil. Pile some kale onto the toast in each bowl, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, and top with a fried egg. Strew with bacon, if you want. Grate some cheese over the whole thing, and serve.
*Don't own a salad spinner? Me neither. It's really important to remove excess water from the leaves. Here's how to do it the "low-tech" way: Wrap the leaves loosely in a lint-free towel, lengthwise. Gather both ends of the towel in one hand. Go outside. While gripping tightly, spin the towel in a large circle (by your side or above your head)--like a cowboy does a lasso. You will see and feel the water droplets flying away.