Paula Wolfert's Knife-and-Fork Kale
October 07, 2005
In my CSA basket this week (am I starting to sound like a broken record with the incessant mutterings about the CSA and how it has changed my life?), I had a bunch of red Russian kale to contend with. Now, I like green, leafy vegetables just as much or more than the next person, but regular old kale has never really been my friend. Months ago, I braised a pot of it to such an unappetizing khaki slush that I couldn't even bring myself to dump it in the toilet. It sat in a pot in the fridge for longer than I care to remember. So I felt a bit trepidatious as I stood in my kitchen, contemplating the green and purple fronds at the bottom of my vegetable crisper.
After going through several of my cookbooks (and nixing Alice Water's kale, stewed to bits with cream and bacon, because why even eat kale - bursting with vitamins and who knows what else - if you're just going to cook it into oblivion with fat, fat, and more fat?), I settled on Paula Wolfert's recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. She calls for Tuscan kale, which truly is a thing of beauty - quickly steamed, then pan-fried with olive oil, garlic and salt, now that is a kale I can get behind. According to the Internets, Russian kale is an entirely different species of kale from Tuscan, but it's described as being tender and tasty, so I thought I'd be fine using that instead. And I was.
Russian kale has dark purple ribs, and a beautiful deep green color.
I washed the leaves, stripped them off the ribs, chopped them into ribbons and put them in a pot with olive oil and garlic, some salt and a few grinds of pepper.
I cooked them over low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until they were good and wilted.
Then I added a cup of water, partially covered the pot and let it cook away for at least another half hour.
I drizzled in a few drops of balsamic vinegar, stirred it all around, then piled some of the kale onto a piece of toasted bread that I had rubbed lightly with a clove of garlic. I grated some Parmigiano onto the bread, and drizzled it with olive oil. Since this was my dinner and not just an appetizer, I also poached an egg (My first time ever! And it worked! I almost did a cartwheel. So easy! Who needs those goofy metal poachers? Thank you, Jacques!) to plop on top.
The egg yolk wound its way through the tender, glistening kale, and the faint hint of vinegar along with the salty fresh garlic on the bread, the grassy olive oil, and the added nuttiness from the grated cheese made for a most fulfilling and delicious dinner. I ate it with a fork and knife, though you could most certainly also eat it with your fingers and then give it the thumbs up, as Ben did last night. I'm kind of sad there aren't any leftovers.