At my 40th birthday party, in the middle of a sunlit field, two of my friends wore t-shirts that seemed to compete with each other. Sharon, chattering away and waving her hands in the air, wore a shirt that read: Yum Yum Doughnuts. Mary, earnestly listening to her left, wore one that read: Eat More Kale.
I seem to remember everyone looking a bit dubiously at Mary, skirting away from her silently, as though she might lecture them on vitamins and nutrients. (She is a nutritionist, after all. But she’s also a comedian, who often performs one-woman shows. The last one was called Judy Blume Owes Me. Then again, she did write a little ditty called The Broccoli Song.) Someone who espoused kale on her clothing couldn’t be that much fun, right?
For years, I thought of kale as one of those foods I really should eat more often. You know, one of those dreary obligation foods, a super-nutritious, so-not-enjoyable vegetable. A food that made me grit my teeth while eating it, a food that made me feel virtuous so I could relish my chocolate without guilt. That meant I didn’t eat much kale, for years.
One of the gifts of going gluten-free is that I was forced to experiment with every food I could find, as long as it did not contain gluten. That led to meandering around farmers’ markets. And within a few visits, I realized I’d have to start buying kale.
Kale exists ubiquitous around the Northwest. It grows best in cool climates. All our rain keeps the green going. And in those slender-on-the-sunshine, dreary months of winter, kale shows up at every stand, every week. Eventually, I gave in and started going home with dark green leaves draped over the top of my shopping bag.
Kale deserves a better reputation. When it’s cooked right, kale has a robust taste, greenness intensified, something earthy and palpable. It’s part of the brassica family, the same group that contains brussels sprouts. (There’s another misunderstood vegetable.)
Heidi created gorgeous olive oil and kale mashed potatoes last year. Molly informed us last week that boiled kale can be sensuous when lavished with poached eggs. And sometimes all I need is some lacinato kale roasted with olive oil and sea salt to make an afternoon feel complete.
The Chef says his favorite kale recipe is olive oil, salt, pepper, fine-diced shallots, and a hot cast iron skillet. When everything is popping, throw in the kale and watch it wilt. Pull it off the burner and eat it, immediately.
Still, I know there are plenty of other ways to enjoy kale, whether it’s curly kale, red kale, or lacinato kale. (That dark, crinkly beauty is my personal favorite.) I’d love to know your passions.
I’m not going to implore you to eat more kale. Instead, I’ll ask you: how do you eat kale?
p.s. The Chef and I haven’t made any public appearances in months. We’ve been happy to stay in with the baby. But it’s time to come out and play again. For those of you live near Seattle, we’re teaching a one-time class next Monday at the Whole Foods on Westlake. We’ll be cooking four dishes we’re trying out for the new cookbook:
forbidden black rice with chickpeas, bok choy, and tamari sauce
seared lamb chops with lavender, mustard, and bread crumbs
chocolate peanut butter brownies
The class is only $35, and we’d love to see you there.
Please sign up by Thursday, October 23rd.
The lovely Hilary Davidson is running a splendid website for those of use who live gluten-free and wish to live as fully as we can: Gluten-Free Guidebook. A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful pleasure of talking with Hilary — we couldn’t stop talking! — and she wrote a piece about me for her site. I’m humbled. Thank you, Hilary.