“But I don’t LIKE Kale,” I said, whining. We’d been over this before. I’d grown up here in rural North Carolina, but the only greens I wanted to ever eat were turnip greens that had been boiled with a ham hock for 2-3 hours, and served with brown cider vinegar, pepper, and maybe some hot peppers.
I was not a fan of collards, kale, mustard greens, creasy greens, chard, or any other kind of green you could find growing in gardens or wild. I didn’t even know that people considered beet greens edible until I was over 30.
I have always been considered a “picky eater”, notwithstanding the baby squids with guts sauce that I used to enjoy at a favored sushi restaurant. Yes, guts sauce is exactly what it sounds like.
“Fine,” she responded, “I’ll get some for myself, you don’t have to eat it.” Every man worth his salt knows that “Fine” never means “ok”, and therefore to shut up and not poke the lioness.
Later that week, when she brought the dish to the table, I had to confess that it smelled great. I asked if I could taste it, and regretted it immediately, because it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Not only was I wrong about not liking a “mess ‘o greens”, I’d been missing out on something that actually made me salivate the next time she made it. Since then I have been forced to eat nearly all of the above listed greens, including a pernicious thing known as “braising mixture”, which typically doesn’t even have everything it is listed on the bag at the farmers’ market.
We’re having them again tonight, and so this post, since I hope to include a photograph of the result before we eat it.
Yes, it’s our first cooking post, and I chose the Kale for a variety of reasons.
Uno: So you know more about what kind of person I am, having been so stubborn and then needing to capitulate while crying “mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!”
Dos: It’s good, darn good. Read that like you’re hearing Commander Bond speak. Why not start off with her modified recipe to create one of the best dishes I’ve had in years?
Tres: It confronts one of the main problems of eating what you grow, eating locally, and eating seasonally, to wit, the issue of variety.
Even as a child, I grew up with the notion that many things were seasonal. You simply didn’t see Tangerines in rural North Carolina except in December. Grapes came and went at different times. Fruit in general was highly seasonal in availability. Hogs were typically killed in the fall, Quail were hunted and subsequently eaten during winter Quail season, because who would be so crazy as not eat all the quail they could get. Turnip salad was most a winter thing, and you never never saw asparagus that was “fit to eat” except a couple times a year. Fresh corn on the cob happened when the corn ripened locally and that was it.
Today I can walk into any major supermarket anywhere, and buy as much tangerine juice as I like. This still boggles my mind. Asparagus is on the shelves. .. monthly.
So when we started eating seasonally and locally (never mind expanded to what we can grow ourselves) my mind hadn’t quite grasped some of the implications. It was a rude shock the first time I stood there in the midst of the Whole Foods produce department bemused because there were a lot of things I wanted to buy that just no longer fit our paradigm.
Learning to eat delicious greens therefore is a major expansion of the winter repertoire in our house.
The recipe is one adapted from Sheri Castle, one of our local food writers. She called it “Melted Greens”. We have adapted it by changing ingredients and by altering the volume, since she starts with about 2 lbs of kale, and we typically use 8-10 ounces for a meal. We use lard instead of bacon/pancetta, hotter peppers, and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, but this is her recipe.
Lard, approximately 3 tbl.
½ a sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
2 dried Serrano or El Chaco peppers, chopped with seeds and membrane (these are Hot)
Vegetable broth, about 1.5 to 2 cups
Kale, braising mix, or any other greens, about 8-10 ounces
Salt and Black pepper to taste, we tend to use a couple tablespoons of pepper.
Melt the lard in a pan, and add the onions, sautéing with the carrots and garlic, at least 10 minutes. Sweat them, don’t brown them.
Pour in enough broth to immerse the onions. Add the kale, salt and pepper, and chopped Serrano peppers, cover with lid and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
Remove the lid, turn the heat up to high, and reduce the liquid a bit, being careful not to let the kale dry out, about 5-8 minutes. Serve warm.
With this deliciousness, we had:
Ground Lamb with Pasta. Variations of this dish occur fairly regularly.
1/2 lb ground lamb
½ a sweet onion
2-3 small carrots
1 large stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Ground basil, oregano, dill
Small pasta, like orecchiette, farfalline, or elbow macaroni, about 8 ounces when cooked.
Sweet marsala wine
Sour cream, about 4 ounces
Sweat the Holy Trinity (carrots, celery, onion) in a skillet with some olive oil and the garlic.
Then push it all to one side, and brown the lamb, adding salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and dill to it (to taste, more about that later).
Meanwhile, boil the pasta, drain, and run cold water over it. If anything gets ready early, just set it aside until you are ready to combine.
Turn the pan up to high, add the pasta to the skillet with the lamb and the trinity, and deglaze the whole thing with sweet marsala wine. Stir around, then spoon in the sour cream. Stir it around until mostly blended in, then remove from heat and serve.