What The Kale Do We Care?

Kale

I open the refrigerator, and realize the white plastic grocery bag is still on the top shelf.  Mark has forgotten to take the kale to work, to share that bounty with his colleagues. I wanted him to put it on the lunch room table with a sign that said, “Fresh kale! Free to good home!” He was pretty sure the spunky young vegans in his office would snarf that green stuff up.

Ah, but here it remains.

It is Friday; I don’t want to let that kale sit until Monday.  I will be freezing kale again this weekend.

*********
I love our CSA–our Community-Supported-Agriculture plan. I love it in theory and I love it in practice.  Every week, on Tuesday, my buddy Randy brings me two wonderful bags of homegrown goodies.  Every week since early spring, we have enjoyed salads–salads so fresh I can taste the sunshine on the greens.  We’ve had traditional lettuce salads; we’ve experimented with spinach salads and discovered we love that old-fashioned, tried-and-true method,–the one with bacon, onion, and hard boiled egg,—the very best of all.

Mark has broken down and admitted he really likes a good homemade broccoli slaw, and this week I got myself the required ingredients to make us some broccoli pesto.  We’ll get a baguette from the wonderful bakery around the corner; we’ll slice it thin  and toast those slices in the broiler.  We’ll slather them with this new concoction. We’ll decide if broccoli pesto can compete with pesto made from basil.

And I’m wondering if you can make a slaw from kohlrabi.  I’ve never cooked with kohlrabi, never prepared one in any shape or form. My dining room table has a cluttered lot of cookbooks, opened and bookmarked to recipes I’ve never tried before, requiring ingredients that were previously invisible to me when shopping.

Searching the cookbooks

What fun this is; what an adventure.

Why does the kale seem like a burden?

*********

There is a literature, I think, of surfeit food.

It was in Caddie Woodlawn, I am pretty sure–Caddie is one of my lexicon of red-headed heroes–that the mama decided she’d raise turkeys for fun and profit.  But the profit disappeared; it being a bad year, when she took those turkeys to town to sell, she discovered she couldn’t recoup nearly what she’d spent to raise them.

In high dudgeon, she took the birds back home and announced to her family that they’d be eating turkey that winter.  The kids cheered; turkey had been, till then, an only-on-Thanksgiving delicacy. Now they could have it nearly every day. What a treat!

A treat–for less than a week.  And then the kids discovered just how boring and uninspiring repeated turkey meals could be, even though the mama racked her brain to come up with creative ways to serve it.

“Oh, boy, TURKEY!” didn’t take long to turn into, “TURKEY?  AGAIN???”

Barbara Kingsolver writes about zucchini in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral,–about dealing, in July, with an abundance of the squash coming from the family gardens.  She and her husband and daughters experimented with all kinds of cooking creativity–stuffed zucchini, zucchini muffins, sautéed summer squash; Kingsolver’s daughter, Camille, even invented an ingenious zucchini chocolate chip cookie. And still they had squash on the counter; baskets of zucchini waited in their store room.

“All dinner guests were required,” writes Kingsolver, “to eat squash, and then take some home in plastic sacks. We started considering dinner-guest lists, in fact, with an eye toward those who do not have gardens. Our gardening friends knew enough to slam the door if they saw a heavy sack approaching.”

Their gardening friends were facing the same conundrum, according to the author: what to do with all this zucchini?  Driving home one day, Kingsolver and her family discovered a bag of zucchini squash hanging from their rural mailbox. They began locking their doors–an unheard of measure of security, but they wanted to be sure that no one broke in and left zucchini.

Only in America, right?  We have a literature complaining about excess food.

**************

Every Tuesday, Randy walks from his building, where he runs the Duplicating Center and the mail room, to mine (where I hole up in my office next to the adjunct work area, stealthily plotting professional development). He puts two generous bags of home-grown goodies in the break room fridge.  Before I leave at night, I gather them up, and when I get them home, I unpack them.

Mark, curious, joins me at the kitchen counter (veggie-phobe James retreats to his typing chair in a different room entirely), and we take out the week’s treasure, item by item, gem by gem.  There are bunches of fresh lettuce; there are tender onions, and pungent radishes.  Glossy spinach; comical kohlrabi; bouquets of broccoli. This week, there was a pint of red raspberries, a harbinger, I know, of a bounty to come–Randy’s farm is famous for its beautiful berry crop. There is glossy spinach; there is hearty chard. There are cucumbers.

I take out the old plastic colander; I wash the greens and the onions. I spritz the berries, and we put them in a fiesta-ware bowl.  I sprinkle them with sugar and put a dessert plate over the top.  They will make their own syrup as the juices release. Later, I will get some whipping cream and angel food cake and we will have a shortcake.  Later, we will do that, if someone doesn’t eat all the berries, spoonful by sneaky spoonful, long before they can ever touch cake.

I spread things out on clean, soft towels to dry, snip the long leafy greens from the onions; pack things up for the refrigerator–or, often, tear leaves into salads to eat right then.

And then, I contemplate the kale.

Kale is hearty, bold tasting, good for you. It can’t be substituted for spinach or chard with impunity, especially in salads.  You have to like kale’s particular flavor and qualities to eat it fresh.  But cooked into recipes, it is almost interchangeable with its milder-flavored brethren.

“Cow food,” Mark calls it.  I must transform it and blend it into other ingredients, and then, knowing it’s there, he eats it without complaint.

Kale is tasty as the green part of Italian wedding soup.  It adds a lovely bit of healthy texture mixed into the ricotta lasagna filling.  Kale goes well in a risotto, with a hearty chicken broth and Parmesan cheese.  My fellow CSA-ers have been generous in sharing kale recipes they have tried, achieving results they love.

“You could just make smoothies,” suggested a well-meaning friend.

I could, but watch me walk to the family room door and call it out.

“CURLY KALE SMOOTHIES!!!!!”

Did you feel that rushing wind?  Did you see them run?

****************

I rely, heavily, on my old Joy of Cooking, and it tells me I can freeze kale just like any other green–blanch it for two to three minutes first, or lightly stir-fry its strong green leaves.  And so I do…I have a freezer full of small packets of kale, and I know I will be glad of them as the kale crop wanes (DOES a kale crop wane?) and the season progresses.

But for some reason, the preparation of kale does not make my heart sing. I can wash and hand dry lettuce, patting each tender leaf dry individually–a job that takes some time–and I will feel joyful and uplifted.  Not so with kale.  I’m not sure why. Some kind of personal bias is kicking in there.  I’ll fight it; I really will.

And I’m thinking my thinking has been limited. Last night, at the supermarket, Jim spotted what he thought was a travesty–a spinach and cheese pizza.  He made polite gacking noises, and then he looked at his father.

“Seriously, man,” Jim asked, “would you EAT that?”

And seriously, Mark replied, “Yeah, Buddy, I would.  Looks tasty.”

Dude.  I have a great recipe for homemade pizza dough.  KALE pizza!  Time to get those curly leaves ready. I’m thinking…white cheddar?

***********

And time to examine my attitude–really.  Am I complaining about having too much food?  Look at the arrogance, the smug complacency, in that.  I need an adjustment, and it needs to come quick.

The first of the zucchini came in this week’s goodie bag.

*****************************************************************************

Since I’ll have extra ricotta this week (only a few tablespoons go into the broccoli pesto), I’m looking forward to trying kale in this hot dip recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aida-mollenkamp/spinach-ricotta-dip-recipe.html

And…to reward myself for all my healthy rumination and efforts, tonight I’m making a batch of Jodi’s Milk Chocolate-Caramel Filled Chip Cookies.  I have to bring cookies to share at work tomorrow, but this nice big recipe makes plenty to share and plenty to keep at home. http://lifeinbetween.me/2015/06/27/kicked-up-milk-chocolate-caramel-chip-cookies/

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7 thoughts on “What The Kale Do We Care?

  1. I love this post mainly because I love vegetables! My aunt who lives in your country once sent me a pack of kale seeds and I planted them. Surprisingly, they grew, but I couldn’t use the tough leaves in salad, and no one wanted it in any of the dishes cooked in our house. The poor plant just died. Maybe I’ll plant some seeds again and try the recipes in the links you provided 🙂

    I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver now. Not her book on animals and vegetables, but the one on nature, Small Wonder.

    Again, Pam, I enjoyed reading this. It’s always a pleasure to visit here.

  2. Oh all the yummy bountiness! Love your adventurous spirit with the veggies. How was the broccoli pesto? How were the cookies?? 😉. Thx for sharing Pam!

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