Prior to subscribing to our somewhat CSA-like organic produce delivery service, I had never eaten kale. I recall the first time we got kale in our weekly delivery, about 5 years ago. The kale we received was the green, curly variety. I tried to use it in a pasta dish the way one might use spinach, and we found ourselves chewing, chewing, and chewing some more. You see, I didn’t know how tough the stems of kale could be. Or how much even the more tender portions of the kale can stand up to cooking in a way that spinach never could. Let’s just say I was not a kale convert.
Fast forward 5 years. This winter, we’ve been getting lots of kale in our weekly produce deliveries….both the Italian-style Dinosaur or Lacinato variety and the ubiquitous green curly stuff. Although I don’t think my family members are on the verge of begging for kale recipes, we are all learning to appreciate it. I’ve used it (sans stems!) in a saucy pasta bake. I’ve slow cooked it with white beans for a Tuscan stew served over rustic polenta. I’ve braised it with pancetta and onions. And I’ve surprised family and friends a few times with the conversation-starting hit kale recipe of the season — the one that left me incredulous the first time I saw it, but which now seems to be everywhere — kale chips! I’ve been eyeing a raw kale salad recipe that is circulating out there, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to try yet. Maybe next year. For now, I thought my kale repertoire had enough depth in it, and I thought the kale season was just about over.
Yet, one more time, it showed up in my weekly produce delivery….in the same week that my pre-ordered copy of Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day arrived. Heidi’s book features a recipe for a kale salad. This kale salad is a bit of a cross-dresser — the kale is served as a salad, but it is baked as in the kale chips, and it is baked with coconut flakes and a sesame soy dressing. I couldn’t help but think of this as a “sweet” preparation, even though the recipe calls for unsweetened coconut. Boy, was I surprised.
Heidi recommends making this dish a bit more filling by tossing with with some cooked whole grains, so I prepared some black “forbidden” rice. Also, I decided to eat mine like one would eat the Korean classic bibimbap, with a fried egg on top. The result was fabulous….nutty dense rice, topped with a mound of crunchy, chewy, coconutty kale, with the yolk of the egg as a sauce. Since my family members are out of town for a few days, I’m left with several servings of this……what a shame!
Now, if only kale season would stretch on a little bit longer! If you’ve got any ornamental kale left in your winter landscaping and it hasn’t been treated with pesticides, consider adding it your dinner table rather than to the compost heap when you transition to summer plants!