Friday, November 28, 2008

The Most Popular Kale Recipe in the Room

I feel I should begin with a disclaimer: this is not an original recipe. And most likely, if you tend to keep up with food blogs, especially some very well-known ones, you've already heard about this dish. Orangette wrote about this kale a few weeks back, and I was more than a little intrigued. It was kale, after all, which I'm very fond of, and it was topped with a fried egg (my favorite food group).

The thing is, the kale was boiled, and for more than a few minutes, I might add. So I was understandably concerned. I gave her the benefit of the doubt though, partly because she is Orangette, and also because what she posted was an adaptation from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I don't really think I have the street-cred to overlook that sort of pedigree.

I printed the recipe, ordered a pound of kale from Locally Grown, and then commenced to dragging my feet. I was mildly wary about how The Carnivore might view this dish, particularly since I wasn't entirely sure what to serve alongside it. While boiled kale served over toast and topped with a fried egg might make for a very appealing vegetarian entree, I try to be sensitive to the not-to-be-overlooked fact that I am the only vegetarian in the house. Well, other than Little Miss Piggy who doesn't have any molars yet and hasn't been deemed old enough to make her own ethical decisions regarding food. As she tends to subsist on grubby handfuls of beans and brown rice though, her status as fully-vested eater in our house has yet to be granted.

So, like I said, I wasn't terribly sure how well this dish would go over. Actually, I almost punked out entirely, thinking I could just make this for my lunch and that way I wouldn't have to worry about companion dishes, but then I noticed the recipe had jumped ranks and was also being featured on Bitten.

That sealed the deal. When two omnivorous types are both head-over-heels for something as humble as boiled kale with soggy toast, well, who would I be to buck the trend? And besides, I love, love, love kale and am always in the market for a fresh spin on it. Kale can be a bit bitter, and when it is cooked wrong (read: simmered for hours with a ham-hock), it can be truly vile. The thing is though, when served properly, it can make a convert out of anyone. Winter Greens and Potato Casserole, Bitter Greens with Sweet Onions and Tart Cheese, and Kale and White Bean Soup are but a few of my favorite variations on kale.

After seeing the recipe on Bitten, I scrapped my original plans for that night's dinner and decided to make a go of this here boiled kale thing. I made a few changes to Orangette's version: substituting vegetable broth for chicken stock, using hunky ciabatta rolls for the toast, and frying the egg in the method of the Deep South, and I must say, she is really on to something with this whole soggy toast thing. I know it sounds spectacularly unappealing, but with the right bread, thick, rustic and crusty, it is comfort food in the best sense. And while I don't understand the science behind it, something about the slow boiling of the kale transforms the greens into silky, slightly sweet ribbons that have just the right "chew" to them.

And The Carnivore? He thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, in fact, that when I cooked the dish twice in as many weeks, he was almost excited to be having it again. As for companion dishes, I'm still a little stumped. The first go round, I served those Crispy Flattened Potatoes alongside and they were an okay addition to the table (because, as well all know by now, those potatoes go with EVERYTHING), but there just wasn't any synergy to the flavors. The second time, I served it with some leftover brown rice topped with cowpeas cooked in a spicy broth and again, it was an okay combination but nothing to write home about. Maybe for the next attempt, and there will be a next time, I'll give those Wild Mushrooms with Mozzarella a go. I've been craving those lately anyway...


BOILED KALE WITH A FRIED EGG AND TOAST (adapted from Orangette and The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, serves two)

  • 8 oz fresh kale
  • 6 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, plus one whole garlic clove
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
  • square ciabatta roll, sliced in half (or another rustic bread, thickly sliced from the ends so that one side has crust)
  • 2 eggs
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of hot sauce
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Remove and discard thick ribs from the kale, and slice leaves into thin ribbons. Rinse well.
  2. In a large saucepan, warm 5 Tbs oil over medium-low heat.
  3. Add onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes, the sliced garlic and the kale to the pot and stir until the kale is fully wilted (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  5. Add broth to the pan to cover the kale.
  6. Bring broth to a simmer. Cover, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, until kale is tender but not mushy. Add salt to taste.
  7. While kale is cooking, toast the two halves of the ciabatta roll (or two crust-end thickly-sliced pieces of rustic bread). While toast is still hot, rub one side with the clove of raw, whole garlic.
  8. To fry the eggs in the Deep South method: warm the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Crack both eggs into the skillet and then break the yolks with a fork, running the fork around gently to spread the runny yolk over the top of the whites. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash or two of hot sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes, until bottom is browned and top is set. Flip eggs and cook on other side for an additional minute or two until browned on both sides. Run spatula down the middle to separate into two pieces for serving.
  9. To plate individually, place one piece of toast in the bottom of a wide soup bowl or on a plate with a rim. Pile a big scoop of the kale on top of the toast, drizzle with olive oil, and top with a fried egg. Grate a little bit of the cheese over the top and serve immediately.


Mo said...

Seeing that we are kale and white bean soup fans then this one is going to make an appearance on our table at some point. And I think I can actually get a hold of all the ingredients in this foreign land.....well maybe not the pepper flakes so perhaps I will be chucking something else in for that.

Sarah Beam said...

Mo, a dash of hot sauce would sub nicely for the red pepper flakes, or a scant amount of cayenne powder.

Jen said...

This actually sounds delicious! I love the one for bitter greens and sweet onions.

Sadly, I am the only kale lover in the house.

Mo said...

Tabasco we can do and cayenne we have in abundance so we are good to go.
Thanks for that!

Foodista said...

Maybe this is the one to convert non-Kale sure looks delicious!

alexandra's kitchen said...

those are some high-powered endorsements. i would have the same reservations but it sounds as though this recipe is a keeper. I have the Zuni Cafe cookbook and will have to give this a try soon. I love Kale!

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Jenn said...

Been reading this blog for ages, but never commented. I really must make this recipe. What about serving it with soup - like a simple pureed butternut squash soup?