Friday, December 18, 2009

Comfort and Joy

Why, yes, I did title this post "Comfort and Joy." Because kale, like nothing else, brings me great comfort. I've been prattling on and on about kale lately. I vaguely recall a time in my life when I did not know what kale was ... but I don't know what I would be eating now if not kale.

Oddly, despite all the fancy-schmancy designer grocery stores near me (*ahem* Whole Foods *ahem*), I cannot find dinosaur kale (lacinato kale). I'm sure I could find it at the Culver City Farmer's Market, which is about a block and a half away from my work, but the market shuts down at 7:00. 7:00, internet, is when I am just beginning to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that is my day. So there's no way I can frequent the ol' farmer's market, which means that it's all curly kale all the time for me.

Not a bad thing, of course. I love curly kale. It's lovely and delicious and soothing and earthy and somehow just plain good in the most simple, bare-bones way possible.

My go-to winter dinner when I'm cold and tired and need a distraction is cooked kale. Sometimes I like it in a ratatouille-type dish, with eggplant and bell pepper and onions, a tin of diced tomatoes, and maybe some cheeeese. Other times, I like it very quickly. That involves nothing more than a few vegetables, a tiny sip of oil, and a pan.

Quick Vegetable Braise

1 bunch kale
1/2 onion
1/8 head of cabbage
1 small zucchini
oil, about 1 tablespoon (I used vegetable)

I prep all the vegetables first, before heating up the pan, because kale can be a bit time-consuming to clean and chop. I give the entire bunch a quick rinse, then chop out the stem and coarsely run my knife through the leaves. In ratatouille-type stews, I chop up the stems and use them, cooking them far longer than I cook the leaves. After I get the kale chopped up, I wash it. Much easier to chop and wash than to try to wash big, curly leaves of kale thoroughly.

I sliced the cabbage, onion, and zucchini into roughly the same lengths, the zucchini staying thicker than the cabbage or onion. I usually start heating about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan while I'm chopping up the easy-to-clean vegetables, just after the kale's been washed. I use vegetable oil because I can really taste olive oil, and I don't like olives. For me, olive oil is fine to use for foods that will overpower the olive-y essence of the oil. In this particular dish, I can taste the olives too much and I don't like it.

Onions first, of course. I love softened onions, expound their virtues, and don't like onions in any other way (perhaps maybe in onion rings). I salt them (with garlic salt) as soon as they're in the pan so that their juices give and they start turning limp and translucent.

Zucchini go in when the onions are about halfway cooked (so, halfway to mushiness galore). A little Lawry's seasoning salt and a little sauteing fun. The cabbage goes in shortly after the zucchini. When things are getting a touch softer, just a few minutes later, I add a little bit of water.

Not much- it doesn't even come halfway up the side of a zucchini matchstick. Just a little bit, because kale needs the moisture. Once the water's a bit hot, a minute or two later, I add the kale.

Delicious. I just let it cook and cook and cook, stirring every now and then, until the kale has relaxed into slippy little tendrils of green goodness. Lovely and good and healthy, too! I love kale.

... Wait. Have I mentioned that I love kale??

p.s. This weekend and the beginning of next week are going to be a zoo. I have a movie to work on, and it comes out in less than three months (!). Plus, next Friday is Christmas (!!!!!!!) and I'm not ready.