Baby Kale? Of Course…

When it comes to technology and fashion, I am about as far from an early adopter as you can get. But when it comes to kale, I was way ahead of the curve. As I wrote in an early post, I first came across kale when I was assigned the task of cleaning up the salad bar at the Foothills Hospital kitchen in Calgary, Alberta. This was a grim task to be sure, and one that left me smelling like Thousand Islands dressing for hours afterward, but it was also my introduction to kale, an apparently edible plant that at the time was used exclusively as adornment. I would wash the aforementioned dressing and bacon bits from its gorgeous purple-green leaves each night and refrigerate it so it would look crisp and fresh for the next day’s shift.

I was in my early twenties then, and though I always ate vegetables, and was for a time a vegetarian, I was not really a fan of them. I was also not very adventurous in my eating. In fact, I would not put anything in my mouth unless I knew exactly how it was going to make me feel, both in the moment and in the days following. And so I stuck to the predictable: romaine lettuce and tomatoes, red peppers and broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms.

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I don’t remember the first time I ate kale, though I can only assume that spinach was my gateway green. Spinach led to swiss chard, and swiss chard to collard greens. And since collard greens were hard to come by in the late 90s and early aughts, collards made way for rapini. But rapini is often ridiculously over-priced. And so to kale.

In the months between September and April, I eat kale at least 4 times a week if not more. This is not an exaggeration. When I am not eating kale, I am eating other leafy greens, but my preference–even when collards are available–is kale. In the summer, it has been my practice to take a break from kale, because I am so in love with the delicate baby greens available at Birri Brothers. But a few days I stumbled up on a bag of organic baby kale and all my problems were solved. Well, most of them.

Though tender of leaf and so more appropriate for light summer eating, this organic baby kale comes from California.

Still, if you can wrap your brain around the occasional foray into non-local vegetable eating, these are lovely delicate greens with a flavour to match. And though they would make for a wonderful salad, I prefer to eat my kale ever so slightly cooked, so cook them I did. Because so little is required to make kale delicious, I prepared it in two simple ways:

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The first takes advantage of the gorgeous cherry tomatoes that are now available at Jean Talon.

Simply wash the kale and toss it into a hot frying pan for about 2 minutes, or until it just starts to wilt. Remove it from the pan and let it strain.

Then pour the water from the pan, add some olive oil, and sauté a clove of thinly sliced garlic.

When the garlic starts to brown, add some halved cherrry tomatoes and stir them around, then dump in the kale and toss the whole together for a minute before. Season with salt and pepper.

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For the second dish, I used garlic scapes, but since their growing season is almost over, you can also use sliced or minced garlic.

As with the first preparation, wash the kale and drop it into a hot frying pan. When it starts to wilt, remove it, and drain the excess water from the pan and the greens.

Sauté the garlic scapes in a small amount of vegetable oil.

When they start to brown, dump the kale back in and toss them together for a minute or two.

Remove the greens from the pan, drizzle them with sesame oil and a dusting of sesame seeds and red chilies. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have any leftovers, reheat them the next morning and top them with a fried egg, or better yet, with a thick slice of bacon and a fried egg. The perfect breakfast.

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