Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

As I was saying…*

In my constant and ongoing effort, struggle, pursuit of a new habit of consistent and pleasurable vegetable eating, I’ve finally done that which I’ve pined to do for a really, really, really long time: I found and joined a collective farm, or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which will box up scads of fresh, seasonal, and organic veg and other groceries for our little household.

I know, I know, it’s unpredictable what veggies I’ll get. So there will be some boxes that grab me more than others. So there will be times when I never want to look at another bunch of kale.

Wait. What? You find kale boring? No, no, darling, no. You can’t. You musn’t. I think it must be because you don’t understand it. We fear and loathe what we don’t understand. If you’ve grown wary of Kale, I ask you to give it another chance. Kale done well is never boring, but one of the sweetest, nuttiest, most versatile and body-loving veggies around. And cheap! Come on. All that nourishment for so little cash. Not like kale? I can’t hear of it.

Okay, yup you’ve got to clean it. That’s right. And yes, there may be little cabbage worms — really the caterpillars that turn into cabbage butterflies — to pick off. And you will have to pull off the woodier stems.

But then… well, let’s follow a bunch of kale through my household, shall we?

We go to the farmer’s market, and pick out a large, floppy head of ruffley kale. We horse around with it, pretending it’s a bouquet, an umbrella, a hat. Kale is silly that way. Let yourself be silly with the kale.

The kale comes home, and sits out on our counter for a bit, where we can admire it and feel a bit smug at our fresh new veggie habit. Aren’t we wonderful people, to eat kale? We can feel our bones growing stronger and eyes getting clearer just looking at it. Because we know that kale is loaded with calcium, and with vitamins A & C, and with a whole bunch of other fabulous phyto-nutrients, and because it’s ours, we let ourselves enjoy the presence of the big beautiful head of kale before we start to process it:

Washing.

You start with a clean, deep sink or basin. Fill it up with cold water. Throw in a handful of salt, and swish that around until the salt dissolves. Then snap off the kale leaves, and drop them in the water. I usually leave the thickest part of the stems, snapping up high, but if the stems aren’t tough, I’ll keep them on the leaves. A big head of kale might take two washings.

Then fill a large pot with water, and put it on the stove to boil.

Don’t soak the kale, but do swish the leaves around very well, vigorously. You want to shake loose the dirt from the stems, but also shake loose any cabbage worms. The worms will be killed by the salted water and sink to the bottom.

Take the leaves out, rinsing them under fresh, cold water, and toss them in a salad spinner to dry them off.

Now, if the leaves are big, with woody stems, I’ll sometimes fold the leaf in half and pull off the center stems, exactly as you would do for older spinach leaves.

Then I stack my kale leaves, and roll a bunch up before slicing in 1/4 inch slices.

I blanch all of the kale in 2-cup bunches for just three minutes a bunch in the boiling water. Then pull it out and set it aside to cool. Something about blanching it and letting it rest before finishing the cooking really brings out the best in kale. Its sweet nuttiness is completely lost, I find, by trying to cook it in one shot.

I do the whole head of kale, and sometimes more than one head, because why not? Once you’ve got the system going.

This fills my kitchen with piles and piles of blanched kale ribbons. Beautiful, dark green, gorgeous. I also end up with a nice-sized pot of kale stock, loaded with vitys, that I freeze to add to a nice veggie soup. The kale I know I won’t use this week goes in 2-cup bunches into zip-lock bags, dated, and tossed into my deep-freeze. A big bunch of blanched kale will go in the fridge, and a bunch will go into tonight’s dinner.

Ideas for using those kale ribbons:

*Replace your pasta with kale ribbons. Toss the blanched kale in a new pot of boiling water to reheat them, or saut them with a little onion and garlic and olive oil, then top with your favorite pasta sauce.

*Eat the kale ribbons sauted with pine nuts and fresh herbs. Top with a little grated parmesan.

*Add a handful of kale ribbons to your next stir-fry or soup.

*Add kale to any canned soup to make it much more nutritious.

*Make a kale puree soup by cooking it with a little rice, onions, and garlic, then add a vegetable or chicken stock, simmering until all the vegetables are tender, and the rice is exploding. Puree with a hand blender. Season with just a little nutmeg.

*Eat kale heated in the microwave with a little olive oil and salt. Comfort food, actually. Honest.

*Add kale ribbons to your omelette.

*Add cold kale ribbons to your wrapped sandwhich.

*Add kale ribbons to your tacos, your fajitas.

*Add kale ribbons to your lasagna.

*Make a kale and onion tart. Oh you’re so French.

*Add kale to your ribolita. Oh you’re so Italian.

*Whiz up kale with ricotta to stuff pasta shells.

But don’t ignore kale. Give it another chance. It’s waiting for you. Faithful, healthful, inexpensive, and… in season!

Hey got ideas of your own for cooking up the ruffley stuff? Please do tell!

* Jonathan advised me just to pick up the conversational thread as if I’d never dropped it. Rather than try to find some way to tell you about my mother’s death. I start, and then I stop, and this just keeps getting in the way of posting, so I haven’t been posting when I really want to post. Can’t go there, folks. Not intelligently, or any other way. Not for awhile. Let’s leave it at this: Vivian Kabler Garlinghouse was a remarkable woman. I loved her and liked her. And I miss her a lot. And death just sucks. But I tell you what. She loved kale.

Kale at WholeHealthMD

Kale at Nutritiondata.com

Kale at Epicurious.com

Finding your own community farm at localharvest.org

25 thoughts on “Kale Days

  1. Cat says:

    Hear, hear! Also, an option with sweet young kale: wash (I use vinegar instead of salt, but otherwise same gig), chop (I take out most stems, but otherwise, ditto), heat up a tiny amount of oil, throw in large quantities of unblanched kale, salt to taste, and splash with seasoned rice wine vinegar. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand till kale turns bright green, which is less than five minutes. Toss and eat right away! Good over pasta, good in wraps, but far and away best right then and there.

    And, you know…very sorry to hear about your mother. I don’t know that we ever “get over” the loss of parents, but eventually functionality does seem to return. I’m glad you’re functioning.

  2. Jude says:

    Juju,

    So glad to see you back. You have been missed.

    So very sorry to hear about your mother. She loved kale, and she loved you, so she must have been a mighty fine woman.

    KOK! (Keep on kalin’!)

    Jude

  3. Lauri says:

    So sorry about your mother.

    Anyone who can write a column this long & this humorous about kale is simply amazing!

    And yes, you are a wonderful person, to eat kale! That one question made me laugh so hard! Thank you for adding humor to my workday!

    Lauri

  4. jj says:

    Juju,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your mother. I hope you’re doing as well as you can and that you’re taking care of yourself.

    Also, thanks for the kale tips… frankly, it’s one of the few veggies I’m scared of and when I’ve tried to cook with it, it never quite turns out right. I think your 2-part blanch/cook proceedure may be what I need.

  5. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the lowdown on kale. Those scary looking greens can be daunting. Would you cook other greens the same way? I’m thinking of mustard greens and turnip greens. I’m in the South and we have a lot of those. Of course they’re always cooked in bacon grease!

    I would love to have some more posts like this Jane. Give us ideas on how to cook those unfamiliar veggies. Beets? What does one do with beets?

  6. Greta says:

    Juju,
    Sorry about the loss of your Mom. Thanks for the Kale Tale.

  7. Michelle says:

    I didn’t even see the last paragraph about your mother’s death when I posted earlier. What a maroon I am. My sincere condolences to you. In memory of Vivian Kabler Garlinghouse, this weekend I will donate to an Alzheimer’s charity and eat a big batch of kale. Love, Michelle

  8. stretchy says:

    Juju,

    I will eat Kale every which way from now on. I can’t remember the last time I had Kale… Thank you for all of the recipes and tips.

    Also, I am very sorry for your troubles.

    Yours,
    Stretchy

  9. contessa.i says:

    I’ve enjoyed kale everytime I’ve had it but have never prepared it myself. I am eternally grateful to my late mother who ate lots of vegetables and taught us to love them.

  10. jonquil says:

    Bless you, Juju.

  11. Cheryl says:

    Kale?

    Oh dear, I’ve never seen this in Oz? Or maybe I have and not recognised it??? I’m feeling neglected now??? Where’s my Kale???

    Beets, Michelle? Are they like beetroot? Round red yummy root vegies? Boil till a little tender and toss with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar – to die for! Or roast in the oven with garlic and olive oil! Or boil till tender and “pickle” with sugar and vinegar and peppercorns. Oh yum!

    Juju – love to you and yours, so sorry to hear about your Mum.

    Cheryl XX

  12. gp says:

    1. I have been hoping that someone would explain exactly what kale is good for. Someone told me that it was nothing but slimy and bitter, and you make it sound so good that I wonder how easy it is to ruin the kale.

    2. You took care of your dear mother, and through all that, and even now, you have been taking care of us. That is all one act of love in the highest and it is what we all seek to be to one another.

    Honoring thy beloved mother AND eating thy vegetables is pretty dang saintly (not to mention being what just about every mother wants for her children). You done good, Juju. Rest a little now.

  13. Denise says:

    I’ll also raise a forkful of Kale and toast your mom.

    And a toast to you for the support you have provided this past year.

  14. Debbi says:

    Good to have you back, JuJu. I’m so sorry to learn of your mother’s death. We never stop missing our mothers. One of the best things she did was to raise you to be the warm, funny and generous woman you are. Thank you, Vivian.

  15. Laura says:

    Here, here Vivian! We salute you for raising one of our favorite and funny people, JuJu. No, you never ever get over the loss of a mother, but somehow you cope better with time and only the good memories survive.

    And Kale? Well, not having been raised in the South I was pretty scared of all the “greens” that seemed to only sit in a big pot and boil all day, but as another person said, you made them sound very tasty. I did eat, for the first time, turnip greens which I put in a soup and were pretty darn tasty. Knowing how good kale is for a body I guess I need to try them myself.

    Blessings to you dear JuJu!

    Laura

  16. juju says:

    Hey gang,

    Thanks so much for all your sweet comments. Some remind me that I’m a new voice to many Skinny Daily readers. I’m easily confused with Jane because we both have parents with Alzheimers — her mom, my dad. Jane is a 24/7 caretaker. Or is that 48/7? I’m not sure. I have lots and lots of help with Pop. So don’t fear, Jane’s mom is okay.

    I’m new to you because I’ve taken months off from writing here, and from work, and from normal, to look after my mom and dad when my mom got sick.

    Just to recap, this blog is written by three folks who have lost a significant amount of weight and work hard to keep it off. Jane, Jonathan, and JuJu.

    Back to Kale and greens in general: Yup, my Mom was from Tenessee (and other places), and while her family version of greens I love (bacon grease, cooked LONG, etc.), they’re not the healthiest or even the tastiest way to have greens. By blanching and then lightly cooking kale, it will never be slimey in the least. At all. Ever. You can cook them so lightly that they even maintain a crunchy chewiness, though I prefer them a bit more tender. Even tender, they maintain their bounce a good bit. Kale is great that way. If you like them cooked long, just exchange olive oil for the bacon grease, and you’ll do your body proud.

    Kale is a leaf cabbage — and probably called by other names on other continents. I wish I knew what they call them in Oz. Rats. It’s the blue-green super-curly leaf cabbage that is so easy to grow, except for those pesky cabbage worms

    Consulted a former boss and biologist to ask just what does happen if you accidentally ingest one of those cabbage worms. Not that you will, of course, but I’ve always been curious about it. He says:

    “Hi Julie, My source believes that a cooked cabbage worm would not be a
    problem. If the insect ate plants with alkaloids or other bad chemicals it
    would be different. On the plus side, it would increase the protein in the
    diet. But, I wouldn’t eat so many that you are at risk for gout.”

    Isn’t that…. comforting?

    And… I picked up my box-o-veg from the farmers. Holy cow. The kale looks to be already washed. Wow. And in the box and coming up: Sunchokes (I’ve known them as Jerusalem Artichokes, but they go by a lot of names), Rutabegas, BEETS, Turnips, Acorn and Butternut Squash, sweet beautiful Onions. Our farmers included a lot of recipes in their accompanying letter. I’m smitten. A smitten kitten.

    Beets! They’re most wonderful the way Cheryl recommends. They’re also wonderful pickled. Or cooked, cooled and in salads. I do like baked best because it’s so easy. You put them in the oven with their skins on, and then slip them out of their skins after they’re done. They retain much more of their color and juice that way… and now I’m going to go stick my beets in the oven…

  17. Sheri says:

    Kale…er…Hail, Vivian! Juju, it is marvelous beyond words to see you writing here again–we’ve missed you terribly! I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.

    I’ve never eaten kale, but your description was so intriguing that I may just have to try it. 🙂

  18. Pat says:

    Having been there, too, it is just the toughest thing to lose one’s parents. But as you know, and as I’ve found out over the past 20 years without them, their memories live on; we carry their humor, their love for various things in life, their funny little oddities right inside of ourselves, wherever we go, whatever we do. The stars and angels during this holiday season are only reminders of the brightness and love they gave to our lives. Through the sadness remember the joy and have a loving Christmas, Juju. We sure missed you.

  19. Jax says:

    Here’s a thing to do with whole beets (root and greens). Steam the root, peel and quarter. Steam the greens separately, just a few minutes. In a pan, sautee quartered roots with a smidge of olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar (balsamic will also do). Then, make a nest of the greens, put roots on top, and garnish with fresh ground pepper and coarse salt. I love this dish b/c the vinegar balances the beets’ sweetness beautifully, it’s low in calories and high in vitamins, and very easy.

  20. Cassandra says:

    Who would have thought an essay on kale could make me cry?

    Be well, and thanks for the recipes.

  21. Cheryl says:

    Kale IS available in Oz. I’ll just have to look for it. It’s often called curly kale apparently and is available in winter here – June and July are best months.

    So sorry Juju – it’ll be a while before I get to try it.

    I also read it is an excellent source of calcium for vegans – as are dried figs apparently – and those I DO have at home.

    Take care all,

    Cheryl XX

  22. anon says:

    Juju,

    I’ve missed your writing. Damn, it’s good. As is kale. (I like it best cooked in olive oil with lots of garlic, finished with a little chicken stock, and maybe a squeeze of lemon, lots of fresh pepper and a sprinkle of good kosher salt.)
    I lost my mom some years ago– we were both far too young. My heart goes out to you and all of us motherless children in the world.

  23. Jack Ridl says:

    I get to live with JuJu every day! And I get to eat kale. And I want you all to know how much she has missed you while she’s been away from the post being brave and kind, and I want you to know how much your loving responses have meant to her.

    Time for my kale lunch.
    JuJu’s Jack

  24. slm says:

    I’m with Cassandra, I never would have guessed a post on Kale could move me so deeply.

    Its so good to hear your voice again, JuJu.

    I’m buying kale tonight.

    Sunny

  25. Melissa says:

    OK, I did it! I ate kale!! Yummy!

    I prepared it just like you suggested, Juju, and it was really easy. Sauteed with some garlic, olive oil, mixed peppers (couldn’t do it straight up the first time…), salt, pepper, and a bit of dill. Mmmmm. I’m not sure my Dad will ever eat it, but I think it is something I’ll add to my list of veggies. Here’s to the new year and trying new things!

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