There are certain things one cannot serve to company, and boiled kale is certainly one of them.
“Boiled kale,” I think, always sounds like bad orphanage food—somehow boiled vegetables aren’t ever sexy like braised or roasted ones can be. Braised kale, along with a nice roasted chicken, is dinner party food; boiled kale (say, with an egg fried in vinegar) is for solitary dining. And I highly recommend the development of one or two, or four or five, beloved recipes that one would never ever serve to another person; they lend a special savor to nights when, by necessity or inclination, one finds oneself eating alone. It’s nice to go home to a friend or a lover or a cat, and even nicer to eat dinner with them, but when I go home to myself, I gleefully chop some onions and wash some kale.
Boiled kale has other qualities to recommend it—it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s good for you, and it’s in season right now. It’s a virtuous meal, if nothing else. Below is my favorite way to eat it, with some variations, adapted from Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Café Cookbook. She refers to it as a “primitive concoction,” which it is; it’s also hearty and restorative, and very good with a glass of red wine.
But please, if you decide you like it, keep it to yourself. It’s best that way.
1 bunch kale (I use lacinato kale, but the whole point of this post is doing exactly what you and only you want, so you can use curly kale if that’s your pleasure)
dried red pepper flakes or a dried chili
about 2 garlic cloves (depending on your taste for garlic)
1. Wash and drain the kale. Devein it if you so desire, then slice it about 1/8 inch thick.
2. Chop the onions and add them, with some olive oil, to a large saucepan, and sauté until they’re translucent but still firm.
3. Add the kale, some slivered garlic, and a pinch of chili. Cook and stir until the kale’s wilted, then add water to cover by about ½ inch, and salt to taste. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the kale is tender but not mushy.
4. Meanwhile, make some toast with peasant-type bread—sourdough is good, or multigrain; the slices should be fairly large and hearty enough to stand up to the kale. When it’s toasted, rub it with a cut clove of garlic, then cover the toast with kale, grated Pecorino cheese, olive oil, and salt and black pepper. And there you go.