Thursday, November 26, 2009


It sort of seems like kale is everywhere, doesn't it? Maybe not as everywhere as the term "cougar" or Twitter, but it's popping up a lot recently. We have had kale several times in our CSA box. Then, we had it from JB's CSA box in New York over the weekend when we were visiting, and now we're going to have it today as one of the Thanksgiving side dishes. Kale was even the answer to a clue in the NYT crossword puzzle from 11/22 (we're finishing it up today).

I've learned to appreciate kale's fall-winter taste, but I never thought of it as particularly pretty, and certainly not as a species for a planned and terraced garden. Until, that is, we went to the Sarah Duke gardens at Duke University a few days ago (B and I have been traveling around the entire country this past week). And there, we saw a whole garden full of autumn vegetables planted in ornamental rows.

That's right! You spy cabbage roses and Swiss chard, and in the back left, purple kale. Strangely beautiful, right?

I only have one real way to cook kale. I cook it with olive oil, slivered garlic, and salt. The secret is to saute the garlic in olive oil first, until brown and nutty, and then to add the sliced kale and stir for five minutes or so, until it wilts. (You can squeeze some lemon juice at the end and add red pepper flakes if you so desire.) Quite simple to prepare, but also quite delicious and complex in flavor for such a minimal number of ingredients.

The best part is that you can adapt this recipe (really, more of a technique) to all sorts of vegetables, particularly those of the fall-winter variety. The produce has changed, in the store and in the CSA box, confirming once again that fall is here. Sometimes it's nice to see that change in the grocery store, though, because it can seem like there are so very many out-of-season vegetables available from South America. It's nice to have strawberries in winter, but they often don't taste very good.

But back to the technique: one of my favorite vegetables (other than kale, of course) to use it with is broccoli. I love broccoli. A little less, maybe, than I love cauliflower, but I end up cooking it a fair amount because B does not share my devotion to cauliflower. The same basic technique applies to broccoli, but you have to add a little bit of water so that the broccoli steams and then sautes in the same pan.

Last week, when we had J&C over for dinner, I cooked four broccoli crowns for the four of us (we also had flank steak, my go-to as it was a weeknight dinner party). It was pretty popular, and this was all that was left of the broccoli (thankfully, a convenient amount for lunch the next day).

As I've made this recipe/technique a number of times, I've learned that it can be the basis for a lot of variations. One of my favorites is to add a splash of sesame oil during the cooking, and then toss the cooked broccoli with a tablespoon of sesame seeds and a tablespoon of soy sauce for an Asian-inspired side. I'm sure you can come up with variations of your own, from vegetable choice to seasonings. Random bag of braising greens from your CSA box? This is the perfect recipe, my default if you will. Use the technique with whatever vegetable you desire, but most of all, enjoy!

Sauteed Broccoli with Garlic

Serves: 4 as side dish, with leftovers
Time: 15 minutes active and total

2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
4 broccoli crowns, divided into florets
1/2 c. water
1/2 t. salt, or more to taste

In a 12-inch frying pan (I use my Scanpan), heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned, stirring and flipping with a wooden spoon. Turn heat off, and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Then add broccoli and water, and turn back to medium-high heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until water has evaporated and broccoli has turned bright green and is starting to brown. Sprinkle salt and serve immediately. Broccoli can be cooked several hours ahead of time, covered, and then reheated on the stove or in the microwave before serving.

P.S. With all this talk about kale and broccoli, you might think I've forgotten that I'm typing this post on Thanksgiving. It would be hard for me to forget, however, because I'm writing at my parents' house in San Diego while my mom is running around like a whirling dervish (and has been since 3am). We will be 14 for Thanksgiving dinner, and there are approximately 52 pounds of turkey waiting to be cooked. We like leftovers, thank goodness. (B&K, who are cooking a 12-pound turkey for just the two of them, still have us beat in ppp—pounds per person, that is.)

You see, this is the first time we have done a turkey cook-off. (The other theme of dinner is "Homage to the Final Issue of Gourmet"; the kale I mentioned earlier, along with almost every other side dish, will be directly from the magazine.) First, a traditional stuffed turkey will be oven-roasted. Another will be spit-roasted on the outdoor barbecue (not dissimilar in spirit to the delicious vinegar-spiced pulled pork we ate in North Carolina a few days ago), and the final one will be deep-fried.

My parents bought a special turkey-fryer for the occasion. The imprinted text, which is difficult to read in the picture, says, among other advisories: "Caution: hot." In case you hadn't figured it out, the large amount of oil will get very hot, and subsequently will cook the turkey very rapidly (only 3 1/2 minutes per pound!). The directions that come with the fryer say in big scary red letters:


We're going to have a fire extinguisher nearby, and my dad's going to wear safety goggles. I think it's going to be very exciting. I'll keep you posted about the results, both of the fried turkey and the turkey taste-off. We may take a poll at dinner, to keep it as objective as possible.

For now, though, Happy Thanksgiving!

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