Saturday, April 16, 2011

30 by 30: Sauteed Kale with Pine Nuts

I mentioned my birthday was last week. I've come to the conclusion that I'm getting old. And since this will continue to happen with or without my consent, I'd better get with the program.

Enter my 30 by 30 list. I had actually tried to come up with one of these lists last fall (so I had some time to get a jump on it), but I didn't even come up with fifteen items. I looked at other people's lists for inspiration (this concept is quite popular in the blogosphere) - people wanted to write a novel or climb Mt Everest before they turned 30. Personally, I find these "goals" a little silly. Writing a novel is not some sort of mandatory requirement for adulthood, and if everyone were to write one before their 30th birthday, there would be a lot more garbage on the shelves of Barnes and Noble than there already is. Unless you already have pretensions of authorship, it's a ridiculous goal. And I have no pretensions of climbing Mt Everest. So my list included some more plebeian things like starting a retirement account, getting a puppy and writing a few dissertation chapters (some of which I managed to accomplish already). But since I couldn't even come up with 30 things to do that seemed meaningful and achievable, this idea has lost a bit of steam.

Until now, that is. I have come up with a great twist on the 30 by 30 idea: I will try 30 new foods before I turn 30! This is good because I continue to be a picky eater and I really don't want to go through the rest of my adult life this way. I don't have to like everything, but I need to at least give these foods a good try. And it is a challenging goal because this is something I've already been consciously working on for a year or so, so it's going to be more difficult to find new foods to try. I'm going to be keeping track of these on a separate page of the blog, so you can all play along at home.

I inaugurated this list last night with . . . kale! I actually have no experience with dark leafy greens like kale, chard or collards, and they've been on my list of things to try. As I tore the leaves from the stems, I was surprised at how firm and almost sharp the kale leaves were. That firm almost-sharpness stuck around, too - I felt it pricking the sides of my stomach after dinner! I had a taste of it raw and thought it had a cabbage-like tang, so I was not surprised to learn (via Wikipedia later in the evening) that it belongs to the cabbage family. Cooked, though, I did not get much flavor from it. It is definitely fibrous and time-consuming to chew (which can be good - eating your food slowly gives your stomach time to realize it's full!), but not tough or otherwise unpleasant. In short, I give kale an average review.

This recipe, however, makes me want to eat the kale: mix in red onion, garlic and toasted pine nuts (ok, I managed to burn mine rather than toast them - twice) and this is something I want to eat. It was like a treasure hunt: find the tasty little bits among the kale! But in doing so, I ate the nice, healthy, vitamin-rich kale, which is a good thing.

And did I mention that it looks gorgeous? It cooks to a beautiful, appetizing bright green color. With the bits of purpley-red onion and toasty pine nut accents scattered through it, it was truly an ornament for the table.

Would I do this again? Probably. But I'm not sure if I'm totally on the kale bandwagon yet. Let's see if I start craving those leftovers . . .

Sauteed Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts
Adapted from Bon Appetit (not sure which issue - sometime in the winter of 2010-11).

2 bunches kale (1 lb)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted (definitely do this in a dry pan, and keep them moving - I tried to cheat and use the toaster oven and burnt two separate batches)

Tear the kale leaves off the stems and shred them coarsely.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (or other large, heavy-bottomed pan) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sautee until soft (about 3 minutes, in my case, since I chopped the onion small).

Add the kale and cook until it wilts, tossing often (about 3 minutes). The kale should be just tender and still a very bright green. (If you have too much kale for your pan, sautee half for the first three minutes, then add the second half for three minutes more - this is advised by the original recipe, which involved two pounds of kale). Toss with pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to serve. 

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