Years ago my aunt and uncle hosted Thanksgiving. This was a huge affair, not just family, but friends and friends of friends. The house was crowded with strangers, not something I was used to. Our family gatherings were intimate, with maybe one or two drop-bys. Not a knockdown dragout. It was loud, in a cocktail party kind of way. And I’m horrible at small talk. I filled my plate and wandered awkwardly through the room trying to find a place to sit. Later over coffee and dessert, a guy with an uncomfortably thinning pony tail read my palm and told me I’d always “wear the pants” in my relationships. I smiled politely while whispering “douchebag” under my breath. Not my favorite Thanksgiving. But I’ll always remember it because of an Italian couple. They’re the ones who helped spark my unbridled passion for greens.
The Thanksgiving was a potluck, so of course everyone brought something. The Italian couple brought a side dish of kale and a small stove espresso pot. The espresso was delicious, my first really authentic demitasse of the stuff, but it was the kale I’ll always remember. I was one of those weird kids who ate kale and spinach without protest. But this preparation made me love it. And now I find I can’t prepare greens any other way. Garlicky, peppery, with a toasted flavor in the back and a touch of salt at the front. The fruitiness of the olive oil bringing everything together and rounding it out. It’s outstanding.
What’s more it takes literally minutes to prepare. When I approached her for the recipe I was astonished to learn this kale has only 5 ingredients and can be cooked in 3 minutes. Amazing. She probably thought I was a crazy person because for the rest of the night I complimented her on her kale. Years later Hubby became a convert to the High Church of Kale as well. He was never a fan of greens until he tried mine. So thank you sweet Italian lady wherever you are. We’re eating more greens than Popeye these days because of you. And this Thanksgiving? It’ll surely be a side dish.
- 4-5 leaves of kale, washed and dried, torn off the stalk, ripped into bite-size pieces (mustard greens, swiss chard or spinach work just as well)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped into large chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- crushed red pepper to taste (I use lots)
- Heat your pan SUPER hot. I use a deep wok-like nonstick thing that I’ve had since college thanks to my Dad (Thanks Dad!). It’s bent and blackened and I use it every day. My most treasured kitchen tool.
- Drop in the olive oil and swirl it around, coating the pan.
- Toast your garlic cloves until they’re a light brown. I read everywhere that browned garlic is bitter, but I don’t get it. I *love* it toasted. In big chunks it cooks so the outside is toasted and the inside gets smooshy….Mmmmmm.
- Drop in the kale. If your pan is hot enough it’ll toast on the edges slightly, giving it a nice nutty flavor. Cook the kale about 2-3 minutes, or until it goes limp and becomes a bright green. It should be cooked, but still retain a “toothy” quality.
- Try not to devour it all at once.