I try on average 3 to 4 new recipes a week. Mostly, I am just cooking for myself and my husband, Kent. I enjoy cooking for Kent, not only because cooking is a form of endearment, but because he also happens to be a pretty darn good guinea pig. (Not to say he has any other traits resembling a guinea pig. He doesn't have buck teeth or smell funny, for instance.) For as much harassment I give Kent for the foods he doesn't like, I don't give the man nearly enough credit for the experiments he endures because he married a foodie. He takes my culinary whims in stride. He never complains about dinner. At worst, he just doesn't eat it, and then he sneaks junk food later after I've gone to bed.
Here's a partial list of things my culinary martyr has endured:
*Strange Salad Dressings involving Hazelnut oil and too much lemon
*Dry Pasta Dishes without marinara sauce (marinara is Kent's favorite)
*Bitter greens (mustard, kale, collards) sneaked into soups and casseroles
*Three months of no yeast/bread/dairy in the house while I completed a Candida Cleanse
*Swiss chard gone wrong with soggy walnuts
*Watching me eat animals that he thinks should only be known as pets (rabbit)
*Waiting for at least 20 shots of any meal to be taken before eating
Even though I realize I'm lucky because Kent is so agreeable, I admit I feel the freedom to indulge in all my guilty food pleasures when he's not around. This habit started the first year we were married when he was completing a low-residency Master's degree. Twice a year he'd be out of town for a couple weeks at a time for his residencies. I could cook whatever I wanted with no sighs or eye rolling.
This week Kent's been out of town, and I've been trying hard to get the more Kent offensive food items into my diet so that he won't have to stomach them. So I polished off the tilapia in the freezer (he has a minor food allergy to fish), and then I moved on to the grass-fed, organic beef liver (like so many others, he has an aversion to liver.) But, the highlight of this week's guilty pleasure dining has been the ability to eat kale at almost every meal without feeling guilt and without being ridiculed. It's as if Kent covertly planned his trip to coincide with the kale harvest so he could avoid his number one most hated vegetable.
I mostly enjoy my kale fixes as Molly Wizenburg of Orangette suggests in her article "How I Learned to Love Kale": hot pan of olive oil and butter, a quick saute, finished by a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt.
But it's summer, so as temperatures soar I've turned to raw kale. I know. It's sort of scary. Almost like admitting you eat raw liver (although I'd never go THAT far.) Frankly, raw kale has a lot going against it. Its rubbery, garbage bag texture, and it's grass clipping aroma. I wasn't brave enough to experiment on my own, so I perused the Internet for, what I felt were, the most promising raw kale recipes out there. Please feel free to post your own links or recipes if you have a raw kale recipe I missed. What follows are the three that I tried this week.
The best part of these three recipes is shredding the kale. The best way to do this is to chiffonade the leaves after de-stemming them. Bundle the leaves into a big fat, cigar-like roll, and slice as thinly as you can. This is the most satisfying knife skill I know.
Dr. Dick's Kale Coleslaw the first recipe I tried comes from Diana Dyer, a nutritionist who writes 364 Days of Kale, which is a great resource for the kale obsessed. This recipe is entry level kale eating. Most people hate kale because it's bitter, but this recipe has a whooping 1/3 cup of brown sugar in its balsamic vinaigrette dressing to counteract kale's bite. In all honesty, this was too much sugar for me, but I took this to a 4th of July BBQ, and it a hit. (More popular than the Mulberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies I made and nearly as sweet!) However, this kaleslaw is beautiful because of the contrasting colors: red peppers, purple red onions, and orange carrots. I think the amount of sugar in this recipe could be cut in half with no repercussions.
If we were playing Goldilocks, I'd say the first salad was too sweet, and the second salad was too salty. This Raw Kale Salad with Avocado from Tara Weaver of Tea & Cookies is composed of kale, cabbage, red onion, and a garlicky, lemon miso dressing. The miso was overpowering, but this could be my own damn fault because I used Red Miso instead of Light Miso, but either way, go easy on the miso and taste as you go. Because if you get the balance of right, the miso makes the creaminess of the avocado sing. The cabbage also added a nice counterpoint, and although it seems strange, the onion powder gives the dressing a craveable flavor. I will definately make this again.
Finally, I ended this raw kale bender with Sesame Kale Salad. This last recipe, while not necessarily "just right," was a good base salad to add other ingredients to. On it's own it, it just didn't have enough pizazz even though the sesame seeds and sesame oil played well with the sweet roasted red bell peppers. I jazzed it up with a few blanched green beans, some garbanzo beans, and a little leftover rice I made a meal of it.
The great thing about all these kale salads is that the kale leaves are so sturdy that once you make up the salad and dress it, it will keep in the refrigerator for several days. So, when you find yourself alone, at midnight with a hankering for kale, you can indulge your guilty pleasure.
So what do you eat when your picky family members are not around?