While summer is a time to graze on salads, the craving wanes as the season grows cold. Even if I did have a mid-winter freak craving for salad, January is hardly the time to find good local salad greens. That's why I turn to kale during the long New York winter to fulfill my herbivorous needs.
Compared to spinach, kale has over 3 times the amount of Vitamin A and almost 10 times the amount of Vitamin C, making it a little powerhouse of nutrients that actually tastes good... Yes, you read that right, I said it tastes good.
Kale like many other greens gets a bad wrap because it's often prepared wrong. Undercook it, and kale is like a sheet of green papyrus. Over cook it, and it turns into brown mush that smells of sulfur. But when cooked properly, it has a great toothsome texture with a verdant flavor that makes for a great warm substitute for salad.
The trick to getting it tender without overdoing it is to first sauté it, then cover it with a lid to steam it, finishing it off without the lid to burn off some of the moisture. It's great with garlic or shallots, but for this version I've toasted some pine nuts in the oil before adding the kale, then added some raisins soaked in vermouth for sweetness.
The booze soaked raisins end up tender and moist, while the toasted pine nuts add a wonderful earthy flavor and richness to the kale. This dish has enough substance and protein to be a meal on its own, but I served it with my Crispy Caraway Roast Duck.
- Put the raisins in a small ramekin and cover with vermouth. Let this sit until the raisins are plump and there is little to no liquid remaining.
- Strip the kale leaves from the tough stems by holding the stem and pulling the leaves away along the stem with your other hand. Tear the kale into bite sized pieces. Thoroughly wash the leaves.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat until very hot. Add the olive oil, then add the pine nuts. Fry the pine nuts until they are golden brown and fragrant. Add the kale, then drain the raisins and add those too. Turn down the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, salt and pepper the kale to taste, then continue frying until the kale is tender enough to eat, but not mushy.
- Remove the kale from the heat and give it a squeeze of lemon juice for a little zing.