where better to start

It was seventy degrees today. Up in the flower bed out front, stocky crocuses waft purple, and the first tentative daffodils nod yellow and white. Out back, new shoots of tarragon and oregano peek through last season’s dried woody stems, chives are springing up green and soft, and rosemary branches are fat with lavender blooms. These afternoons, we fling open the back doors and sit on the steps, drinking in the low western sun.

But before long we are running for sweaters. These short-sleeved days still give way to wool and flannel nights. For a few more weeks, dinner will continue to be a cooked inside affair, with socks and candles. And crucifers, which, thanks to our local CSA, continue to be in good supply.

This winter, because of Alice Waters and Judy Rogers, I learned to think differently about kale, which I’d previously only known as a stir-fry-with-tofu-and-eat-with-brown-rice affair. Boiled kale, like most anything boiled, doesn’t sound like anything very good. Certainly not like something that you would eat if you had a choice. But long-cooked and ladled over toasted bread with a soft-yolk egg over the top, this kale is comforting and meaty, brothy and delicious, and nice enough to serve to friends for an impromptu weeknight dinner.

Boiled Kale on Toast with Fried Eggs and Vinegar

Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

2 bunches of kale, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
olive oil
red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves
4 cups water or chicken stock
4 thick slices peasant style bread
4 eggs
red wine vinegar

Place the onions and 4 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, 5 to 10 minutes. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, the garlic, and the kale. Stir for a few minutes until kale is wilted. Add water or stock, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cover. Cook for 30 minutes, or until tender.

While kale is cooking, brush both sides of bread with olive oil, then grill or toast until golden and crisp. Lightly rub with a garlic clove, then place each piece of toast in a warmed soup plate.

Ladle over the bread a generous amount of kale, and a good amount of broth. Top with a fried or poached egg. Warm a few tablespoons of vinegar in the egg pan, then drizzle a little over each egg. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you are feeling really fancy, give each plate a few drops of truffle oil just before serving.


13 Responses to “where better to start”

  1. 1 kathy March 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I do not usually think of comfort food as something surprising or unexpected but this dish is just that. Sit down with a bowl and experience familiar old kale in a new way.

  2. 2 Breece March 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Hey Jami….dang that made my mouth water just reading it! I love Kale and Sue and I have been back on our DETOX diet so we eat a ton of greens. Thanks for this new recipe! We’ve been doing a lot of braising of greens but I like this idea. When we can eat eggs and bread again, we’ll try it.

    We made a really yummy tempeh dish over the weekend. Is it okay to share via the blog?

    I’m excited about your blog and love your descriptive writing style! You are a fantastic writer!

    Would love to hang out soon…Breece

    • 3 jami March 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

      hey breece, yes, please do share your tempeh recipe! and yes, let’s make plans to get together really soon. we finish plastering this weekend — we’ll give you a call after that!

  3. 4 linda March 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    hey jami,
    yumm. one can never know too many ways to cook kale, the plant that never stops giving. i’m very excited about your blog and will probably find myself turning to it to wrench myself out of the cooking rut that i sometimes find myself in.
    happy plastering.

  4. 5 Leanne March 17, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    This recipe sounds so “yum”, yet so simple…and healthy, too! I like your subtle encouragement to support a local CSA as well. (Perhaps future recipes might include a weekly what’s-in-the-box dish based on changing seasonal produce?)

    Many of your friends know what an amazing cook you are (and photographer, and river adventurer, and community activist, and writer…). I’ll be tuning-in regularly to catch-up on your latest cooking inspirations.

  5. 6 Katie March 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Hey Jami,

    Can I say YAHOO!All your friends love your cooking and what a great and generous ideal to share with everyone. So looking forward to trying this out. We cook kale the same way and have for MANY YEARS. So I’m delighted to try something new.

    Okay so your a writer too. I can see a new profession on the horizon that will satisfy all of your creative outlets. Way to take the leap!

  6. 7 Sue March 18, 2009 at 3:01 am

    I fell right into your plate with that piece. I find myself loving you and your writing!!!!! Grounded and fed with your descriptives and sensibility. Anchored. It’s like reading Barbara Kingsolver or Mollie Katzen but not cuz it’s yours! thanks for the inspiration…I have been working long and hard hours, feeling very rushed most of the time and this really slowed me down. I need to slow down, and be with the simple beauty that is aaah so wonderful! Thanks for the wonderful!

  7. 8 Kelly March 18, 2009 at 4:06 am

    I had a variation of this dish* at Jami’s and it was delicious and satisfying. Ever since I’ve been craving kale and I can’t wait to make it like this for myself!

    Keep blogging Jami!

    *Jami served the kale with a yukon potato gratin (gra TAN) that was insanely good. I hope she posts that particular delicacy on the blog!

  8. 9 khyber March 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I so enjoyed the poetry of your writing, Jami. I know the lesbo-kitchen will be a great source of info and pleasure for me. Thanks for your efforts! On the subject of Alice Waters, I’m writing to you from Berkeley having just yesterday visited her famous, super-inspiring Edible Schoolyard, and just shortly leaving this coffee shop to go stroll by Chez Panisse!

  9. 11 Carmela March 19, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I feel so … nourished. The soft yolk dressing the kale was better than any holanndaise. Thank you!!!

  10. 12 elissa March 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm


    Is anyone out there surprised that Jamie EXCELS at all she does?! Writing, cooking, etc. Our community is so lucky to have you in our midst.

    I’m supposedly hard at work here, while you are plastering!

    I was excited to see the words “egg, bread, and chili flakes” since boiled kale doesn’t necessarily, in and of itself, entice. Yet if there is one thing we have all learned, it is to trust Jami’s cooking and her uncanny ability to find an unlikely recipe, try it, and turn us all on to it!

    THANKS HIMES. We will try this at home.
    We anxiously await the next Lesbo Kitchen posting!
    (And thanks for breaking the stereotype that Lesbos make/eat and bring to potlucks hummus only!)
    And long, live dark leafy greens.
    xo Elis

  1. 1 before it’s too late « lesbo-kitchen Trackback on May 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm

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