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
red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves
4 cups water or chicken stock
4 thick slices peasant style bread
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.