I’m not a fan of kale. When kale is on a menu and something else is offered, I always feel like I have been given a Get Out of Kale Free card.
But kale is in season, and it is positively stuffed full of vitamins and other things that are good for you. Besides, some people — even some people I know, probably — actually like kale.
So I decided to cook up four batches of it to see if there were ways I could come to enjoy it.
And enjoy it I did. If all kale tasted like this, I might even become a fan.
I began with Cannellini Beans With Roasted Red Peppers and Kale, because kale and cannellini beans is truly a world-class flavor combination. They’re terrific together in soup, they’re terrific together in salad and, unsurprisingly, they are terrific together in this dish, which is sort of like a warm salad.
The dish probably had its beginnings in Italy. The ingredients and preparation are traditionally Italian, from olive oil and garlic to white wine, cannellini beans and Parmesan cheese.
Roasted red peppers are also called for, and the recipe from “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” suggests that you buy them in a jar. I’d recommend that, too. The red peppers aren’t the star of the show; they are just a supporting player. Roasting them yourself takes time and effort. Save that for a dish that is all about red peppers.
Cannellini Beans With Roasted Red Peppers and Kale has two costars: the beans and the kale. They’re good together any time, and this time they’re great.
Next I made Green Soup — Caldo Verde — that a Portuguese cookbook calls “the national dish of Portugal.” One taste and you’ll know why (though if you want to argue that pasteis de nata is truly the national dish of Portugal, I won’t object).
The broth in Green Soup is basically a potato soup, rich in onion and garlic, and pureed until it is thickened. The green part comes from kale (or collard greens) that is cut into thin strips and cooked in the broth.
A slice or two or three of chorizo adds a nice spicy bite, and a few drops of the oil the chorizo was cooked in brings it all together into a hearty, memorable meal.
I stayed in the Mediterranean region for Roasted Eggplant and Crispy Kale With Yogurt, which may be the most Mediterranean food ever.
It’s a layered dish, and the bottom layer is essentially tzatziki — a thick yogurt mixed with shredded cucumber, garlic and lemon juice. On top of that goes bite-sized pieces of roasted eggplant. The kale is next, but it has been flash-cooked so it is lightly scorched and lightly crispy. And the top layer is cherry tomatoes that have been halved and tossed with olive oil and salt.
To be perfectly honest, this would be an amazing appetizer or meze even without the kale. But with a hint of bitterness to offset the oil and yogurt, the kale is a definite plus.
The last dish I made was the problem child: Kale With Shallots and Olive Oil.
The first strike against it was the name. This dish does not have any shallots in it. It has onions — lots and lots of onions — and shallots are in the onion family. But that does not mean they are in this particular recipe.
The second strike was the oil.
It calls for one cup of olive oil. That’s eight ounces of olive oil to feed six to eight people. Sixteen tablespoons. Forty-eight teaspoons. That’s 318 calories apiece for of six servings, 239 for eight.
Strike two-and-a-half was the proportions. The recipe calls for eight heaping cups of chopped kale, which it says is 31/2 to 4 pounds of kale. That’s nonsense. You can get eight cups of chopped kale out of about one pound of kale.
I decided to compromise and use two pounds — 16 cups — of kale. It worked for me.
That’s probably because the kale is cooked in coriander and cumin, along with a bucket of olive oil. The spices really give the dish a kick, and a hefty dose of lemon juice at the end brings it all home.
Yes, it is a problem child. But as is often the case with problem children, it may be the one I love the most.