I came with the best of intentions. Really, there was a plan, there was enthusiasm, and there was the jam.
Blackberry jam, to be precise. I was going to telling you all about how I sterilized the jars, how Louma and I picked the blackberries, how I boiled the shite out of those berries once mixed with sugar...(the supposed joy of cooking, according to that classic book, is not needing any precision in terms of boiling times, and winging it until the sides of the pot are scorching and the fruit hisses whenever a wooden spoon touches it).
But hasn't everyone done this? When I told people it was my first time making jam, I was rather proud of myself for the 4 pounds of fruit and the 8 jars of jam and the battlescars from the vines etc etc. That is until everyone seemed to say "Oh yeah, when I used to make jam...,"a story that inevitably ended with some tale of a mother or grandmother coaching small children through the ratio of fruit to sugar and that perfect boiling point.
Of course it's great when everyone wants to help. But jam is one of those things that everyone has an opinion about. Everyone has their two cents, and everyone likes it done just so.
So I don't really feel like going there anymore. Instead, I'll tell you about something much less common than boiled fruit and sugar: kale salad.
Kale is one of my favorite vegetables. Especially Tuscan kale, which I have talked about numerous times here.
Green, hearty, healthy, it's hard for me not to feel good after I've eaten a bowl full of kale. Boiled, braised, baked, and sautéed, it's all good.
And today? Ribboned.
Sliced into ribbons that is. Tossed with some toasted pine nuts, a bit of parmesan, and a handful of dried red currants, a delicious salad was born. Sturdy enough to stand up to a side of barbequed meat, the salad was also perfect on its own for one of these beautiful and hot Cazadero afternoons.
Followed up with a smear of jam on toast for dessert, I didn't feel as guilty for not going on and on about jam.
Kale Salad with Pine Nuts
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009
Note: This recipe originally calls for white balsamic vinegar, and for soaking the currants in that white balsamic vinegar overnight. Because I lack things like funds and forethought, there was only regular balsamic available, and the currants got less than their fair share of soakage. It was still delicious, but if you are a purist, set aside those dried fruits overnight in a bath of white balsamic vinegar.
2 tbsp dried currants
7 tbsp regular (or white) balsamic vinegar, divided
1 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar (seasoned will do fine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 bunches Tuscan kale
3-4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
parmesan cheese (either shavings or a generous sprinkling of grated)
Place currants in a small bowl with 5 tbsp vinegar. Leave overnight or while you work.
Get to work on the kale. This may take some time, but it's nice work. Meditative, you could say. Slice out the stems from each leaf. Then stack a few half leaves and finely slice them crosswise into green ribbons. Toss into a large bowl as you go. Discard stems.
When kale is done, whisk together 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, honey, oil, and salt in a large bowl. Pour over kale, and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature, tossing every once in a while, for about a half an hour. Think of it as a slaw: the longer the kale sits in the vinegars, the less toothsome it will be.
Finally, drain the currants and add the the kale. Add the nuts and the cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Serves anywhere from 2 to 8, depending on different affinities for raw leafy greens