The Kale Whisperer

I’ve made quite a reputation for myself lately.  I’ve been approached on the playground, queried via email and stopped in the grocery store.  I’m considering investing in giant sunglasses to wear whenever I go out since I’m kind of a big deal around here.

I wish people were asking me where I got my fabulous haircut or how I managed to raise such angelic children or stay knowledgeable on current events, but I’ve had no such luck.

Instead, I’m known as the chick who eats kale – and likes it.

By now, everyone’s aware of kale’s status as a superfood.  We all know that it should have a permanent spot on our weekly grocery list.  The problem is that it takes a little coaxing to make the leafy green taste good.  Lucky for my legions of students in Kale Studies, I’ve got a great recipe to try: Kale Pesto.

I adapted this recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil’s new cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure.  I bought the book last week and the two recipes I’ve tried so far have been winners.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

This pesto is a great way for the uninitiated to flirt with kale.  The flavors are very similar to traditional basil pesto except that it has a little more heft and depth of flavor.  My husband liked the kale version even better than the original.  My kids just heard “pesto” and happily tucked into their plates of pasta.  Give it a try and let me know what you think… but please, no autographs.

Kale Pesto
Adapted from True Food by Andrew Weil

2 large bunches of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 large handful (about 2/3 cup) of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
about 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 pinches of kosher salt (taste after the first pinch)
a shake or two of hot red pepper flakes

Blanch the kale in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water for three minutes.  Drain and immediately plunge the kale into a large bowl of ice water to stop it from cooking and help retain its bright green color.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes in the ice water and then squeeze dry — no need to strangle the kale, a little water still on the leaves will mean adding less olive oil later in the recipe.

Put the kale, cheese, pine nuts, garlic, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper flakes into a food processor and using on/off pulses, chop to a coarse mixture.  Then, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream.  Honestly, I don’t measure my olive oil, I just add enough until the consistency looks right.  Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and/or red pepper flakes if needed.

This makes about two cups of pesto.  We mixed the entire batch with a pound of fettuccine to make a generously sauced pasta, just the way we like it.  If you’re like most normal people, start with one cup of pesto per pound of pasta and go from there.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Pulling open the heavy doors, we peered into the tasting room.

“Can I help you?”

“We’re big fans of your wine — any chance we could do a tasting today?”

“Oh, that’s too bad, tastings are by appointment only,” she replied, punctuating her statement with a wince as if the news pained her.

We looked past the petite gatekeeper into the room that appeared fully staffed but lacking customers.  “Um, can we make an appointment for right now?” we sheepishly offered.

“Um, no.”

As we headed back to the car, I snapped a picture of the winery’s roofline against a bright blue sky.  I wouldn’t be taking home bottles of wine that day, but at least I could leave with an interesting photo.

Years have passed, but I still dream of having a Pretty Woman moment where I revisit the tasting room as the author of a best-selling cookbook featuring photos and recipes from Napa’s favorite wineries.  “Remember me?  You wouldn’t let me taste your wine.  Big mistake.  Big.  Huge!” I’d say with a head tilt and a Julia Roberts smile.

* Post inspired by WordPress’ weekly photo challenge.  The theme for this week is geometry in photography.   Since I’m posting daily in November, I need all the creative prompts I can get…

The Jinx

I think my daughter has been jinxed.  Not cursed, because curses are serious.  This is just a quirky annoying jinx of getting sick at the most inopportune times.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when my daughter ended up sick on Halloween.  She has a long history of celebrating the holidays with a swig of Children’s Motrin instead of a sip of sparkling apple cider.  She’s missed Thanksgiving because of the stomach flu, Easter because of strep throat and a class field trip because of the croup.   She spent her first visit to Disneyland sick in the hotel before we finally gave up and headed home early.  She’s not ill that often, but when it happens, she makes it memorable.

This bout with a Halloween virus was certainly memorable but for a different reason.  Yesterday afternoon, my daughter’s friend rang our doorbell to deliver a surprise that rendered us speechless; her group of buddies used their own haul of Halloween candy to fill a trick-or-treat bag for my daughter.

Apparently, as soon as word spread on the playground that she was going to miss out on all the fun, the girls started planning how they were going to bring a smile to her face.  It worked like a charm.  I’m also smiling, grateful that my daughter has found her tribe of girlfriends.

Fourth grade seems to be the age of discovering the joy of true friendship.  Instead of enduring mom-scheduled playdates that simply help fill the day, she is choosing her friends and developing an appreciation of girls who share a fondness for bad jokes and tree forts.  These girls — who greet each other every morning with big, squealing bear hugs — have built a fun, inclusive, drama-free friendship.

I can’t wait for my daughter to feel better so we can invite her friends over to play.  I’ll make a batch of cookies as a thank you and send them out back to build a fort, tell some jokes and maybe even consult with fairies to create a spell to eliminate the dreaded holiday sick jinx.