Kale on the brain

By Sam Dean, Dec. 4, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve food-blogged. The truth is, I haven’t been cooking much. But yesterday I made an inspiring kale dish (if I say so myself), based on a recipe in the Boston Globe.

A kale Caesar salad sounds oddly bland at first — unless, that is, you’ve been schooled on the nuanced techniques of slivered greens by chef Carlos Amaral, owner of Carlos’ Brazilian Restaurant in Roanoke. He’s the eccentric, near-deaf chef who likes to say, “I have 1,000 foods in my brain.”

It was Carlos who turned me on to sautéed collards greens and kale back in my food-columnist days. The trick is to remove the super-thick parts of the stalk, then roll the leaves up and cut them into slivers before flash-sautéing in garlic, olive oil and crushed red pepper. (Served best with rice and black beans — and Carlos’s fire-hot drizzling oil, if you have it.)

The Kale Caesar is different, though, since it’s not cooked. But if you let it sit overnight in the dressing, as I did with my leftovers, it’s even better the next day. Unlike lettuce, kale can stand up to the pressure of being shlepped in dressing overnight without wilting. You see, kale has backbone; kale can party all night without looking rode hard and put up wet.

Kale also reminds me of my favorite Franklin County farmer, Jack Ferguson. It was a year ago this month that I had the privilege of writing about his friendship with Kris Peckman, the downsized banker and kale lover who volunteered to help octogenarian Jack out on his farm because Jack’s ill wife was no longer up to the task. Not only did Kris enable Jack to keep farming. But in keeping him going, she in effect kept him alive.

I’ll never forget Sam Dean’s beautiful photograph (above) of the two of them, with Kris driving the old tractor and Jack balancing himself expertly on the hitch, holding on to flimsy reflectors for support. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 88? And that when we scaled a steep hill to look at his favorite tree, he left me in the dust?

By Sam Dean, Dec. 4, 2008

Dear kale lovers, check out the recipe below. And dear Roanoke friends, remember that you can still buy Jack and Kris’s kale at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op.

I’ll be talking about my story on this farming duo on Sunday. The Harvard Crimson editors have asked me to talk to their writers about how to work narrative details into quick-hit features.

So kale, as you can see, has definitely been on my brain.

Kale Caesar

5 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted drive (I bought a tin of them and froze the leftovers in a small baggie for the next salad)

2 cloves garlic (double the garlic, that should go without saying!)

1 T lemon juice (double that too)

1 T red wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil (I used about a half cup)

1 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

3 cups diced bread (I used good sourdough, about 1/3 of a loaf)

Salt, to taste (I use Ezera Wertz’s homemade sea salt blend — it can’t be beat, available at his Brambleton Avenue store and a great Christmas gift – hint hint)

1 pound kale, sliced into quarter-inch ribbons

1.   In a food processor, blend the anchovies and 2 cloves of garlic. Add the lemon juice and vinegar. With the motor running, add 1/2 cup of olive oil in a thin steady stream. Add pepper and Parmesan. (Throw in some red pepper flakes if you’re inclined.)

2.   In a large skillet over medium heat, put a slathering of oil oil down. Add some more crushed garlic and the bread cubes. Stir a lot, for 5 or so minutes until crisp and golden. Toss with more of Ezera’s salt.

3.   In a big salad bowl, combine the kale and enough dressing to coat it liberally. Add croutons and stir, and maybe even a bit more Parmesan.

Tom and I ate this creation for lunch with an over-easy egg that made the croutons just perfect for sopping.

Thanks to Jill Santopietro of The Globe for this recipe.

Leave a comment


  1. Vince

     /  December 21, 2009

    Those old, hard working guys always amaze me. (Being the soft-in-the-middle slacker that I am.) I worked 9 months with a guy- hardcore landscaping- who was 83 and doing his 3rd go-round with bladder cancer. He took a half-day on Friday to go get chemo, slept all weekend, and outworked the rest of us come Monday. I learned a lot from Eric. Wish I could have met him earlier.

  2. pam

     /  November 29, 2009

    Yum Yum!!!!

  3. bethmacy

     /  November 16, 2009

    Thanks, Amy! I’d love to link to your kale recipe, too. Your recipes rock, and I have the ingredients for that Moroccan stew in my Fridge this very minute.

  4. Amy

     /  November 16, 2009

    I’d known kale for years but we weren’t really even on speaking terms when I was seduced by Carlos’ chiffonade technique. Suddenly I saw this rough blue-collar cruciform in a whole new light, and a long-term love affair was born…

    I do grow my own — it’s about foolproof and will happily keep plugging along through the winter — but I’ve bought from Kris and just loved the story you did about that incredible symbiotic connection.

    (This reminds me I meant to post my current fave kale recipe after I made it, yet again, last week. I love me a 15-minute meal!)

  5. Kale salad is so good! I’ve really fallen in love with it since moving here. I’ll have to try this with my vegan caesar salad dressing soon.

  6. bethmacy

     /  November 12, 2009

    You set it right next to it, of course! 🙂
    Great to see you online, Ricky!

  7. Rick

     /  November 12, 2009

    Sounds good, but where do you put the barbecue?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Now Available

  • Tom Hanks on “Factory Man”:

    Factory Man is “Great summer reading. I give it 42 stars. No, I give it 142 stars. Yeah, it’s THAT good.”
  • Follow Beth on Facebook

  • Tweets

  • The New York Times on “Factory Man”:

    This is Ms. Macy’s first book, but it’s in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” and Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”: These nonfiction narratives are more stirring and dramatic than most novels. And Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down. — Janet Maslin
  • Processing…
    Success! You're on the list.