In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Let us speak of Kale

( curly kale. it also comes with flat leaves, which are a little easier to deal with.)

Kale, as you probably know, is a superfood. Packed with nutrients, bitter, and often hard to swallow. Don't get me wrong: i LOVE me some kale.

Here's how to deal with it. It makes a great last minute dinner. Kale seems to keep forever in the fridge. It takes a while to get all slimy.
First, gather some cured pork product, like a slice of bacon (if you are only cooking for one).
Now, peel a clove or two of garlic and slice it thinly.
Get out your olive oil and red pepper flakes. And coarse salt. If you have them, good dried tomatoes (they are NEVER sun dried; don't by the hype. they are dehydrated in some big old machine. Don't let them get away with pretending they were dried in the sun! ). Cut the tomatoes into a julienne -- thin strips, about match-sized. Do the same with your bacon.

Wash a bunch of kale, and tear the leaves from the stems, and into smallish pieces. You'll never regret a small piece of kale, but a big one, you just might. The stems can be kind of tough. Toss them or give them to the chickens you surely keep in your backyard after my industrial chicken screed.

You'll also need coarse sea salt. Devotees of How To Run Your Life* know already my love of coarse salt, especially when it comes to bitter veggies. Salt inhibits bitterness and it's crunchy too. So don't get all worked up about it. You are about to load on the antioxidants and can handle a little sodium.

While you're at it, get out the cider vinegar. Kale and cider vinegar: as Jamie Oliver would say, that's a cracker!
(If you want to stretch this dish, or serve it to someone who would blanch at a bowl of plain old kale, put a pot of salted water on to boil when the bacon goes in the pan. Prepare pasta the way you normally would.)

I like a cast iron pan for this. Fry up the bacon in its own fat. When it's crispy, scoop it out of the pan or move it off to the side, turn the heat to medium and toss in your sliced garlic and a 1/2 teaspoon or so of dried red pepper f lakes. Move the garlic around and let it get golden.

When the garlic is done, throw in the kale and drizzle it with a little olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt. Add the dried tomatoes, and add the bacon back to the pan. Stir the kale till it wilts and soaks up all the garlicky-bacony oil. Taste it -- if it's bitter it might need more salt.

When everything is done, remove it from the pan, toss it in a bowl (with or without your hot, cooked and drained pasta and a teaspoon or so of pasta water just to get things moving) and pour a teaspoon of cider vinegar more or less over the top. Toss it in the bowl. You can top with a shaving of parmesan cheese (real please. Go buy a Microplaner. You won't regret it).

This whole business takes no more than 20 minutes if you include the pasta, less if you don't. You'll be surprised at how wonderful it is and how saintly you'll feel eating your vegetables.
The hot peppers and sweet tomatoes and bitter greens and gentle sweet toasted garlic hit pretty much all the notes. This is an every week dish (for me its 2 or 3 nights, in various permutations).

If you really want to put on the dog, while the pasta is cooking and the kale sauteeing, you can cook up a great sausage or a chicken breast (or boneless thigh), slice into bite sized pieces and toss it all together.

You're welcome.