10 December 2013

Kale is cool

My kale crop is growing beautifully. Kale is all the rage in France these days — at least among a small crowd of foodies in Paris. It's not something I had ever eaten before 2013, but I'm enjoying growing, cooking, and serving it. In French, it seems to be called chou frisé, or curly cabbage, and to be precise, chou frisé non-pommé — curly cabbage that doesn't form a head.

I have about a dozen plants. Some, in one plot, have been almost entirely eaten by slugs, snails, and or caterpillars. I'm hoping that the plants will recover now that it's cold enough to keep such pests away. In the other plot where I have kale and collard greens planted, the leaves are a lot prettier.

Yesterday morning I went out and cut a dozen or more leaves to cook for lunch. The leaves were frozen solid! I didn't pick more than 10% of what I could have picked. If the weather doesn't get a lot colder than it is right now, the greens will do just fine. I've kept collard greens in the ground all winter here in past years, and enjoyed harvesting and eating them well into the spring.

I washed the raw, cut kale leaves thoroughly in cold water. It thought they might end up really wilted because they were so frozen, but as you can see from the pictures up above, they were still fresh and crisp. In the picture immediately above, you can see the kale leaves after I cooked them — in duck fat, a little duck broth/gelatin, and some white wine, with salt, black pepper, and crushed hot red pepper flakes. The kale greens were delicious, and not bitter at all.

What we had with them was a kind of faux risotto made with brown rice — in this case, riz complet de Camargue from southern France. I cooked it in chicken broth and added some dried shitake mushrooms to the mix. I didn't know how much it would resemble a risotto, because I didn't cook it by the risotto method. I put some leftover green peas in at the end of the cooking time. Oh, and those are saucisses de Toulouse (plain pork sausages) that I cooked separately by poaching them in water and then browning them in a skillet.

Speaking of cooking time, the rice simmered for at least an hour before I thought it was ready to eat. It was creamy with the slightest crunch at that point. I followed the package instructions — I soaked the rice in cold water for 30 or even 45 minutes before I put it on to cook. That didn't really shorten the cooking time, as far as I can tell. And when it was ready, I didn't have to drain it because almost all of the liquid had been absorbed. I have to get some more of the Camargue rice, which I think I found at the Grand Frais store near Blois.


  1. Believe me, it's a global fad food!

  2. Mike, I've been cooking collard greens for years — decades — but kale is new to me. What happened is that I found a big bag of kale leaves for 50 cents in a supermarket when I was in North Carolina last spring. I bought the kale and cooked it. Then I bought some kale seeds to plant here in Saint-Aignan. I have to say that I still have a slight preference for collard greens...

  3. Kale is very popular in SoCal. I like it better than spinach. I chiffonade it really fine and let the vinaigrette break it down. I recently made some with a veg burger over polenta and topped with kale. The veg burger was really good, but now I am thinking I should have used sausage like yours. Next time….

  4. I enjoyed this blog post about "boiled" kale by Orangette. If you've ever been to eat at the Zuni Café in San Francisco, you know how good all the food there is. Sadly, long-time Zuni Café chef Judy Rodgers passed away recently at age 57.

  5. As allotmenteers we've been growing kale as a winter crop for years...
    currently, we grow Red Russian kale...
    looks like yours but...
    Cooks sweet... can be eaten young in winter salads...
    leave the plants to bolt when they are finished, kale shoots are wonderful...
    [especially eaten with red cabbage and collard shoots]...
    I love the idea of cooking them your way..
    NEVER ever try growing Redbor or Showbor if you are in a dusty or sandy soil area...
    the leaves are so frizzy that you can never really get them clean...
    [I've not tried a powerhose, but that might work!?]

    We've been using Camargue rice now for a long time...
    ever since I was tempted by a couple of rather attractive tins of the rice in Lidl...
    The Camargue Red rice is wonderful on the plate and in the mouth...
    but takes a devil of a long time to cook...
    about three times as long as the complet!
    It does do an acceptable rissotto if you can't get round rice...
    far better than my Mother's long grain rissottos which had NO stickiness whatsoever.
    But as you discovered... requires a lot more liquid than you'd normally use.

  6. The photos of that beautiful kale are so perfect, I can just about taste it. As for the recipe, my eyes rolled back in my head when you talked about washing the raw, cut kale leaves. But they focused again on the risotto and sausages.

  7. Fresh curly kale always looks lovely and tempting.

    BTW, have you read the article by an American journalist who claims that Paris is being ruined by the hipsters and their kale? :-) It's caused a lot of social media chatter.

  8. Susan, Paris is so big that a few Americans or whoever and some kale can't really alter its evolutionary course. There are of course so many Anglophone and other tourists in Paris that... well, I don't know. It's easy to say that Paris is becoming, or has become, a theme park, but I'm not sure it's true. Globalization...

  9. Mike is right- we're putting kale in our shrimp and grits recipes here in Anniston, Alabama! I will boil some kale and eat with an egg on toast soon....

  10. We love kale. My kids will eat as much kale as I make when I make kale chips. Better than potato chips!

  11. I was hungry before I started reading this post, and now I'm starving. The frost isn't bothering my kale (Italian lacinato) a bit either

  12. Your kale looks like it should be in a photo by the Kale Board (is there such a thing???). I would never think I could revive it if it were frozen - but now I know!
    Kale salad at $6.95 or %7.95 per pound is in all the deli counters but I've never tried it that way.
    Kale chips are great; as Lynn has testified - just like eating potato chips!!!
    Mary in Oregon

  13. Chris, my kale is the Vates Blue variety. Seems to be Scottish.

    Lynn, I haven't tried kale chips yet but I will.

    Mary, my kale in salad or however would sell for less than that. Kale actually benefits from freezing, within reason.

  14. Hi Ken, your lovely healthy kale is a curly kale, also called Scotch kale. Russian kale is frilly around the edges, but flatter and smaller. The third kind is Tuscan kale, also called cavolo nero or lacinato, which has long tubular dark green leaves. They all taste different and they all taste good. There's an interesting web site with more detail at http://www.finecooking.com/item/5457/kale
    And for true dedication there's http://www.discoverkale.co.uk/

  15. Thanks, Pauline. I'll have to try the other varieties of kale. But I also have a big crop of collard greens, my favorite cabbage variety, coming in now. We are lucky enough to have all these different greens: spinach, chard, sprouts, cabbage, kale, collards, turnip greens, beet greens, radish tops, and on and on available to us nowadays.

  16. I like kale a lot better than collards. My favorite type of kale isn't the curly leaf kind (although that's good, too), but the type that's called "dinosaur" kale or "dinosaur skin" kale, also known as lacinato. It's very dark green, flat leaf with a ripply pattern like reptile skin. Yum! Have you seen the "Eat More Kale" guy? He's a small businessman from Vermont who made t-shirts with that slogan, and he's been sued by Chik-Fil-A, who say he's infringing on their copyright ("Eat More Chikin'"). I hate all that lawyer stuff.


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