December 2, 2013

Braised Kale with Caramelized Onions

In the beginning of her newest cookbook, Wild About Greens, Nava Atlas writes, "My passion for greens is constant and never wanes. I used to say that when we ran out of broccoli, it was time to go food shopping. Now that sentiment refers to all kinds of leafy greens. In my opinion, it's a barren fridge that holds no kale, collards, or spinach [...]"

I have loved Nava Atlas since I was a recent college graduate, splattering bottled salad dressings on the pages of The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet in my tiny sun-drenched kitchen in San Diego. There, I worked tirelessly to master the alchemy of cooking for myself, something that my ivy league education (shockingly!) had not prepared me for at all.

I suffered a lot of mishaps, and I named them, wryly: Cigarette Soup. Hot Dog Soup. Mustard Noodles. I remember making a beef stew that turned out terrifically, but that I could not duplicate for my life. Almost a decade later, and now that cooking is second-nature, I often forget that it was a long road to even moderate proficiency in the kitchen.

Back to Nava. I already knew her to be an extraordinary force, but when I read her words about greens, I felt like I'd found a soul mate. I read the passage aloud to Scott. "It's us," I said. "She's US!" I had come a long way in my habits and preferences from where I once was.

And a good thing, too. Really loving and savoring greens is like opening a magic box of perfect nutrition and sultry flavors. Like learning to cook, I think learning to appreciate greens is a thing we must all accomplish, no matter our age or eating background.

Wherever you or your kids are on the path to loving greens, I hope you'll pause here, and try this fabulous braised kale with caramelized onions. Sweet and tender and spicy, it's my very favorite preparation, and it goes well with almost anything. Darwin likes when I roll it into little balls that he can pluck and eat with his fingers, which is a little annoying to do at the table, but well worth the trouble if it gets some kale into his belly.


Braised Kale with Caramelized Onions
20 minutes
Serves 2-4

1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced thinly*
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil (a generous swirl)
dash red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oil and onions in a large pan over medium heat, until onions sizzle.

Cook, stirring frequently, until onions become soft, brown, and sticky, at least ten minutes.

Add kale, and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Fry 30 seconds or so and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Add a few tablespoons of water, then cover the pan and continue to cook, removing the lid every couple of minutes to stir and turn over the kale. Taste it as it starts to become tender: it's ready when you are, and when the water has completely cooked off (you may want to remove the lid for the final minute or so of cooking.)

Remove from heat, sprinkle with red pepper flakes, and serve.

*When the onions are very thinly sliced, caramelizing happens quickly. Really.

This recipe has been shared on Real Food Wednesdays.

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