le creuset with pasta

I am sorry to say I made several mistakes with this recipe—are you ready for this? To start, I didn’t chop the kale ahead of time, so the pieces were huge when they got tossed with the pasta; also, instead of using the called-for full pound, I just used the bag of kale that came in my CSA, which was a mystery to me in terms of weight, and probably much less than 16 ounces; I was almost out of lemon, so I made do with what was left of some squeezed slices in the fridge; and, when it came time to add the Parmesan, I look back and see now that I was a little stingy.

We’re all friends here, so I’ll just be straight with you: I make silly mistakes like these all the time. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to e-mail me a typo or spelling mistake I’ve posted, for example, and that’s not the sort of thing that inspires confidence in a girl who spends large parts of every day writing and editing words at her work desk.

But it gets worse.


A mistake I am always making, for years now, is something maybe too serious to be called a mistake, something more indicative of a strong character flaw and something that relates to this recipe, or more specifically, an ingredient in this recipe. It’s the same force that was at work when I said, not yet in kindergarten, that I would NEVER like dogs after being chased by some, leading to decades of friends putting their pets away for me; in high school, that I would NEVER live with my parents after college, which is exactly what happened; in college, that I would NEVER think camping sounded fun, although now almost five years later, you won’t find anyone who loves being outside like I do. Though my mind does change, eventually, I can be awfully stubborn in the meantime. It’s ugly.

garlic and onions

So it was with kale, that dark and leafy vegetable not unlike spinach, which was not something I grew up eating. My parents, to this day I am sure, have never purchased it and never ordered it in a restaurant, and I would have been very content to leave it unappealing and out of my life, too, if not for food blogs. It’s very healthy, and it’s deep green, and it’s not exactly like candy the first time you try some.

True, this last week when I made braised kale with pasta, it was not my first time trying it—there were the kale chips back in March, and there was the time I burned a bunch I was blanching on the stove, but, this experience was different. While I was cooking the kale with garlic and onions and olive oil, the fragrance of it all filling the kitchen, I realized something: I genuinely have no problem with this vegetable. None. Where the first time I heard of it, a year or so ago, I felt confused, then reluctant, now I felt comfort and an open mind. I’d even say I like kale. That is something.


If through food we can learn to soften prejudices and release stubborn opinions about things like a vegetable, then maybe we can learn to extend that flexibility to the rest of life, you know? I hope so at least—for my sake and everyone that knows me—and then, as we see our preconceptions proven wrong, maybe we won’t be so quick to hang onto them.

Angel Hair with Braised Kale
Adapted from Whitney in Chicago and Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appetit, October 2009

1 pound lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse and drain chopped kale; transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti generously with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Lan

    i’m still scared of dogs, but i fight my way thru it. it’s the cats that freak me out, and i was never chased by any as a kid, like i was with dogs.
    i can’t say that i’m a fan of kale, as i didn’t grow up with it either, but i don’t have an aversion to it. i think it’s more like, i don’t have a craving for it. given choices i would not choose kale.

  2. Whitney

    I’ve made kale the same way to just eat as a side. It really needs lots of lemon and parm but man its good once you get the right balance.

  3. Francisca

    I have similar issues with kale, though I did grow up eating it. My favorite way to eat it is in soup: Portuguese Kale soup with chorizo that’s utterly delicious!

  4. ToKissTheCook

    Ah yes, I’m still compelled to spell out my cooking mistakes from time to time to readers who might think me above them (truthfully, I’m not terribly sure how they came to that conclusion to begin with). Kale was a foreigner in my house, same for Brussels sprouts and many other greens beyond spinach.

  5. Kim

    Kale is not on my list of go-to green-leafy vegetables, but I don’t have any sort of aversion to it. I will have to try this recipe; it looks tasty. Although…I think adding lemon, garlic and Parmesan to just about anything is a good idea! :)

    And Shanna, wouldn’t you know it – I, too, was afraid of dogs for a LONG time after being scared by one as a child. After years and years and years of friends having to put the dog outside or in a locked room when I came over, I am finally (mostly) over my fear. Possibly due to my parents getting the cutest dog in the world when I was in high school. I still don’t like dogs that jump up on you though; I don’t care how “friendly” they are, it’s unnerving!

  6. Stephanie

    I wouldn’t say that you made any mistakes Shanna, only that you were flexible with the recipe, which I happen to think is the mark of a very creative and comfortable cook!! It looks healthy and delicious… I am going to try it with some Swiss chard I have in the fridge. I’m wondering if adding the garlic then continuing to cook until the onion is brown might make the garlic bitter. Did you find this to be a problem?

    Thank you, once again, for sharing your heart and soul and life with us…

  7. Sue

    THAT looks delicious, and I’m new to kale, too! I love just about anything involving angel hair pasta, though, so I just might get me some kale!

  8. Kylie of Thin Crust, Deep Dish

    I’m glad you’re giving kale a chance. It’s one of my very favorite vegetables. My very favorite way to eat it is to simply saute a whole diced onion in olive oil until it’s very sweet, then add the kale and let it wilt. It turns out simple, sweet and delicious, and I find it really hard to stop eating. Like, really really hard.

  9. Shannalee

    Lan, Between us, cats still freak me out, too. Thankfully they are easier to avoid. And as far as kale, I say just being open to it is all that matters. We won’t like everything, right?

    Whitney, Great idea and I’ll have to try that!

    Francisca, I have seen several kale soups – thanks for that idea! Most things are better in soup!

    ToKisstheCook, Brussels sprouts are next!

    Kim! I didn’t know that! No wonder we are friends. Glad to hear your parents got a cute dog; mine did, too–but if you ever meet him, I will keep him off your lap, promise.

    Oh, Stephanie, You are so kind. As far as the garlic, I haven’t had a problem, but if you’re worried, just cook the onions until golden instead of brown, or add the garlic later? Let me know how it works.

    Sue, Good luck! I love just about anything with lemon, so that makes all the difference.

    Kylie, One of your favorites, huh? Well now I have to try your way – sounds simple and delicious! Thanks!

  10. Jessica

    I definitely would share any mistakes I make in the kitchen, I hate making them! But I have to say, OMG, that first picture of the pasta looks AMAZING. What does kale taste like?

  11. postcollegecook

    Every mistake that you described in that first paragraph sounds, oh, exactly like things I do on a regular basis! Sometimes I get really angry at the recipes. But then I realize it’s not their fault.

  12. Niki

    I have never had kale, but I’ve had dandelion leaves and I am not a fan… I heard that most greens like that are the same and if that’s the case, no thank you!
    I try to not be so stubborn about foods. In culinary school, our one teacher always said, if you’ve never had it before, all I ask is that you try it. If you don’t like it, fine, but just try it. So I did. And there were things I loved, things I’d eat again and some things, like foie gras, that I will never put in my mouth, EVER AGAIN.

  13. Antonietta

    Are there different types of Kale? I bought a curly variety last week that turned out ok, but yours looks better.

  14. Jacqui

    oh how i love kale. something about eating leaves just makes me feel so fresh and closer to the earth or something. yes, if it’s green and leafy, i’ll eat it. and this recipe looks so perfectly simple, i will most definitely try it.

  15. jessiev

    i am laughing! i do those things all the time, too. what a delicious recipe…thanks!

  16. Shannalee

    Jessica, That is such a good question. I’d say, at least in this recipe, it tastes like all the awesome things it gets cooked with: garlic, onion, lemon, olive oil. But in terms of kale itself – it’s very similar to spinach but like sturdier or more substantial? It’s got that leafy texture that wilts when it’s cooked and absorbs all its oils and juices in the pan.

    Postcollegecook, That made me laugh out loud. Thank you for helping me feel less alone in little mistakes and I so know what you mean about getting mad at recipes, ha!

    Niki, HA! Love your honesty, girl. And I am so impressed to learn you went to culinary school (and from your site, that you want to start a bakery someday!?) As long as you’re willing to try stuff, that’s all anyone can ask.

    Antonietta, Yes. I don’t know what kind mine was because it was just the bunch I found in my CSA box, but there are many different kinds: Scotch Curled, Leaf and Spear, Dwarf Blue, Ragged Jack, Cavolo Nero (black cabbage), Tuscan, Lacinato and Dinosaur kale. The original recipe here calls for Lacinato, if that helps.

    Jacqui, Very true what you said about feeling closer to the earth. My only advice for this recipe is to follow it, but you know how well that went for me.

    JessieV, Ha! Thank you!

  17. Angela@spinachtiger.com

    Don’t feel bad. I haven’t eat much kale yet myself. It’s one of those things I know I should eat, which is why I put in on the menu for cooking italy. A torte with kale. We’ll see.

  18. cal orey

    Love your honesty. We’re all human. Imperfections in cooking and baking recipe? No worries. As a veteran nutrition and diet author, I can feel your pain though. I recall one editor “chewed” me out because our recipe ingredients for the week called for more than 100 items. She said one fan complained she couldn’t afford us. I giggled and was reprimanded big-time. We wanted to be creative. Learn and live.

  19. Kelley

    When you’re ready to dive in, e-mail me for a fabulous recipe: Black Forest Brussels Sprouts.

  20. Shannalee

    Angela, A torte with kale? I am intrigued! (PS – let me know if you get multiple e-mails from this post, OK?)

    Cal Orey, I guess that IS how we learn, very true. Thanks for your comment!

    Kelley! I am so glad you said that because I did a quick search through my gmail and found the link to that very Brussels sprouts recipe. When I am ready, I am definitely going to give it a shot.

  21. Sues

    I love kale and this looks delicious!! You’re an amazing writer and everyone makes silly little mistakes from time to time :)

  22. Shannalee

    Sues, Oh, you’re very kind. Thank you for the encouragement!

  23. Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home

    This is the first time I am visiting your blog and I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this post! Prejudice against vegetables abounds in my apt thanks to my husband who thinks Nutella is a food group.

    ps: Camping still seems silly (and terrifying) to me… but I’m one of those city girls that considers Central Park “nature.”

  24. Shannalee

    Erika, Thanks so much for the sweet comment! For the record, vegetable love notwithstanding, I tend towards the Nutella-is-a-food-group club, too. PS – Ha! I think we’d be friends.

  25. Susan

    You ended this post so beautifully! And thanks for sharing you’re human, I make a mistake pretty much every time I cook :)

  26. Shannalee

    Thanks, Susan – it is so nice to know I’m not alone!

  27. Robin

    Since starting my food blog I have tried very hard to taste new things that I was scared to try, and to retaste old things I thought I hated. Some of my prejudices have changed. Some have not. It’s good to know that someone else is fighting the same battle.

  28. incrediblecrunchyflavor

    have you tried adding a little nutmeg, some raisins and a wee splash of cider vinegar to your braised kale? wouldn’t work for this recipe, but as a side dish, it’s really tasty.


  29. Shannalee

    Robin, I definitely feel the same way, that food blogging has helped me expand my horizons a little. Nice to meet you!

    Incredible, Thanks for the tip! Usually turning something sweet is a sure winner with me, so I’ll have to give that a shot!

  30. Pingback: Brussels sprouts & bacon, oh my! | Food Loves Writing

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>