The way I see it, kale is kind of like the book or blogger or skinny jeans you discovered back before everyone said it was cool. You genuinely liked it. You saw it for what it was. But now, set amongst the hipsters of East Nashville, you look like you’re only wearing them because the guy sitting next to you is.
It doesn’t matter if in addictive chips or green smoothies or salads massaged with oil, kale is cool. It’s giant sunglasses and “The Bachelor” and rehabbing your kitchen to look like a magazine. It’s Pinterest. And if you’re a person like me, someone who’s used to rooting for the underdog or talking about something obscure and not-noticed (kind of like you yourself can tend to be), it feels a little strange to get excited about something that’s gotten so big, as if you’re cheering for a team as they win the Superbowl or promoting a movie when it’s already won Best Picture. It feels like by pushing this product, this ingredient, you’re trying to ride on its coattails, like you’re trying to be cool, too.
Here in Nashville, there’s this beautiful brunch spot I love, one with farmhouse tables and tall windows and mason jars and local foods, the cafe that holds the distinction of being the first place I ever ate at in this city, back when Becky and I met up with my friend Jarrelle in January of 2010, the day before I would meet Tim, the man I’d call husband less than two years later. Today, you go there on a Sunday morning and you’re looking at a two-hour wait for breakfast. Two hours.
That’s too popular, I told my friend Carrie. I think I’m done.
You could argue, successfully I think, that when something gains that much notoriety, when it’s that acclaimed, that beloved, it doesn’t matter much if I, one person, stop liking or reading or following it anymore. That comforts me. So sometimes, even knowing how much I like those artisan breads or thoughtful posts, I stop going back to that restaurant or that blog, and I know nobody’s too hurt in the process.
But other times, there’s kale.
What could I really tell you about kale that you don’t already know? Half of you probably have it in your fridge right now. You’ve eaten it, you’ve juiced it, you’ve added it to smoothies. Kale is commonplace. It’s mainstream. I know. It’s true that kale is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables out there, but you’ve heard that already—probably even seen it on charts in the produce section of your local Whole Foods, if you have one nearby.
So I’m not going to tell you that there’s anything shocking or surprising about the following revelation; I’m just going to give it to you anyway, partly because it was something I didn’t know, partly because it was the best thing I ate all month:
Kale makes a killer pesto.
Inspired by the haul at our first Delvin Farms CSA pickup, where our bushel box held two kinds of kale, collard greens, lettuce, green onions, garlic, yellow squash, sweet potatoes and strawberries (!), and which coincidentally arrived the day before we left for Florida, meaning we were hunting ways to make things last, Tim suggested pesto.
Combining kale with toasted almonds and Pecorino and olive oil was pretty elementary, and maybe it’s something you’ve already done before, but to us, slathered on toast and topped with sauteed tomatoes, it was enough to widen our eyes and have us slapping the table, looking for any and everything else we could spread it on.
It was also enough to remind me that sometimes when you like something enough, it doesn’t matter how many other people already do, too. What matters is it’s good.
Kale Almond Pesto
Adapted from Tastespotting
For another way to use the pesto: try it on pizza. We grilled one Sunday night, topped with pesto, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, nothing else, and I’m telling you it tasted as good as any pizza I’ve ever had.
1/2 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted
1 large garlic clove, smashed
about 3 cups chopped kale (or, a big handful of leaves, torn roughly)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
hefty shakes of salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a food processor, pulse smashed garlic clove until chopped finely (about less than a minute). Add kale, toasted almonds and Pecorino cheese until combined, stopping to push down the kale on the sides a couple times.
With the food processor running on low, add olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want. I went with about a full cup of olive oil.
Add salt and pepper; taste; adjust as you like.