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.
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.
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.