Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Warm Kale Salad

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I am not cool.

I never take part in any trend until it has become so popular that the truly cool people have abandoned it. I wait for all crazes to mutate from fashionable to pedestrian.  Then, invisibly, I join in.

For instance, when my husband bought  me “tall boots” for my birthday in January 2012 and informed me that I was meant to wear them over the legs of my jeans, I spent several days silently surveying of all the women I saw: How many were wearing tall boots over their jeans?  Did they look cool or just normal?  Only after I was satisfied that my boots were no longer especially fashion-forward did I adopt them. Now, I wear tall boots all the time, even though, of course, I’ve noticed that the really cool moms (like the hip teenagers) have switched to ankle boots.  I’ll get a pair of those in about 3 years. Maybe 4.

Similarly, the very first time I tentatively ventured out in a pair of Toms, the twenty-year-old girl working the register at Lowe’s said to me (I’m not making this up): “I like your Toms.  I used to wear mine all the time. I miss them.”

Me: What happened to your Toms?

Her: All the like 40-year-old moms in town started wearing them, so I had to quit.


Her: No offense or anything…

After that, I no longer felt self-conscious about them at all.  If the hipsters had given them up, it was perfectly fine for me to climb in and out of my minivan in a pair.

What does all of this have to do with my family’s favorite warm salad?  Its primary ingredient is kale, and kale (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) is all the rage.  I don’t do all-the-rage things.  I suspect kale is just about to cross over from trendy to conventional, which will make me feel much more comfortable about buying big bags of it every week.

Until then, I like to mix mine with some less groovy veggies, just to make sure  no one thinks I’m trying to be hip…which misconception would, like, totally ruin my rep.  Here, I’ve employed some painfully uncool red cabbage and and handful pedestrian green beans:

winter salad

Of course, if you’re not worried about your rep, or if you happen already to be wearing ankle boots or whatever summer shoe has replaced Toms in the allegiance of twenty-year-old girls with nose rings, you can feel free to use only kale in this recipe and skip the beans and cabbage.  Don’t tell, but I sometimes do that myself…when no one is looking.  (Of course, I sometimes use only cabbage.)

No matter how you mix it, this sturdy saute of vegetables, dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette and topped with nuts and salty feta, may just become your all-season go-to “salad.” It comes together quickly, looks beautiful, and tastes astonishingly complex–sweet and salty, slightly bitter and pleasantly tart.

My only worry is that this recipe might ignite an internet cabbage-and-green bean craze–it’s that good–and I just hate it when ordinary vegetables go viral.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small red onion, sliced into half-moons

1/4 lb. green beans

1/4 lb. kale

1/2 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 fat clove garlic (or two slender ones), crushed in a press

1-2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped salted nuts

1/4 cup crumbled feta

1. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat.

2. Add the sliced onion and saute, stirring occasionally until soft and brown. (This will take about 3 minutes.)

3. Add the  beans and allow them to cook in the hot oil until they begin to blister, about 2-3 minutes. (Stir now and then but not constantly so that they will acquire some toasty color.) Both the beans and the onions should turn a little brown. The onions get sweeter as they get darker, so don’t be afraid of a touch of char.

winter salad 2

4. Reduce heat to low. Add the kale and purple cabbage, and sprinkle with salt. Saute, stirring frequently for about 2-3 minutes, until the kale and cabbage have wilted.

5. Turn off heat. Add the minced garlic and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to coat. The vinegar will form a light glaze over the hot veggies.

winter salad 3

6. Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted almonds and feta cheese.  This is delicious warm or at room temperature.


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