If there's one thing Bay Area backyard gardeners can count on at this time of year, it's kale. Our cool, typically damp winter weather is tailor-made for hearty winter greens, ones that can thrive through hard frosts, even snow. And though winter's rains may be passing us by, with a little irrigation, the crinkly kale, dino kale, red or white Russian kale should be growing like crazy in whatever pot, plot, or raised bed you've got planted.
Shop the farmers' markets these days, and while the first, $8/lb sugar-snap peas may be starting to appear, the backbone of the veggie tables are dark-green, iron-rich greens: punchy mustard greens, mellow collards, rainbow-ribbed chard, plus green or burgundy beet tops, the gift of two-veg-in-one that comes free with every bunch of sweet roots.
So: time to love your greens. We served a lot of greens during my time cooking at the Headlands Center for the Arts, yet we were pretty content to do them the same way each time. A handful of minced shallot was flung into sizzling olive oil, chopped greens were added, then the whole was stirred and stirred until just wilted and tender. To finish, we tossed in a quick splash of sherry vinegar or a couple of lemons, sliced into eighths and crushed a little to release the juice and aromatic oils. I do mine at home much the same way, with slivered garlic instead of shallots, and a healthy shake of red pepper flakes for a little burn. Nice with rice and tofu, nice with polenta and sausage, nice leftover cold out of the pan, eaten with your fingers while doing the dishes.
Now, though, during greens' moment in the sun, dinner is not enough. Greens need to find a home at every meal. A lot of farm mornings began with eggs and kale, as we counted down the weeks until the potato harvest. I love green eggs and ham, made from emerald-green minced nettles sauteed and stirred into scrambled eggs with a bit of proscuitto draped on top. And, then, for lunch, there are kale chips, kale Caesar salad, pasta with kale, Portuguese caldo verde with kale, potatoes, and linguica sausage, kale every way.