Thursday, February 24, 2011

kale stir-fry

Kale is kind of a weird food. It repels water like a duck, looks like the skin of one of those 600 year old tortoises at Reptile Gardens in SD, and is so exotic and confusing to employees of Cub Foods that they charge you $0.99 cents for a bundle because they have no idea what it is.

It also happens to make awesome stir-fry.

Quickly sauteing kale helps to release all the great things it has to offer, including calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Unlike other greens, it also holds up very well to cooking, which means even after you have sauteed it, it still has a great crunch that adds texture to whatever you're making. There are several different varieties of kale, including curly and dinosaur. I prefer dinosaur kale, not only for it's awesome name, but because it tends to be a little less bitter.

Kale stir-fry is something I have been making ever since I "accidentally" made it for my brother over a year ago. We were grocery shopping at the local co-op and noticed that kale was on sale. Never ones to pass up eating something that looks like Velociraptor skin, we bought some and took it home. My brother then went to work, leaving me with the instructions to turn the kale into something edible by the time he returned.

I had no idea what to do with it.

After a bit of internet research, I found a few pointers and went to work. The original, first time kale stir-fry was very bare bones and simple. I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil, then added a chopped red pepper. The kale was added after everything else was cooked, and I poured in a bit of soy sauce and a little water, also. The resulting mixture was served over brown rice and topped with cashews.

The verdict?

We loved it. It was simple to make, quick to eat, and easy to clean up afterward. Plus, it had about a million possibilities for variation, which is what I have been working on ever since.

For some reason I remember almost every single time I have made this dish. The most memorable time was just a couple of months ago. Ginger and I had just gotten done having our butts kicked by P90X Yoga and were not really in the mood to do anything. Plus we were starving. I threw together some kale stir-fry, and we ate the ENTIRE batch (probably with some wine). It was an enjoyable night.

So here is the thing about kale stir-fry. It doesn't really have a recipe. I will explain how I make it, but I can't really offer any exact measurements, because I don't have any. If you are one of those people who love recipes that just give you a general idea and guidelines, this is for you. If you hate not being told exactly what to do, might I direct you to the Food Network website.

Kale Stir-Fry

The most important part of the whole dish is to build up the flavors right at the beginning. What I have in the cupboard at the moment, and what I am craving that night decides what is going to go into the sauce. I have gone as simple as olive oil, garlic, and soy sauce, and as complex as 5-10 different things. This is what I added the last time I made it:

Olive oil
Chili garlic sauce
Fish sauce
Toasted sesame seed oil
Soy sauce
Minced garlic
Beef bouillon
(Ginger's mouth dropped open when I listed all of these off to her).

The key is really knowing what flavors have the potential to overpower (chili garlic sauce, ginger, etc.), and what flavors meld well with others. This decides what you add and how much.

Vague, I know. I apologize.

Anyway, I go nuts and pour a bunch of things into the pan, let them heat up a bit, then dump in a chopped onion (which makes me cry and flail around all dramatic like), sauteing it until translucent. I then add any other veggies that catch my eye while fridge diving, which in my lastest case included mushrooms, an orange bell pepper, and some edamame. Everything gets flavor coated and delicious looking, then it's time for the kale.

I took this picture because I loved the colors together. It isn't really significant.

This is what everything looks like prior to adding the kale:

And after adding and cooking the kale:

To prep the kale, I wash each piece and then cut the leafy part away from the tough stem. I then chop it and toss it into the pan. Easy. At this point I add just a touch of water (and maybe a little more soy sauce), and place the cover on the pan for a couple of minutes to help wilt and cook the kale. I then remove the cover and let any excess moisture cook off. The last step is to add a couple of handfulls of cashews. Voila! Kale stir-fry!

Serving suggestion:

It really is a versatile recipe. You can add whatever ingredients you have on hand, and it turns out every time. Great way to impress your friends and convince your roommate that you're talented enough to co-write a food based blog with her!

A note about rice (and how to cook it perfectly every time):

I pride myself on cooking brown rice in the easiest way possible, and it turns out perfect every time. So, I'll share my secret (which I stole from my brother).

Really the only rule you have to remember about rice is that it needs twice as much moisture as the amount of uncooked rice used. I usually make 1 cup (uncooked) at a time, which means I need 2 cups of water.

I pour the uncooked rice into a covered roasting pan (I use one of those little round black ones, perfect size), add a few pats of butter or olive oil, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, I bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then pour it over the uncooked rice and butter. The whole shebang then goes into the heated oven, and you get to forget all about it for 40-45 minutes (while you're cooking your kale stir-fry!). What comes out of the oven at that time is perfectly cooked rice that is ready to be topped with plenty of stir-fry.


I bought a couple of Bosc pears at the co-op the other day, not really knowing what I was going to do with them. After reading a couple of essays out of the book mentioned in my previous post, I came across a very intriguing idea: sauteed pears.

I didn't have a recipe, but I didn't imagine sauteing pears could be that hard, and it wasn't. I melted a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, then added a few tablespoons of brown sugar. I let this mixture combine and cook over low to medium heat just until it began to bubble. In the meantime, I chopped a whole pear into fingernail sized cubes. I added the chopped pear to the bubbling sugar mixture (I am of the opinion that hot sugar is scary, by the way), then added some vanilla, cinnamon, powdered ginger (maybe a bit too much, spicy pears!), and a touch of nutmeg. I let the whole mixture cook over medium heat until the sugar sauce reduced down to a syrup-like consistency, and the pears chunks were tender. Being unfortunately out of vanilla ice cream at the time, I was forced to look elsewhere for something to pour my pears and sauce over.

Finished cooking:

I turned to ginger's Eskimo Bread (recipe can be found here).

Let me tell you, this combination was amazing, especially with a big glass of cold milk. The sauce soaked into the bread, making it moist and warm, and the pears were a great compliment to the already delicious bread. However, I am still very much looking forward to trying the pears warmed up over ice cream, which is why I saved some for when I get my mitts on some vanilla ice cream later tonight. Should be good.

Serving suggestion (I apologize the picture is a bit fuzzy):


Tonight's music recommendation:

Hands down, Adele. She released her new album, 21, just a couple of days ago, and I have been listening to it while writing this blog post. Great, great stuff. Go check it out!


**quick note: this post is featured as part of Fight Back Fridays--something you might find interesting if you are a bit of a food rebel like us!


  1. Hi, I found you from Fight Back Friday's.
    I love this post. Especially the part about pointing people to the Food Network who need a detailed recipe. I also like to cook blind most of the time. It can be challenging when you are trying to blog about it though.

    I also like Kale stir fry, and sauteeing fruit.
    Good luck on your blog.

  2. I totally started salivating reading this post! Where do you find fish sauce? Anything to look for/avoid?

  3. Ah, fish sauce--the extract of fermented anchovies! It sounds so weird, but the stuff is pretty makes curries and stir-frys a new level of delicious, let me tell you. We use the one from Thai Kitchen, and you can most likely find it in the Asian section of the grocery store. You should buy some!