original watercolor of kale, tomatoes, onions, pen and ink bottle.

The Kale Chronicles. 8″x8″ watercolor pencil and gouache by Sharyn Dimmick

Few things reliably capture my interest more than messing with food and telling stories, whether in song, in images or on the page. I subscribe to a community-supported agriculture program each week, receiving a box of organically grown fruits and vegetables from Riverdog Farm in Guinda, CA. I began subscribing in 2007 and remember rhapsodizing over the taste of iceberg lettuce, green and fresh, picked that morning.

I also remember that first June when kale showed up in the box. I had never eaten kale. I had never seen kale. My friend Elaine loves it, steams it in the microwave and gets out her fork, but I did not fall in love with minimalist kale. I pored over cookbooks, learning to remove the ribs and stems before cooking it. I tamed it with acids: tomato sauce and lemon, vinegar. I added Indian spices and raisins. I chopped it into red lentil soup with plenty of garlic and fresh ginger (It gave my Mom gas and I had to eat it all myself. Ahem).

I do not hate kale. I have aversions to avocado and asparagus, tuna, mayonnaise, hard-cooked eggs and okra. Instead I consider kale to be a worthy adversary, something to be struggled with and mastered. I strike up conversations about it: “Do you eat kale?” “How do you cook it?” Kale keeps me on the lookout for new preparations, new techniques.

I have eaten red Russian kale, dino kale, curly kale in the last four years. I have combined it with spinach in lasagna. Two weeks ago I made an African peanut soup featuring onions, peanut butter, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, garbanzo beans, kale, cilantro and lime. Everything but the peanut butter, lime, garbanzo beans and sweet potatoes came from the farm box — the sweet potatoes came from a farm stand in Suisun near where my sister-in-law lives. The soup was so good that I took it to a music potluck and when they ate it all I made another batch with the last of the ingredients. Here’s to Africa where they know how to cook kale!

African Peanut Soup (adapted from a recipe from yummly.com)

Saute 1 chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, 1 minced chile pepper in 1 Tbsp peanut oil. While that cooks, chop 4 fresh tomatoes. Add 1 Tbsp curry powder to saute mixture and stir to toast it. Add tomatoes, plus 1/2 cup peanut butter, 8 cups water or stock, 1 Tbsp tamari. Stir well and bring to boil.

While the soup cooks, chop 2 carrots and 2 large sweet potatoes. Add them, plus 1 can of garbanzo beans. Cook until tender while stemming and chopping a large handful of green beans and half a bunch of kale. Add green beans. Cook for 10 minutes. Add chopped kale and juice of 1 lime. Cook 10 minutes more. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

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