Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Feeling of Triumph

I've conquered kale.

Yes, kale.  The leafy green vegetable.

For months now, my lip has curled into an irritated sneer whenever I hear people go on and on about how wonderful kale is, how it's "sooooooo healthy," how it's their "new addiction," blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I actually told Rachel Ray to shut up one morning.  I was sick of hearing about kale. 

I love spinach.  I just do.  It is one of the best foods in the world, and for me, kale was just never going to be like spinach.  I'd eat kale and think, "I could have had spinach.  Why am I not having spinach?"

To me, kale has a funny taste.  And yes, I know spinach kind of does too, but I like the funny taste of spinach.  It tastes like iron.  That's why Popeye got all those muscles and could beat up Bluto.

(For the record, even as a child it really bothered me that Bluto couldn't take a hint and take a hike.  I mean, Olive Oyl was not interested.  Everyone could see that.  The only cartoon character who made me angrier was Pepe Le Pew.  HOLY COW that kissing skunk was annoying.  I told my mom once, "He needs to LEAVE those kitty cats ALONE.  They don't like him and they're NOT SKUNKS.")

But back to the kale.  I found a way to eat kale that works for me.  Two words: pizza and garlic.

Unlike spinach, kale isn't quite as watery, so while you can't really plunk spinach down raw on a pizza and bake it--I find I have to cook the spinach first and then wring it out before I can put it on a pizza--you can actually do that with kale.

Case in point.  Pictured to the right is the pizza, pre-cheese.  (Yes, that's a Boboli crust under there.  I find that, when I want pizza, I want it quickly and making my own pizza dough is not quick enough to suit me.)

Under the mound of baby kale and the roasted peppers are onions and an entire head of roasted garlic.

Yes, that's right.  A full head--not a clove or two--of roasted garlic.  If you haven't roasted garlic and then cooked with it, well, you haven't fully lived, my friend.

I put cheese on the pizza (yes, I use packaged cheese--see above about "quick") and put it in the oven.  You have to take a bit of a leap of faith and really mound that kale on there, because it will shrink down once it's cooked.  I brushed the crust with olive oil before putting on the kale.

You can also drizzle oil over the kale, but I opted not to in this case, since I was using roasted peppers: they tend to have a bit of oil, and I didn't want a watery pizza, because otherwise, I would end up thinking, "If I wanted watery pizza, I could have just used spinach," and I'd be back in that vicious cycle that I described above.

So here it is, cheese added and ready for the oven.  I took a side-view shot so you can see how high I had the kale piled. 

I added a bit less cheese this time around than I normally do, and although it came out just fine, you kind of do want to make sure you get a bit sprinkled to the edges, otherwise the kale just dries up like the leaf that it is.

But for the most part, it was fine.  Here it is, out of the over and ready for the eatin'.

Very colorful and pretty, and it tasted really good too.  The garlic did the trick for me when it came to kale--I like the way those two flavors blend, and it helped to mellow out the "funny" taste of kale (in my opinion, anyway).

I have another triumph to talk about.  My tomato plants.  LOOK at these beauties.

They're ready for their close-up:

The best part is, I planted an assortment of heirloom seeds, so I have no idea what they tomatoes themselves will look like when they finally ripen.  Some may be purple.  Some may be green.  Some may be yellow.  There may be a few paste tomatoes in there as well.

And when the season ends, unlike hybrid plants that you buy at the store, these will reseed themselves.  Personally, I find that plants that grow spontaneously from last year's seeds tend to be heartier and healthier than the ones you buy.  

I actually have 5 additional tomato plants that I "found" in my garden beds this year.  Almost all of them are yellow pear tomatoes, so that's good, because those are quick and easy to eat.  (Good for snackin', is what I'm sayin'.)

People think I'm insane because I a) start my garden from seeds, and b) plant so many tomatoes.  But I find that, if you grow things from seed, you're going to have to be prepared to lose a lot of plants.  Rabbits happen.  Dampening off happens.  Nature happens.

Speaking of which, my third and final triumph is a triumph born of tragedy.  I had two rosemary bushes that I really liked and this winter killed them both.  They just can't survive the kind of cold we get in the Northeast sometimes--mine had weathered several winters, actually, but I think the fact that it was extremely wet and then it became extremely cold... that was all she wrote for my rosemary, in short.

So in my strange state of gardening determination, I decided that I would grow more rosemary.  From seed.  (My neighbor, who is an avid gardener herself, stared at me for a full minute when I told her this.)

But here it is: success.  I can't tell you how tiny and fiddly rosemary is when it first gets started.

The seeds are miniscule, and the seedlings are the most fragile things I've ever seen.  I couldn't quite fathom how something so tiny and sensitive could end up producing the kind of stems that you chop off and use to cook with.

But here they are.  They've taken hold and, this winter, I'll be playing it safe: they're going inside once the weather gets colder.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."