Serious Eats: Recipes

The Crisper Whisperer: What to Do with Too Much Kale

In the Crisper

Featured Veg: Kale
Strip: Remove leaves from stems by running thumb and forefinger along stem from bottom of leaf to top.
Chop: Cut leaves crosswise into 1-inch strips.
Wash: Submerge in large bowl of water and agitate. Let debris settle to bottom. Repeat in fresh water. Do not dry--moisture aids in cooking.
Substitute: Collards, mustard, dandelion, kohlrabi greens

My family suffers from a genetic condition called Big Deal Syndrome (BDS). Though we're also reasonably high-functioning, there's no issue, no task, no microgreen too small for us to make into a big deal over the course of a day or two. Replying to that email? Big deal. Running to the store to get some flour? Big deal. Sometimes I like to say we're "overthinky" to make our condition sound charmingly neurotic, like something all you cute aspiring novelists might want a piece of. Trust me, though. You don't.

A surprising downside of BDS--and this one is kind of a big deal--is that those of us also prone to overcompensation will, for the back half of our college years, act like nothing is a big deal. Then we'll spend a few years trying to follow other people's lead on the big-deal front, eventually getting so out of touch with our own inner compass that we'll lose the ability to identify a true big deal when it's staring us in the face. Sure, sometimes we'll lunge at our babies in full Heimlich pose if they cough while eating a Cheerio. But other times we'll dive right into the world's longest recipe for what Michael Ruhlman calls the "world's sexiest pie" at 10 p.m. with every expectation of getting a full night's sleep.

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In the culinary shocker of the century, the world's sexiest pie is actually a quiche. As you might imagine, it's no mere mortal quiche. It's three times taller, ten times more voluptuous, and infinitely better. This kale and pancetta version, based on a quiche Lorraine from Ruhlman's book Ratio, is a bit of a big deal to prepare. But if you're so inclined, it's totally worth the effort. If you'd prefer a more weeknight-friendly way to use your kale, there's also a simpler frittata variation below.

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Since CSAs, gardens, and farmers' markets are nothing if not unpredictable--especially in a challenging growing season like this one--it's incredibly helpful to be able to improvise in the kitchen rather than slavishly following recipes. To improvise successfully, it's worth investing a bit of time and energy in learning some fundamentals about the way ingredients come together, or at least where to look to find that information. For baked goods, stocks and sauces and some pretty hardcore meat-related shenanigans, Ratio is an excellent resource. It's also worth a read if you're new to the idea of culinary improv.

But if you've just gotten home with a bunch of kale and the mind to put together an interesting dish, you can get pretty far with a pound of pasta or a few eggs, the Google search results for "kale affinities," and a willingness to use your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and cojones.

With a little confidence, cooking from your CSA or garden is no big deal. But don't take it from me.

Note: For a much quicker and still delicious variation, make a frittata instead of a quiche. Omit the dough completely. Follow steps 1 through 4 below, cooking in a nonstick frying pan and using only 1/2 cup total of cream and/or milk. Add the egg mixture to the frying pan, and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Cook without disturbing until the frittata is set on the underside. Place the pan 4 to 6 inches under the broiler until frittata is cooked through and top is lightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature by the slice. Serves 4.

Big-Deal Kale and Pancetta Quiche

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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