My kids, to their great credit, eat a wide variety of food, but even they balk at the preponderance of brassicas and roots I have thrust at them over the winter. Sometimes it’s hard to summon up excitement over the same old vegetables. Eating locally and seasonally means that we are going through our fair share of the same old same old, especially roots, and to be honest, I’m not all that thrilled with them anymore either.
(I suppose it goes without saying that The Author isn’t very happy with the situation. I thought he might be happy with the promise of bacon in his sprouts – but no, he’d rather forego the sprouts and head right to the bacon.)
So, it is with determination and a pinch of creativity that I look into our seasonal vegbox each evening and devise a meal. The other night, at the end of the week, things were looking very dire indeed, with a few potatoes and even less kale knocking around in the void.
Roasted potatoes were the immediate answer, not only because the son hates mash with a passion, but also because the potatoes were a nice, waxy red variety that we hadn’t had in a while. That left the kale. There was hardly enough for the five of us, even if at least three wouldn’t be participating much in the kale consumption. But. But…
But what if the kale was like capers? What if it became piquant and salty and added some punch to the potatoes, which could be roasted to just the right shade of crispy? What if there was a hint or more of garlic added to the mix? And what if the whole thing had a nice, grassy lick of olive oil? Why, then I think we have a contender.
And there was nothing left to prove me wrong.
Roasted Potatoes with Kale “Capers”
Serves 5 generously
I’m not a huge fan of calling things by the wrong name, but I still couldn’t stop myself calling these bits of kale capers. (I console myself with the thought that at least I didn’t resort to calling them “kapers”…). Salted capers are my hands-down favourite; they have a much more caper-y flavour than the brined ones, which can often be overwhelmed by vinegar. This kale, although it wouldn’t be mistaken for capers, at least replicates the intensity that salted capers bring to the palate.
The idea is very simple; the kale is boiled, then squeezed dry, then chopped and given a huge dose of flavour in the saute pan before being mixed with the spuds. It’s a good use of a little bit of something that isn’t enough on its own, and it really perks up an otherwise routine veg. Mushrooms, leeks and onions would also be good candidates for this treatment (without the boiling, of course).
- 700g (1.5 lbs) potatoes (I used Desiree red variety)
- 160g (5 or 6 oz.) kale
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
Slice the potatoes thickly and put them on the roasting tin. Liberally douse them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands, spread them out into a single layer, then cook in the oven at 190C (375F). They should take an hour to roast, less if you have a convection oven. Check after 20 minutes. If the bottoms are getting slightly browned, flip them over and continue cooking. If the bottoms are not slightly browned, continue cooking – it looks like you might have an oven like mine.
Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil. Strip the kale leaves off the stalks. Chop the stalks into very small pieces, about the size of, well, a caper (the leaves can remain whole for now). Drop the kale stalks into the boiling water and cook hard for about 2 minutes, then add the kale leaves. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. (Different types of kale will take different amounts of time to cook. Cavolo Nero or Red Russian kale, for example, are much more tender and will take a few minutes less than a hardy curly kale.) When your kale is tender and easily chewable, drain it in a colander. When it is cool enough to handle, take a clump and squeeze the heck out of it. Lots of water will come out, and you will be left with a little kale nugget. Continue until all the kale is squeezed.
Chop each kale nugget into 4 or 5 pieces. Heat about 2 TB of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the kale, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes. Add the garlic and continue stirring occasionally. You don’t want the garlic to burn or even cook too much, just to lose its raw edge. After a couple of minutes, taste the kale. If it’s utterly delicious, it’s done. If it’s not, cook for another minute or two. You also may need to adjust the seasoning to your own taste, but bear in mind that the kale should be very highly seasoned so it mimics the effect of a caper, with that little salty kick. When the kale is done, remove from the heat and set aside.
When the potatoes are cooked so they are lightly browned, remove them from the oven and add the kale. Mix well, and serve to great acclaim from your root-weary family.