Happy Election Eve to my American readers! In a burst of unprecedented organization, I voted early on Friday, but I still feel all pumped up with Election Day excitement. Which is odd, because I generally loathe politics. So much of it is a game of he said-she said and silly arguments about things like whether creationism should be taught in schools. (Sure! Just teach it in social studies class, not science class, please.) I’m generally unconvinced that politicians know what they’re doing because politicians are like scientists, conducting enormous social experiments. But unlike scientists, they’re not encouraged to admit when they are wrong or when they’ve made a mistake. And the scientist in me just wants to scream in frustration.
I suppose the truth is that there are no easy answers to the big problems that are plaguing our country. Unlike most people, I do not hold the President personally responsible for the state of the economy, nor do I have any illusions that there is a quick fix lurking out there somewhere. Most days, I just try to be grateful that I have a job I like, in a place that I find reasonably appealing. On the days when that isn’t enough, I can always retreat to the kitchen.
Tonight I offer you a four-point plan for a cozy, comforting Election Night dinner. Hopefully, wherever you are, it’s colder than where I am because I always think cozy goes better with chilly temperatures. Right now, as I type, it’s a balmy 84 degrees F. I’m not complaining, but it hardly feels like November to me. At any rate, the first point is to get home from work and put on a really soft flannel shirt, preferably one that’s roomy and unattractive, which gives you all the more reason to curl up at home for the evening. The second point is to put on Dan Cohen’s wonderful album Shhhh. It’s a great one to play while cooking; the music is a combination of upbeat, mellow, and pretty songs. I like it a lot. The third song on the album, “Echoey Thing,” is one of my favorite songs ever. You can listen to a little snippet of it on Amazon here.
The third point is to eat a bowl of this old Garlic, Chickpea, and Kale Soup. Now, some of you may protest that it’s too high in fat—there’s no such thing as fat-free heavy cream, people!—but I’d argue that we all need to keep our strength up during weeks like this one. I will, however, offer you one concession: this soup is very good made with half-and-half instead of cream, if you want to lighten it up a touch.
The fourth point, and one that I must explain in some detail, is to make yourself a nice little kale side salad, one that’s topped with toasted almonds, caramelized onions, and crumbled feta cheese. This salad is outstanding. The kale is steamed lightly, so it’s got a soft, gentle yet chewy texture. And the toppings are a perfect trio, each bringing something unique and delightful to the dish. The almonds add a toasty, nutty crunch; the onions a silky sweetness; the feta a tangy creaminess. When combined with the green earthy flavor of the kale, it’s an astonishing combination, maybe even addictive. I made it last night and again tonight for a side dish, and each time I scraped my plate clean. I liked it so much that I just had to stop by tonight to tell all of you about it, in the hopes that you’ll pick up a bunch of kale before tomorrow night. While I can’t tell you anything about the votes I cast on Friday, I can tell you that when given a choice, I’ll always vote for kale on my dinner table. I hope you will too.
Steamed Kale Salad with Almonds, Onions, and Feta
Scientific precision compels me to offer you exact measurements on the toppings here, but the truth is that I just eyeball the almonds, onions, and cheese. Feel free to do the same. This isn’t science—it’s just a salad. Simpler and much tastier, in my opinion.
2 large leaves of curly kale
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
2 tbsp. feta cheese crumbles
1) Wash the kale and strip the leafy parts away from the tough middle stems. Place them in a steamer and steam them for 3-4 minutes, enough to soften them without losing too much texture. I like my steamed kale chewy-soft, if that makes sense.
2) While the kale is going, toast the sliced almonds at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside when done.
3) When the kale is done, remove it from the steamer and shake off any extra liquid. If you want to make your kale really dry, you could probably give it a whirl in a salad spinner, but I don’t mind a little moisture in this salad. Also, I am lazy.
4) Place the steamed kale on a plate and top with the almonds, onions, and feta cheese. Serve immediately.