Friday, May 1, 2020

Serendipity: Sauvignon Blanc day leads to a good kale recipe

Today is International Sauvignon Blanc day. Normally I ignore all these bogus holidays: I'm not going to let a marketer tell me I can't have a Manhattan on National Whiskey Sour Day. May 7 is apparently both National Homebrew Day AND National Cosmopolitan Day, and I'm not going to drink either (although if you want to have a Cosmo made with vodka from your home still, knock yourself out. Literally.)

But, like 15 other media people in the San Francisco Bay Area, I got a home delivery on Wednesday from New Zealand Winegrowers of a nice three-course seafood meal and four bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. I said I could tweet about it; nothing more. I will tweet for food -- but I'm not gonna give away a blog post THAT easily.

However. The NZ care package was the second food pickup I had on Wednesday. The first was a box of organic produce I ordered from Watsonville's Tomatero Farm. It's a good deal: $20, but you have to buy the box in advance and can't list likes or dislikes. We got some very nice strawberries, butter lettuce, baby broccoli, and other goodies. But we also got kale.

I hate kale.

Kale is like eating nutritional guilt. It's what your parents try to sneak into recipes to add vitamins to foods that would be tastier without kale. It has no redeeming virtues except that it's really good for you.

The awful thing about kale is that it's vegetal and bitter, too extreme in both for me. That said, when faced with vegetal foods that I do like -- fresh asparagus, for example, or well-roasted brussels sprouts -- Sauvignon Blanc is my first thought. And New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is especially well-suited because a lot of them have not only a forward vegetal note to match the greens; they also have a bit of sweetness to take the bitterness away.

It was true serendipity. I had a food I hate -- but I also had the perfect wine for it, if I could somehow make the food palatable.

I asked around on Twitter for recipe suggestions and got several good ones. My favorite was from Ronald Holden: "Buy a pig. Feed it the kale." I also liked this one:

We decided to make Tejal Rao's Kale Sauce Pasta, which is essentially kale pesto (h/t my former colleague Jonathan Kauffman). If we get more kale next week (note to Tomatero Farm: please NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!), we might try it with white beans and sausage.

We had more kale than we needed for the pasta (excess kale NOOOOOO!!!), so my wife decided to try something, and that, with apologies to the fine Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc, became the star of the meal. She made O-hitashi, a Japanese way of preparing spinach, with kale.

It was surprisingly good! It had the green freshness you want without the bitter bitterness that makes kale remind me of every failed project and every lost playoff game. If you too find yourself living the nightmare of having excess kale, My Wife's Kale O-hitashi will save you. (Unless you happen to own a pig.)

My Wife's Kale O-hitashi

This recipe used only a small amount of kale: about 1/8 of a pound. You'll have to scale up the other two ingredients to make more.

Wash kale
Remove stalks
Boil leaves for five minutes in lightly salted water
When leaves are cool enough to touch, squeeze out water with your hands
Chop leaves into about 1-inch pieces
In a mixing bowl, add leaves, 1 tbsp of ponzu* and 1 tbsp of shirodashi*; mix
Place in serving bowl. Sprinkle bonito flakes* on top.

* These are all available at Asian grocery stores. Ponzu is essentially soy sauce, vinegar and lime juice; you could make it yourself. Shirodashi is the milder Kyoto style of dashi, which is essentially fish stock. My wife says if you don't have bonito flakes, sesame seeds will do.


If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy my story of how I failed as a jury chairman while judging a Sauvignon Blanc competition in France at the beginning of the pandemic. It took a Grand Marnier soufflé to wash that bitterness away -- and it wasn't even Grand Marnier soufflé day!

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  1. Thank you for the laugh...kale, the leafy green that divides families