One year ago, a Friday afternoon would find me finishing a school week. The weekend ahead of me was filled with delightful surprises, like a chestnut festival in a neighboring town or a carnival outside my window. Somehow there was always time and willing accomplices for these impromptu events. Sure, I had papers to write and pages to read but that would take place with a glass of dolcetto or a cappuccino in hand. Study breaks involved strolling down the cobblestone streets for the latest gelato creation. Despite my to-do list obsessions, I wore Italy well.
Now six months later, the American has sunk back in. I find myself with four jobs, glued to my phone (I can’t miss the latest Eater update or crazy cat video on Facebook), and scheduling calls with friends and family while driving between appointments. Piles of shoes wait to be taken to the cobbler, my yard is rebelling back into a state of wild threatening to take the ping pong table with it, and the stack of unfiled papers on my kitchen table would surely be a fire hazard. It is official….I failed.
Somewhere between the nine hour time difference I lost my ability to slow down. “Why not” left my vocabulary and the excuse for relaxation became a taboo again. Somehow I forgot all that Italy taught me. So today, I stand up and exclaim, “Basta…enough!”
Even with my gnarly schedule the past few months, I still pretend that I have time for cooking. Sadly this has meant that several vegetables have found their demise waiting in my crisper. Occasionally desperate attempts at recovery missions are made, resulting in weird concoctions that I will not subject you to. I hopefully open my fridge looking for some shiny beacon of ‘it’s not too late’ in my quest for food management. Alas! I found that beacon, kale stem salt.
I always have some form of dark leafy green in the fridge. I save the stems threatening to add them to each stir fry and lately they end up in a sad goo before becoming a tenant in my compost bin. That was until I found kale salt. This unlikely hero adds a robust earthy flavor to any dish and the salt does what salt does best, it accentuates. Kale stem salt is the added element that makes you pause to pay just a little more attention.
It may be ten o clock and my day might have just finished, but I sit here with a bowl of pasta drizzled with olive oil and kale salt. My glass of wine in hand and Buddy Guy on the stereo. The dishes can wait till tomorrow, the article will still be due in a couple days, and Facebook status updates will not enrich this moment. Maybe the Italian part of me isn’t completely lost. Who knows, maybe I will even sleep in tomorrow…well at least till 8:30. A girl has things to do.
Kale Stem Salt:
This recipe works for any vegetable. Try leeks, beets, carrots, cucumber, etc. Also try mixing and matching. I recommend kale and leek salt. If you are watching your salt intake feel free to leave it out or reduce it. It is easiest if you can find kale from the farmers market where they provide longer stems. I have also collected a few batches of kale stems over a couple week period before making salt.
4 parts Kale Stem puree
1 part kosher coarse salt
Preheat oven to 250
Remove the leaves from the kale and save for another dish. Wash the stems and ensure there is no dirt lingering. Puree the stems and mix with the salt, to taste.
Place the puree on a silpat. Roast the mixture for several hours until no moisture is left. This can take anywhere between 2-5 hours depending on the humidity in your area. Remove from oven and mix occasionally to ensure an even drying. Again, once no liquid is left and the mixture is quite crumbly, remove from oven and let cool.
Blitz in a food processor until fine and place in a jar for storage. Enjoy!