Three Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Things I should not do with my injured back but have anyways: 1. Run for the bus. 2. Pick things up off the floor. 3. Use heavy pots.

But there were all good reasons why I had to:

1. Running for the bus. I was actually feeling much better by Tuesday afternoon; I credit the acupuncture. I was on my way back from the hospital, where I’d gone to pick up the film of my MRI so I could show it to the surgeon on Thursday. The trip back from the hospital involves two buses, and if my timing was right, I could smoothly make the second transfer. The bus’s timing was impeccable, but I’m a little slow-footed these days, so I had to run, screaming for them to hold the bus. They did, I got on, and then my back started screaming back at me.

At this point, you’re probably asking why didn’t I just look up when the next bus was coming on my smartphone? Well, that would be because I am one of the last 30-somethings who does not have a smartphone. I have a flip phone, and I text the old-fashioned way, which my friend Brian (another hold-out) likens to using a manual typewriter or a telegraph. On the plus side, my lack of a smartphone is the only thing standing between me and a crippling Words With Friends addiction. But I digress.

2. Picking things up off the floor — if by “things” I mean an afternoon snack that fell off my desk. Sure, I have a cloth napkin, real fork, spoon and a bowl in my desk, but none of that helps me if I’m eating popcorn. Things fall. And there is no way I should leave them for Rosa, who comes in the evening to empty the garbage and clean the bathrooms, to clean up my mess.

3. The heavy pots. Well, I had to eat! Yes, I know that Rich is a wonderful cook; his soup was excellent. But left to his own devices, his offerings differ a great deal from mine. Saturday he made a rotisserie chicken. (Yes, we have rotisserie. What, you’re telling me you don’t? Story for another time.) Sunday he made a pot roast. By Monday, I felt I needed something to balance out all the animal leftovers in the fridge. And so, in keeping with my failure to stay out of the kitchen when ill, I trudged into the kitchen and heaved my heavy pots onto the stove. Oof.

I had been eyeing a recipe in Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and Monday seemed like the perfect night to boil some kale. Yes, you heard me. Boiled kale. And let me tell you, we are boiled kale converts. I want to grow old with boiled kale, and definitely with the soggy bread that comes underneath it.

Rodgers actually gives four different ways to eat the boiled kale, but I’ll just be sharing the way I did it. After the kale was boiled – I used stock instead of water for a flavor boost, and left out the chili pepper because of the reflux – I poached eggs on top. Then, I spooned out our servings onto thick crusty slices of bread I’d laid out in shallow bowls. The result was not unlike Zuni’s panade recipe, but much healthier and faster to make.

We actually then both supplemented our bowls of magic with additional protein: Rich put some thinly sliced pot roast on top of his, while I added some chickpeas I’d cooked up in the pressure cooker last week and stuck in the fridge, just in case. Thanks to my pressure cooker, I was able to boil my kale in a quick 6 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker (and you really should, ahem) it’ll take about a half hour, but it’s well worth it.

Boiled Kale with Poached Eggs adapted, ever slow slightly, from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook


For about 4 cups:

Generous 8 ounces kale (I just used a plain old bunch of kale, and didn’t bother measuring it)

1 ½ cups diced yellow onions (6 ounces)

5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

A pinch of red pepper flakes or a small dried chili (optional)

2 garlic cloves, slivered (optional but very delicious)

3 to 4 cups stock


Trim the kale of any discolored or damaged leaves.( I, personally, wash each leaf separately through cold running water.) Rodgers suggests washing the leaves in several baths of cold water. Once washed, place each leaf, one at a time, on a cutting board, and cut away the thick, woody stem that leads up to the leafy greens. Discard/compost. Once the ribs have been removed, stack the leaves and roll up a few leaves at a time, then slice 1/8 inch thick.

Place the onions and oil in a 4-quart saucepan and set over low to medium heat. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the onions are translucent, but still firm, about 4 minutes. Add the optional chili and garlic and the kale, and stir as it wilts into a heavy mass, about five minutes. Add stock and cover by ½ inch and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the kale is tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes; add stock if necessary to keep kale just submerged.

Transfer the boiled kale and its liquid to a wide sauté pan and bring to a simmer. Crack 1 egg per person into the pan, taking care to space them an inch or so apart. (OK, I actually crack my eggs into ramekins to check for bloodspots, and then pour the eggs into the pan.) Drizzle the eggs with extra-virgin olive oil, cover, and cook at a bare simmer until done to your liking. Spoon each ragged egg, with plenty of extra kale and broth, onto a piece of toasted thick, crusty, chewy, peasant-style bread that you will have laid in a bowl (Feel free to rub your pieces of toast with a freshly cut garlic clove half.) Serve with a knife, fork and spoon.


12 thoughts on “Three Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

  1. ha, you can play words with friends on facebook, so nice try avoiding that addiction 😉 hope this kale and eggs helped your back feel a bit more rested after your exertions! it sounds wonderful, i’ve been a kale feind the past week, and one of my faves was a kale-sw potato hash with eggs on top!

    answered on my post, but I find farro is cheaper in bulk bins. happened upon it at wegmans (in westborough), but i haven’t checked at WF bins!

  2. Wegman’s. Brilliant! I’ve been needing a good excuse to visit the grocery mecca. Whole Foods does not have them in bulk — I suspected it would be cheaper that way, too — but I’m quite happy to take a journey out to Wegman’s.

  3. I’m a kale fiend and look forward to trying this. I’m a bit phobic of too-soft veggies, though. Can you tell me why boil it instead of leaving it with that delicious pan combo of onion, olive oil & garlic? You could even lightly “steam” it with some broth in the pan like that for the flavor boost.

    • Hi Tania,
      So good to hear from you! I say steam it if that’s your preference. Luckily, the nutritional value is just as strong with either boiling or steaming. The next time I get a bunch of kale, which I’m sure will be in the next few days, I will try the recipe with steaming it instead. If you do get to it before me I would love to hear the results. I will say there is a softness to the boiled kale, something quite comforting about the sogginess, which is really really nice. I know, soggy! Who’da thunk?

      • Tania,
        I’ve come back to report about the steaming vs. boiling question. Steamed kale is quite delicious, but there’s a sogginess about this dish that requires the boiling. And, the flavor the broth imparts an additional layer. Please don’t be turned off by the thought of soggy kale. I promise you it’s really fantastic.

      • i love kale enough to give it a try … but I so hate soggy. At the same time, kale is a favorite green of mine to through in a soup because even soggy it has so much body. hmmm.

  4. We eat a lot of greens, particularly kale, often for breakfast with Scottish oats, a soft-boiled egg and a drizzle of sesame oil, but I really like the idea of this, especially in lieu of an omelette. Good idea. Ken

    • I love savory everything, including breakfasts, but I’ve never gone the savory oatmeal route. I have kale, eggs and sesame oil in the fridge and oats in the pantry. Perhaps a new meal is in my future. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • OK, took you suggestions for the kale/egg/grain/sesame oil for breakfast route and I am a total convert. Had it two days in a row. Now I need more kale. So, so good. Thanks for the suggestions.

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