Food Sunday: Kale Pie

Right out of the oven

For years, we grew kale in our Alaska garden.  It is hardy and nutritious. Somehow, it got eclipsed by some of my experiments – rutabaga, radicchio, parsnips, fava beans, soy beans and other plants.  This year, once again, I planted kale, from a pack of seeds including various kinds of “Siberian Kale.”

We used almost all of it.  I’ve made kale chips for the first time.  We’ve stir-fried it with elk, caribou and moose cuts.  Even after six or seven frosts, one as low as 23 degrees F, it is still growing.

Kale seems to be almost ubiquitous this year.  Every trendy restaurant we’ve been to, from San Francisco to Forestville (Backyard Restaurant!), to Seattle (Poppy) to Anchorage and Palmer, Alaska had at least one kale item on the menu.  Facebook is full of stale kale jokes.  Food writers discussing kale these days almost seem obliged to have to defend the vegetable:

Kale is a shorthand for all that’s tragically trendy, insufferably healthy, grassy and tasteless about the menu at your local hipster cafe. Somehow “kale” has become a four-letter word, like “tofu” was before it, symbolising the dietary quirks of a clueless, effete bourgeoisie. “The maid forgot to put kale in my royal jelly smoothie! Waaaah!”

Kale’s ubiquity on menus and foodie blogs is matched by clickbait headlines designed to prey upon our guilt about dietary shortcomings and our love-hate relationships with skinny stars who have glowing complexions. We read that Gwyneth Paltrow, the patron saint of white-people problems, ate nothing but kale to prepare for a role. We see Michelle Obama in an awkward Tonight Show sketch foisting kale chips on Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell. The New York Times hails kale’s “veggie chic”. A popular Ryan Gosling meme coos, “Hey girl, I grew this kale for you in my organic garden.” (Organic food – or, as your grandparents called it, “food” – goes in the same comedic box, of course.) We hear of National Kale Daya controversial T-shirt admonishes us to Eat More Kale; a cookbook called Fifty Shades of Kale – which I’m sorry to report includes a recipe for chocolate-chip kale cookies – is a bestseller. Kale was served at the Super Bowl, while last year 262 babies were named Kale in the US. Has asparagus ever gotten this much press?

Early in the summer, or in late spring, kale is very usable raw, in salads.  Not so much the first week of October.  It has to be cooked.  I decided to use some of the last of our crop in a kale pie recipe I had found in Rosalind Creasy’s book Cooking from the Garden, back in the 1990s.  In that book, chef Seppi Renggli adapted a recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook, to make a vegetable-based pie crust that also featured kale in the pie filling.  I’ve adjusted it somewhat:


2 cups grated potato (peeled or unpeeled.  I peeled mine)
2/3 cup mixed grated carrot and parsnip
1/3 cup finely grated (and drained) onion
2 duck eggs, beaten
2 tbs flour
2 tbs finely chopped dill
1 tbs grape seed or olive oil
10-inch pie pan, lightly oiled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly squeeze the water out of the potatoes. Mix the ingredients in a mixing bowl, beginning with the eggs, oil and flour, melding in the onions, carrots & parsnips, dill and potatoes. Spoon and pat into pie pan, smoothing it evenly by hand. Place in oven for a total of up to 40 minutes. When halfway cooked, spray lightly with grape seed oil.

Meanwhile, grate 1 & 1/2 cups mozzarella or jack cheese, and mix with 2 tbs flour.

The filling:

1 finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tbs grape seed or olive oil
1 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme
dash of salt
4 cups kale, with spines removed, and shredded
3 duck eggs
1 cup milk or cream
dash of cayenne
dash of nutmeg

Warm a skillet to medium. Add the oil. Add the onions. Stir until glossy. Add garlic. Cover one minute. Add kale and thyme. Cover and reduce heat. Stir after two minutes. Reduce heat again. After one minute, remove from heat, covered. Mix the eggs, cream, cayenne and nutmeg.

When the crust is cooked, remove and let cool for five minutes. Sprinkle half the cheese evenly on the crust. Add the cooked kale mix. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then pour the eggs and milk over it, slowly and evenly.

Put in oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

We served ours with skewered elk and pineapple, with a bottle of 2009 Rosenblum Richard Suaret Zinfandel.  What was left made for excellent breakfast leftovers yesterday and today.

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