I come from a long lineage of sorry cooks.
To clarify: they’re not particularly sorry people, nor is their food particularly sorry; instead, they are the ones who are sorry, usually unjustifiably, for their food.
You see, both my mother and grandmother are experts at preemptive apologies for what they’ve put on the table. “I’m sorry, there is probably not enough salt,” my mother will say before anyone has even taken a bite. Or, if you were my grandmother, you would talk about how the last time you made the potatoes, they were much better. You’d say that these ones don’t look quite the way they did the last, presumably prevailing, time.
I’ve been conditioned to offer up equally preemptive compliments, too, always tinged with a sense of reassurance. But the fact of the matter is, nothing is ever really that off. The potatoes are always great, if not consistent, and everything is, for the most part, salted perfectly. (I happen to also come from a long lineage of women who are, though self-deprecating, pros in the kitchen.)
It’s become a practice so ingrained it’s borderline genetic, by now. And it would seem, by the rules of science, that I’m next in line. I’m hoping, though, that since I’ve caught it early, I will be much better prepared to resist falling into the traps of anticipatory apologizing.
Last week I was back at my home home for lunch. Again, as lineage would predict, there my mother was, hunched over her newest recipe, apologizing for the wayward kale, which was refusing to wilt. As it turns out, the pile of kale and potatoes she was so unhappy with was a dish certainly not worthy of apologies. In fact, it was worthy of a second go. Then a third. This dish is perfect for winter, when kale abounds, and I find it’s better if the kale is left slightly unwilted, so that it still has a bit of a bite. (What do you think about that, Mom?)
Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad
(Adapted from Gourmet)
When I made this, my co-op had these really appealing versions of both purple and red potatoes, so I used those. (As in most things, if there is a purple version, I go for it.) Feel free, though, to use whatever kind of potatoes you like best.
Also, if you don’t have any cheese on hand, forge on ahead anyway. The salad is great with it, but the tahini dressing can stand up on its own if need be.
Also-also, like many things, this recipe is fantastic with a fried egg on top. So do that, too.
2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
scant 1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves (3 thinly sliced and 1 minced)
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 pounds kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves thinly sliced crosswise (I did a thicker version of a chiffonade.)
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Toss potatoes with oil and a bit each of salt and pepper, and spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring once, for about 10 minutes. Stir in sliced garlic and roast 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with cheese (or don’t) and roast until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, purée tahini, water, lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. If you want your dressing a bit thinner, add some water, but I found this one produced a pretty good thickness.
Toss kale with hot potatoes and any garlic and oil remaining in pan, then toss with tahini sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Resist apologizing.