The Kitchen as Tool

The left side of our sink is too small (a design flaw). Sometimes instead of 12 extra inches on the porch I wish I had 12 inches more by the sink. Still, I work on vegetables in that space – pushing the peelings into the sink.

At Christmas the daughter of my clever friend (a personal chef for a Manhattan family) came with her parents for a Christmas Eve moment. We stood around our island eating olives and nuts, drinking, and talking – and I asked her if she cooked now in a splendid, perfectly convenient kitchen. She laughed and said, “No, it’s a tiny kitchen and I’d kill for an island like this!”

I’m thinking all kitchens have flaws – and all have strengths. I love kitchens with places to sit near the cook like the remodeled kitchen in Anchorage, the farmhouse hugeness of my old friend’s kitchen, and my clever friend’s apple green paint. Recently we visited a brand new kitchen – spacious with much storage – but no perfect working spot.

“A bad workman quarrels with his tools” is a seventeenth century adage. (I once collected old sayings as part of a show about tools – it might be fun to post some with the images here this month.) A bad cook quarrels with the kitchen I suppose, but I know the young chef prepares divine meals in her condensed space. (Once I asked about her kitchen tools – she favors simple ones.)

I thought all this as I cut onions (on the compressed paper cutting board designated for alliums and just fitting between compost bucket and sink) to make “Kale with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Vinegar” from Jack Bishop’s “Vegetables Every Day.” It’s such a simple recipe – it quickly transforms a couple of bunches of kale into the most delicious dish. (Lately we’ve been getting big bags of greens from our farmer – small leaves, sweetened by frost into perfection – they work well in this recipe.)

Wash, remove the mid-rib, and tear the kale into relatively small pieces (or use young winter greens). Add the kale to boiling water with a teaspoon of salt, cook till tender (about eight minutes) and drain.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, add two onions (halved and sliced thin) and cook till golden brown. Then sprinkle with a half teaspoon of sugar and cook till a rich brown. (Keep an eye out, and lower heat if needed.) Add the kale, and stir about till heated through. Finish with two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper.

This kale is so good served immediately with something needing a tangy-sweet taste nearby. The surprise is how delicious the onions and kale taste together out of the fridge the next day – no quarreling there!

5 thoughts on “The Kitchen as Tool

  1. Sounds yummy, the kale is so good now. I have kitchens on my mind trying to design our remodel. A friend told me that no space or home is perfect but to make the best of our design flaws. Good advice when remembered.

  2. This recipe sounds delicious! A friend of mine told me years ago that while her mother was in decline from Alzheimer’s, their doctor said to make kale for her at least once a week, it’s such wonderful brain food. We don’t eat it quite that often but Dana loves it, so when I see it in big, beautiful bunches at the store, I bring some home. I’d like to try this recipe, so maybe we will tonight!

  3. Katy, I’m going to make this recipe tonight with spinach & chard (my only greens on hand). I may just saute them instead of simmering. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Next time I’ll try kale. Being fishavores & carnivores, I’ll serve it with salmon and potatoes. It sounds delicious.

    Our kitchen is small and narrow but pretty functional, with relatively lots of counter space. I’d love a center island but there’s no room! It does have a “bar” area on one end where people can sit while I cook….I like that feature. I love the concept of”kitchen as tool”. Thanks for all your wonderful comments about daily life and recipes…what a wonderful way to stay connected to kindred souls.

  4. Katy–I’m going to fix your kale recipe as a surprise for my youngest son who subsisted on kale and rice during two years in the Peace Corps in Kenya. I’m sure he won’t recognize kale in this form!
    I so enjoy your posts.

  5. Yum! I recently had a delicious kale dish a writing friend prepared. She massaged the kale which had been cut in narrow strips. It wasn’t cooked, just massaged! Then she added olive oil, lemon and topped it with peanuts. It was hard to stop eating it.

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