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When All Else Fails, Make Kale Slop

Shortly after I came aboard Epicurious last year, our digital director, Maggie Hoffman, quizzed me on what I typically cook at home on any given night. Sure, I could've pulled out a million dishes to impress my new boss ("oh, some snapper en papillote or just some handmade pasta with a 12-hour Bolognese…if I'm feeling lazy"), but in that moment I could only answer with brutal honesty.

"Kale slop," I said.

Then, realizing that I might be volunteering to discuss kale slop publicly, I quickly demurred and changed the subject. The thought of writing about this ugly dish with its ugly name felt like those dreams in which you realize you're naked on the subway and all your teeth have turned into gummy bears-just mortifying in every dimension for a food editor. Besides, my husband threatened to divorce me if I ever revealed this dirty secret of ours.

But reader, after months of avoiding any mention of kale slop, I have finally caved, so here goes.

At some point about a decade ago, my husband and I took a look at our diet and realized that it was sorely lacking in greens. When I met him, he regularly subsisted on crappy hamburgers and avoided just about all forms of fruit. I'm fairly certain his blood was 98% trans fat, but to be honest, I was hardly better. We were also both overworked and barely at home, which usually meant we opted for takeout, but that was not sustainable nutritionally nor financially, so we needed a go-to dish that included our daily servings of vegetables and could be cooked in under 30 minutes.

Our solution was kale: always available at our corner market, resistant to overcooking, hearty enough to serve as the base for a more elaborate dish, and chock-full of enough vitamins and minerals to allow us to see through walls.

The only problem? When you cook it with onions and bell peppers in a cast-iron skillet and season with plenty of salt, the result is perfectly tasty, but it simply doesn't look very good-almost exactly like a brownish-greenish pile of compost, really. Thus we began to call this otherwise delicious mixture kale slop, a tragic name that has stuck to this day.

Now, hear me out: Kale slop, the method for which I am about to describe, is more than the sum of its parts. It is the base for any number of quick weeknight meals, and it can be as healthy or as artery-clogging as you desire. Let's get into it.

Again, you could call this sautéed kale with onions and peppers if you're trying to be all fancy about it, but I'm not. This is how you do it: Slice onions, thinly, into half-moons. Whatever kind of onions you have on hand will work; banana shallots and leeks are great too. I go for at least a cup's worth, but use as much as you'd like. Then, slice a couple of bell peppers into batons-red or orange or yellow are equally good, but green bell peppers, IMO, are "hell fruit" fit only for punishment. Then, stem and roughly chop a bunch of kale or two, depending on the generosity of your grocery store's bunches. I prefer the curly kind here, simply for its extra surface area, but lacinato is also great.

Now, you could use other greens if you wanted, but they never feel quite as right as kale. Collards deserve far better treatment, and spinach can get slimy when it's cooked for too long. Chard tastes like dirt to me, as it does to many people. So, kale it is.

Next, sauté the onions in a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. When they start to turn translucent, add the sliced bell peppers. You really can't cook the peppers too long, in my husband's mind. You want them completely limp and helpless, no crunch left at all-that's when they turn mighty sweet. Finally, stir in the kale and toss with the onions and peppers. That alone will start to wilt the greens, but I usually throw a splash of water, white wine or cider, or stock into the pan and cover it for a few minutes; the steam helps move the wilting process along. When everything feels cooked through-about 5 minutes-add salt and pepper to taste. A tiny dash of vinegar (Champagne, sherry, or plain ol' apple cider) is nice sometimes too. That's your basic slop.

Here's where kale slop gets much more interesting. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of slopibilities, these 10 variations are a good starting point-and many of them can be combined with each other.

Slop With Meat: In our more carnivorous days (we're now sorta flexi-pescatarian), my husband and I would typically brown some Italian sausage, chorizo, or bacon in the pan, scoop it out, leave the moreish porky fat behind, and sauté the onions, peppers, and greens in that. The meat goes back in the pan at the end. Crisped slices of prosciutto or jamón, shredded and showered over the top after plating, are also nice. Or you can use animal fat without the meat: Duck fat and schmaltz are great options, adding an extra savory backbone that olive oil can't.

Slop With Extra Vegetables: Crimini and white button mushrooms play well with slop and provide a meaty bite. More delicate varieties, however, tend to get lost in the dish or fall apart. You can also hash-ify your slop with potatoes, white or sweet, by boiling chunks of them and then crisping in the pan before you add the onions and the rest. I've also had success with cooked beans-preferably large butter beans or Garrofón beans, as you'd use for paella. I usually keep a couple cans of ful mudammas on hand, which work well too.

Slop With an Egg: It's exactly what it sounds like. Cook your egg however you prefer, but my go-to is over easy, nestled into the cooked greens.

If you really want to be fancy, you could do a shirred eggs/oeufs en cocotte situation: Add some cream and grated cheese (Gruyére is nice but use whatever!) to your meaty or meatless slop. Spoon it all into a baking dish or several ramekins, crack some eggs over the top, and bake in a water bath at 400ºF for about 10 to 12 minutes. You could even serve it to guests for breakfast.

Oven-Crisped Slop: Sauté your slop in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop until it's mostly cooked through, then transfer the skillet to a 425ºF oven for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the kale begin to crisp and slightly burn. Again, curly kale is the best for this variation because of its greater surface area. You'll get a nice contrast between the crispy bits on top and the softer veggies beneath. You could also roast the whole mess on a sheet pan for extra-crispy slop.

Saucy Slop, a.k.a. Wet Slop: Add some spices-turmeric, coriander, chile flakes-and a can of coconut milk and you'll soon approximate these Coconut Creamed Greens. Serve over rice!

Shakshuka-Inspired* Slop: Got a can of tomatoes? Throw it in after including some sliced garlic in your onion/kale/pepper sauté, and liberally add cumin, paprika, and some chile flakes of your choosing. (I like Urfa pepper for its smoky, raisiny flavor, but you do you.) Make little wells in the slop and slip in a few eggs. Bake it at 375ºF until the eggs are set to your liking, around 7 to 10 minutes. Yes, you can add feta, but I like chunks of salty, sheepy kashkaval cheese if I've got it on hand. If you want it meaty, crisp up some merguez before you start cooking the base mixture. Harissa on the side is a nice touch too. (*Yes, I know this is not traditional shakshuka!)

Slop on Toast: Keep your slop simple or add whatever spices you'd like. Spoon the cooked slop over a thick slice of toasted or pan-fried pain de campagne or other rustic bread. Slip a poached egg on top, drizzle with good olive oil, and add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

Slop Frittata: You've already cooked a bunch of vegetables and maybe some pork products, so you're halfway to a frittata if you're using a well-seasoned cast-iron pan. You can follow Genevieve Ko's basic frittata ratio as a guide: ¼ cup of milk (or heavy cream, for a soigné touch) and 8 eggs for every 2 cups of meaty or meatless slop. Bake it for around 15 minutes at 350ºF.

Slop as a Filling: Either prep your slop in advance or cook it à la minute and use it as the base for a quiche or strata, or as the filling for an omelet. I've also added it to a savory galette with roasted mushrooms, topped with chunks of funky Taleggio cheese, which is pretty clutch.

Leftover Slop: Stir leftover slop into a grain bowl, toss it with pasta (orecchiette with some fennel-y sausage and Pecorino is lovely), or use it as the base for a burrito with black beans. Or just inhale it standing in front of the fridge, straight out of the deli container, in between Zoom calls at lunchtime.


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