There is a particular stretch of highway headed south from San Francisco which brings to mind some of the best moments in my life. Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway is a dramatic live ride slicing through land and skirting sea. At least once a year I would wind down this ribbon of asphalt surrounded by a wild tactile beauty which would deliver me exhilarated and undone to the wide open mouth of the aquarium perched at the edge of blue beyond. As much as I delighted in the strange colorful water world contained within this fish bowl, the kinesthetic experience of the drive alone was worth the three hour shot of time. If I was lucky I traveled as passenger, free to dissolve into the meandering grind of pavement, the crash and tumble of the cliffs, and the metallic glitter of waves below. With each twist of road I would shed muscle and bone, split skin and human form and become something otherworldly: a speck, a dot of light, complete and utter joy.
So imagine how nostalgic I became when sweet V_ lulled me back in time with news that her twin lives at Esalen in Big Sur, a neighboring town off the PCH. Already she disarms me with a bell like voice that brightens a room with mirth and a sound of purity. My new friend also possesses a gracious earthy presence of one that pleasures in plants- and she is kindness personified. When she opened up a spacious potato basket to reveal a hidden salad, I sensed that I would soon be enjoying an extraordinary feast. Tender organic greens were hand picked locally by friends and assembled by script born from the holistic coastal kitchen of that magical place. All at once a hyped up tumble of sun and movement, robust plant life, and a general feeling of satisfaction came together as overlay to the crisp vibrant greens which sat begging to be known.
I have a lot of respect for the mighty Kale, Brassica oleracea and it has graced my table for many years. But I admit that I see this cruciferous plant as uptight vigilant taskmaster reminding me to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, hydrate, and detoxify when I would rather be snacking on bon-bons. I can never entirely relax around this highly reticulated green. It may be the fact that this wild cabbage is packed to the gills with substance. It is hard to slouch around a thing so wholesome. I’ve eaten the leaves steamed and sautéed, puréed and boiled, dehydrated and juiced. It takes a proper cooking method to subdue the fibrous plant and an assertive hand to season it. But try as I may to enjoy this nutritiously dense vegetable for taste alone, I fake and I falter.
Until now--Now, kale is king! Maggie’s Kale Recipe is perfect preparation for those that fear this strong willed green. The dressing a simple emulsion of lemon, oil and Braggs Liquid Aminos cooks up raw onion and kale much like a ceviché. The result is a tussle of beautiful emerald curls lightly anointed with nutty oil and the brightness of citrus. Pungent onion and dreamy avocado rouse and round out the flavors and textures of this perfect food. Greens never tasted so good. I offer this as gift for the New Year. It is a food that captures the strength and vibrancy of life and the place that captures my heart. It seems to contain the sun, the sea and the earth, pure potency. Eat and Be Blessed.
Maggie’s Kale Recipe from Esalen Newsletter
One large head of kale such as curly, Russian red or dinosaur
½ medium sized red onion
Several handfuls of sunflower sprouts
¼ cup each sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.
1 avocado cut into chunks
1 handful thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
1/3 C of Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/3 C lemon juice
1/3 C flax seed oil
Directions: Combine the Braggs and lemon juice in a blender and slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Slice onion into thin moons and marinate in dressing while preparing the salad. Toast the seeds until golden and fragrant and cool. De-stem the kale and slice into ¼” ribbons. Toss the kale, sprouts, seeds, avocado and mushrooms with the dressing/onions. Let sit a few hours to allow flavors to combine and the kale to wilt.