Sautéed Kale with Tahini and Currants

Sautéed Kale with Tahini and Currants

Are we still talking about kale?  Has kale jumped the shark yet?

Whatever.  I don’t think I could ever get sick of greens of any sort.  Kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens… they just do it for me.  Kale in particular has this wonderful texture, much like your workaday cabbage, that’s just as good cooked as it is raw.

Passion for kale notwithstanding, this recipe was born out of desperation, as so many of my recipes are.  My traditional post-Christmas detox* this year resulted in a steady supply of fresh greens in the fridge, and not much else.

Needing protein, I added almonds and tahini.  Kale screams for garlic; I obliged.  A handful of currants made for a Middle-Eastern sweetness.  And I couldn’t help but add some heat via fresh chile.

The overall flavor hinted at peanut butter on celery sticks, but way more soigné.  It was one of those times where I took a taste, then grabbed a pen and some paper to feverishly try to remember what the hell I did to make it.  It’s all slightly al dente kale, nutty tahini, sharp garlic and lemon, jammy currants.  It’s flippin’ awesome.

*It’s not so much a detox as an “oh god I might actually die unless I eat the most healthy things I can for about three weeks, so fetch me all the kale”.  Fixes me right up.

Sautéed Kale with Tahini and Currants

2 lunch servings, or 4 side servings

Sautéed Kale with Tahini and Currants

I used regular curly-leaf kale, which stayed reasonably al dente in this preparation. This was enough for two light lunches, served with bread and fruit on the side. A drizzle of olive oil over the top is not out of place here.


  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chile pepper (or to taste), such as Serrano
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped roasted almonds (1 large handful)
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants (1 small handful)
  • Salt and pepper, as needed


1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and chile; cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Add the kale, in batches if necessary, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. As it wilts, stir to coat with the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.

3. Drizzle the tahini and lemon juice over the kale, and stir to incorporate. Add a spoonful of water if needed to thin the sauce. Heat briefly to warm through, then remove from heat.

4. Stir in the currants and almonds. Taste, and correct seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, and additional olive oil and/or lemon juice. Serve warm.


Thanksgiving: Before, During, and After

Ah, Thanksgiving.  How was yours?  Mine was super-relaxing.


Want to know what a Personal Chef eats on the day before Thanksgiving?  And for lunch the day of?

The same thing everyone else eats: whatever is most convenient.

true story

And when it’s a pescatarian Thanksgiving meal that one doesn’t start planning until Tuesday (luckily for only three people), it’s a meal full of nothing but simple “greatest hits” that one can basically bang out with eyes closed.

Or blurry eyes, if you’ve already gotten into the bar.  And it’s Thanksgiving, so of course you have.

Clockwise, from the fish in front (and with links to recipes):
Crème Fraîche Roasted Salmon

Raw Lacinato Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad (one of my all-time favorite recipes)
Mirliton and Shrimp Dressing
Roasted Delicata Squash with Avocado Sauce and Walnuts

Dessert was a Lemon Curd Tart with a Gingerbread Rusk crust, adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  It was my one concession to the overachiever that lives in my heart.

To deal with some leftovers, I cooked up a couple of bacon slices, sautéed a bit of leftover kale and Brussels sprouts in the fat, and tossed it all with some cooked orzo and a healthy dash of hot sauce.  Beer.  Salad.  Lovely.

The day after Thanksgiving is the day I do not leave the house.  Man, forget that.  Instead, I put on Christmas music (this year’s selection), whip up some eggnog, and put up the tree.  It is absolutely my favorite holiday.  This year, I even made cookies.

so sparkle

The eggnog this year is the aged eggnog recipe from the Art of Eating, and you guys it. is. amazing.  Previously, I’ve used the uncooked eggnog from the Joy of Cooking, but always end up with a huge pitcher of eggnog that I end up dreading towards the end, but slogging through bravely.  I mean, one can only drink so much nog before it begins to wear a person down.

This recipe, though, has you mix an egg-booze-sugar base that gets aged at least three weeks (!), and mixed up one cocktail at a time.  It’s perfect.  Bonus: aging the eggs in booze actually kills all traces of salmonella, so it’s safer than my old traditional uncooked eggnog.  We do not discuss cooked eggnog around here.

If you have a copy of the magazine, I strongly urge you to mix up a batch.  It’ll be ready just in time for Christmas.

nog perfection
tinsel tree for maximum sparkles

Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend.  Now let’s get ready for the next one.

Five Minute Photo Shoot: Garlic Kale with Preserved Lemon

Dinner the other night: Tuscan kale, sautéed with a boatload of garlic, red pepper flakes, and minced preserved Meyer lemon.  I tossed in some ultra-concentrated smoked turkey stock (see these headnotes for more info) to help it wilt down.  All topped with a tiny mountain of Parmesan.  I cannot get enough kale lately.

There were probably some other ingredients too.  And it’s hard to see, but it was served over black quinoa.

Olive oil is there for the bread, of course.  It ain’t dinner without bread.

Spicy Kale Sauté with Cashew Butter

In my line of work, I always seem to have random bits and bobs knocking around in my fridge.  It’s half a chile here, a wedge of onion there, sometimes a handful of chopped kale.  Dinner, therefore, mostly ends up being a rough jumble of ingredients tossed together on a sauté pan and a prayer.  Mostly, it works out well enough.

But every so often, I come up with something truly special.  This is as sad as it is delightful, as I’m certain I will never ever ever enjoy that particular dish again, because that combination of ingredients will never again exist simultaneously in my fridge.

Sometimes, though, it’s so good that I write it down.  You know, just in case magic happens and those ingredients appear in my fridge.  Who knows, I might buy those ingredients together on purpose.

I took one bite of this, and immediately grabbed my pen and notebook.

Here, it’s served with leftover mustard-roasted leg of lamb, just a few slices for an accent, because I had some in the fridge.  It’s just as good on its own.

Spicy Kale Sauté with Cashew Butter

Yield: 3-4 servings

The one ingredient that I'm certain you don't have is the smoked turkey glace, which sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. It's my secret ingredient lately; I'm stirring a spoonful into just about everything, and it. is. incredible. Get you one smoked turkey wing or leg, put it in your biggest stock pot with half an onion and a bay leaf, fill the pot mostly full with cold water, and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour, or until the meat comes easily off the bone. Remove the onion, bay leaf, and meat; use the meat for something delicious. Bring the stock back up to a boil and reduce the hell out of it. This might take several hours, but it's well worth it. Reduce it until there's hardly anything left, maybe 1/2 or 1 cup, tops. This is your smoked turkey glace. Cool it and store it in the fridge where you can get at it easily. It should thicken into a soft gelatin after chilling, but will dissolve instantly in any heat. Use in small amounts, and often.

Or, you know, use chicken stock. Whatever works for you.


  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced finely
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, with ribs, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 splash dry vermouth (or white wine)
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked turkey glace (optional; see headnote)
  • 1 cup cooked whole grain of choice (I used red rice; try brown rice, farro, quinoa, or similar)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, or all of the above)
  • 1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon (optional, but awesome; otherwise, use a heavy squeeze of lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh chile (I used a blend of Serrano and Marzano)
  • Grated Parmesan, to finish


1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, and sauté the garlic, shallot, and red onion for about 1 minute, or until fragrant and just beginning to soften.

2. Add the kale, and toss to combine. Reduce heat to medium. Splash in some dry vermouth, and cook until the kale has wilted down and no more liquid remains, 2-3 minutes.

3. Thin the cashew butter with enough water to make a runny sauce, and add it to the kale along with the smoked turkey glace. Stir until kale is coated, and cook until liquid has mostly evaporated.

4. Add the cooked grain, herbs, preserved lemon (or lemon juice), and chile, and toss to combine. Remove from heat, and serve immediately with Parmesan grated generously over the top.