The Big Dog is a big fan of kale. In our part of the world, where we’ve got a certain Portuguese influence, it’s always played a starring role in soups and stews. As people have come to recognize its health benefits, it’s gotten broader, more varied use.
But to really appreciate kale’s charms, you have to eat it raw. Toss some into a fruit smoothie for breakfast (more on those some other time). Tear the tiniest leaves into a big green salad. Steal some out of the neighboring community garden plot for a snack on the drive home. (Not that we’re endorsing community garden theft, but we know it happens.)
Or do what we do in the Dog House: pretend it’s lettuce, lettuce with nutrients and heartiness. We add it to lots of sandwiches. But with this dish, the Big Dog outdid himself.
We recently visited a restaurant — we don’t remember where — that offered burgers topped by bacon patties. Although we often order dishes just because we’re curious, we passed in this case.
But the image haunted us. Bacon! Burgers! Was it brilliant? Or did it just need one little addition… kale?
We sat in the back yard by an early spring campfire, discussing the possibilities. We sketched schematics. We analyzed cooking times and curvatures. And finally, it was time to get to work. Gina scooted to one side and made a salad while the Big Dog manned the stove.
We ground four slices of bacon in the Cuisinart and created kind of a paste. We spread it thinly over a non-stick pan to create kind of a web of bacon. Before flipping it, we added a chiffonade of basil trimmed from the kitchen window plant.
We cooked ground beef patties in a pan and sprinkled them with a seasoned salt blend before the first flip. After the seasoned side was thoroughly browned, aided by pouring the fat off the pan, we flipped again, then topped the patty with trimmed raw curly kale, then the bacon patty, then a slice of American cheese. The stack steamed in the pan for a moment, then we slid it onto a potato roll with a slice of raw tomato. We concurred that in a future iteration, the tomato would be topped by another leaf of kale.
(When we say “we,” we mean that Gina was cowering in a corner while the pans flew.)
The result was delicious. Surprisingly, the wan springtime basil dominated these strong flavors. The juicy burger and tomato slice offset the crisp kale and bacon. The lightly toasted potato roll held it together with elegance, not aggression. Accompanied by a spinach salad with a light vinaigrette, the burger made a perfect Sunday night dinner.