Dating is a challenge. Even if you’ve been married for 40 years, if you imagine the quest of seeking a suitable partner that will both help keep the house clean and give you butterflies in your stomach, I’m sure you will be able to flirt with the magnitude of this process. Like most things in life, it’s usually best to enjoy the journey, instead of focusing on the end result; in dating, this means that sometimes you spend time with people that you know aren’t ultimately right for you, but you’re enjoying the ride and it’s nice to have some company from time to time. This is exactly where I was with my last quasi-relationship, which is really a rare and beautiful place to be. Heartbreak is not part of the equation because you’re not in love, but there also must be some sort of conclusion at some point. Ideally, the conclusion will manifest itself in a natural and respectful manner. I’m sure my readers are all very respectful people, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that text messages are not considered to be one of the respectful ways to end an affair, even if the premise was casual and low-commitment. The problem was not that the involvement was concluded, but the means of message delivery was inappropriate. I think it’s safe to say that anything beyond 3 or 4 dates requires an actual phone call, as opposed to some sort of electronically transmitted text.
With a phone call, I would have seen said involvement as fun, and purposeful, but the text message breakup cheapened the experience. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. So I embarked on a three-step process to wash that man out of my hair. The first step was to literally wash my hair; a hot shower can be a profoundly symbolic gesture in letting go of the old, and being prepared for a fresh start. Next, I got a pedicure; you can only take the missteps of others so seriously when your toenails have been freshly painted a color dubbed “Cajun Shrimp.” Last, I indulged in a home cooked meal that was both satisfying and nourishing, and also one that I knew my former beau would not have enjoyed, but suits my taste perfectly.
Enter whole-wheat linguine with kale and sausage. I adapted this dish from my newest cookbook, cheekily titled “50 Shades of Kale” (completely ridiculous, I know, but I do attest that it was the most creative and compelling of the 5 kale-based cookbooks at Peppercorn, the local culinary retail Mecca of Boulder). This dish is very simple, but it has all the best things in it: pasta, cream, white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper, sausage, and loads of kale. The recipe called for whole-wheat linguine, which is not my favorite. In general, I feel like it’s not quite worth it; if you’re going to indulge in pasta, go for the real thing: tender, toothsome, silky strands, not their cardboard-esque, healthy cousin. But I went against my usual stance because I felt that the hearty combination of the cream, sausage, and kale might be enough to balance out the rustic texture of the whole-wheat pasta. This turned out to be an excellent judgment call. This was definitely the right sauce for the job, but I also think I may have inadvertently chosen the best whole-wheat pasta on the market: Whole Foods Organic Whole Wheat Linguine. It had the heartiness you expect from whole grains, which stands up nicely to the cream, without the woody or chalky quality that I so frequently encounter in whole-wheat pasta. Delicious, satisfying, spicy, creamy, slightly acidic from white wine; this dish confounded the bitterness that text message left me with, and leftovers to boot.
Whole Wheat Linguine with Kale and Sausage (adapted from 50 Shades of Kale)
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
10 ounce bunch of kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound whole wheat linguine
Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Cook the linguine in a large pot of salted, boiling water, al dente, per package instructions. Reserve approximately 1 cup of pasta cooking water; drain pasta and set aside.
- In a large skillet preheated over medium heat, sauté the sausage, breaking it apart, until cooked though.
- Add the garlic and half of the hot pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the kale and the white wine, scraping up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the kale is wilted, and starts to become tender.
- Add the cream, and cook for about 5 minutes more.
- Toss in the pasta and enough pasta cooking water to make the mixture slightly saucy. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.