A long time ago I read that baby animals are cute on purpose, to make us like them and protect them. I can’t say that I loved our several cats and dogs any less when they became fully grown, but I definitely lamented the passage of time that rid them of their round, fluffy faces, innocent playfullness and adorable tininess.
As a child I wished for a potion that would stop the kittens from becoming cats and puppies for becoming dogs. At the same time, I could not wait until my next birthday and rejoiced at every centimeter that added to my height. I envisioned my teenage self at seventh grade, yet I brought home countless animal orphans I encountered on my meandering way back from school, all of them very young, very neglected, and always abandoned. Alas, Mother would not allow me to nurture these pathetic specimens until adulthood and as soon as they gathered strength, I had to release them into the world, shedding uncontrollable tears and saying long, melodramatic goodbyes.
I did not stop driving my Mother crazy with my penchant for all things miniscule even when I became an adult. I had to fend off her exasperated looks when I guiltily placed on the kitchen table the tiniest new potatoes I could find at the farmers’ market, the slimmest carrots, cornichon-sized cucumbers and ripe, locally grown tomatoes slightly bigger than golf balls. My onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers destined for the ubiquitous Serbian summer salad were daintily cut in half-inch pieces, and I vehemently defended my approach as I wanted the flavors to meld and each spoonful to have some of all the vegetables present.
To this day I have not changed. I secretly yearn to adopt a teacup chihuahua or two and keep them in my purse. I wish I could bring home the whole litter of kittens found abandoned in a neighborhood church’s cellar. I still cut the food on my plate in the tiniest bites and pick the smallest specimens at the farmers’ market. I look at my leggy teenage girls and see the round-faced babies they used to be, perfectly fitting in the crook of my arm as I rocked them to sleep with one of my Serbian lullabies.
The world of miniatures enchants me and it takes a big dose of reality to make me resist the pull of speckled quails’ eggs beckoning from the shelves of our local Persian market. And when I opened a box from Melissa’s Produce that arrived a few weeks back, I whirled around whispering terms of endearment looking at the cuteness in front of me embodied in boxes of delicate baby kiwis and colorful kale sprouts.
Baby kiwis looked just like regular kiwis that experienced a shot of Rick Moranis’ special ammunition and shrunk, except that they were hairless and soft-skinned. Kale sprouts, on the other hand, resembled no plant I have seen so far. I examined them thoroughly from all sides, admiring vivid purple that marbled deep green in the perky leaves. They looked like something Lilliputians would plant to fool Gulliver, a doll-house variety of Brussels sprout that had a menage-a-trois with cabbage and kale.
Mesmerized as I was, I knew that I had to prepare them in a way that would preserve their resplendent coloring and keep their texture from going too soft. There is a dish served at the Adriatic to accompany grilled fish that is made with cubed potatoes, Swiss chard and garlic. It is simple and unassuming, but flavorful and satisfying at the same time. I thought that these purple and green bundles would be a perfect fit for such a dish, especially if I paired them with sweet new potatoes.
The final result did not look, nor taste like the original, just like the kale sprouts did not look like anything familiar when I fist examined them. Yet, what I ended up with was a dish that celebrates spring, its freshness and color. Slight bitterness of kale sprouts was mellowed by sweetness of new potatoes, and garlic, while not assertive, brought a distinctive fresh note to the mix.
Even though I was convinced from the beginning that odd little sprouts would not disappoint, I felt victorious. I did not do the chosing this time, Mother, but the miniatures worked for me again!
- 6-7 new potatoes, halved
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 packages kale sprouts, halved
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.
- Add the salt and cook until the water boils on high temperature.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Drain the water.
- Heat the oil at medium-low heat and add garlic.
- Sautee until it softens a bit, for about 30 seconds.
- Add kale sprouts and stir to coat them with the garlicky oil.
- After 30-60 seconds, add stock and scrape the bottom of the pan.
- When the liquid boils, add the potatoes, salt, and pepper and continue cooking until most of the stock has evaporated, 3-5 minutes.