Cooking Together Again, Hot Kale n' Grapes

Hollye Jacobs and Me in her kitchen
photography Blue Caleel

Dear Recipe Testers,

I am thrilled to announce with great JOY that my dear friend, Hollye Jacobs, and I are back in the kitchen together.  Hollye and I met at a cooking class a number of years ago and became instant friends.  We started working on a number of projects together and our personalities seemed to be the perfect match for each other because we are both passionate about learning, sharing and improving our lives however we can.  We had SUCH big plans and collaborating with her truly brought out the best in me.

Then something horrible happened.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember standing at her kitchen sink when she told me about the tumors.  I was sick to my stomach.  I had another friend who had told me about fibroid tumors she had in her breasts that were caused by the caffeine in coffee.  They weren't cancerous.   But when Hollye told me her news I tried so hard to believe that they too would be the fibroid tumors.  That it would just be from coffee.  That they would just go away.  But I knew deep in my gut that it was bad news.  I tried so hard not to cry at her kitchen sink.  I looked out the kitchen window and tried to compose myself and tried to be supportive.  In the end the worst was true:  She ended up with one of the worst forms of breast cancer and endured every possible side effect that you could potentially get.  But she is here and alive and doing well.  

When she first had the diagnosis everyone was calling and emailing to find out what was going on.  She asked me what I thought about starting a blog.  I told her I thought it was a brilliant idea because then everyone could go to one place for updates and she wouldn't have to keep repeating herself and retelling the story.  She asked me about my blog at the time and I remembering tell her I knew nothing about wordpress so why doesn't she go with that since I mainly knew about blogspot.  That way we would gain more knowledge about which blog is best.

Well Hollye's blog became much much more than a blog to let her friends know about her current health status.  Hollye took one of the worst possible things that could happen to her and find silver linings.  She gave inspiration to thousands and thousands of women:  both women with breast cancer as well as those supporting friends with breast cancer as well as people just dealing with pain and challenges.  (I have often shared words of wisdom from her blog The Silver Pen

I was there when Hollye first came home from the hospital.  I remember trying to feed her and how hard it was so see her in such pain.

Then my own tragedy struck.  My husband left us and I was faced with the horrors of divorce and trying to figure out how to do protect my children from this nightmare.  I am one of the strongest women in the world.  I have gone through so much yet the divorce weakened me to a shell of a person.  I kept wondering how do other women do this if I am supposed to be the strong leader who helps everyone else out.  How do other people even survive from this crushing news of having your family and everything you thought was solid and true torn apart.  

Here was one of the many sad offshoots of what happened after my divorce:  I couldn't visit Hollye.  I couldn't.  I knew that she was doing everything possible in her being to stay alive and fight off a horrible disease.  I knew she only needed people around her who could help her.  I knew she couldn't have someone like me, who was in abject pain, drain any energy away from her.  I remember one day making plans to see Hollye with another mutual friend.  I knew the mutual friend would be a positive person for Hollye to see.  I wrote Hollye a private email.  I told her that I wouldn't show up on the day we were supposed to get together.  That I wouldn't show up because I loved her so much.    That I wasn't healed yet and that It wasn't time for me to see her.  I was worried my sadness would weaken her when she was doing everything to stay strong.  That was two years ago.

Then one year ago we tried to cook together.   That was such a hard day.  Hollye's friend and mother-of-three was dying at that very moment of breast cancer in Chicago.  I had just gone through another painful experience and was broken that day as well.  I'd been crying all morning.  I remember trying to work with Hollye and cook but the recipes weren't coming together.  Nothing felt right.  Our minds were both reeling with coping with grief.  It was such a hard day.   I wondered if my relationship with Hollye would ever be the same as it was in those first happy and excited days.  Were we both permanently damaged from the pain?  I remember on that day, when we were cooking at Tina's ranch, that the farmer, Jacob, came out of the field with a giant giant bok choy called JOY CHOY.  Through all of those tears and sadness that day, there was still JOY to be found if we could look for it.  I have no makeup on in the picture below and had cried most of the morning, yet Hollye captured the JOY that the giant JOY CHOY brought to me.  So somehow in that day hard sad day we both found what Hollye refers to as a Silver Lining.

Giant JOY Choy from Jacob at Roots
photography Hollye Jacobs

Now fast forward a year!  I ran into Hollye in Whole Foods.  What Divine timing.  Instantly there was the same connection and positive energy from when we first met.  Instantly there was the same happiness.  The dark cloud had passed over both of our lives and it was time to get together in kitchen and cook again.  

Our first day back in the kitchen was fantastic.  It was just like it used to be!  The amazingly talented Blue Caleel took pictures that day.  We started with a number of recipes that will all be on Hollye's blog as well as mine.  Now here is the great part.  Because Hollye isn't a cook, when she writes my recipes she writes them in a clear, concise and straightforward way.  She wants the recipes simple and easy to follow.  I'll let you compare both recipes below.  The recipe is identical, just our two versions of explaining it.  Mine has all sorts of extra info on roasting whole grapes and links to the Gina Salad (the first salad I made with warm grapes.)  I'm sharing both versions with you.  

Then here is another super terrific added bonus.  I made this recipe up by accident at a cooking class I had donated to Nashville Nights.  There were some grapes on the cheese platter and I just decided to try this on a whim.  I had NO IDEA that is was one of best recipe combos for blocking diseases.  Each food item is literally a superfood when it comes to fighting cancer.  I had never even heard of Reservatrol before!  Who knew it was in the skin of grapes and that it has been touted highly as being very beneficial to blocking diseases such as prostate cancer, breast cancer and other cancers and diseases by speeding up the cell's energy production.

I only made the recipe because it was delicious, not because I knew it had health benefits.  

Here is Hollye's link to the health benefits:

Then here is Hollye's post on the Hot Kale N Grapes recipe.  (Here is the link and then the entire recipe is pasted below for those of you who don't like clicking on links.)  Then my version of the same recipe is below Hollye's.  JOY to all!  Maili

Welcome back to Friday’s Fixin’s!  The last couple of weeks have been all-consumed with work and I haven’t been spending time trying new recipes. Suddenly Seven and the HOTY have been very patient with me – thankfully!
Well, I have joyously been back in the kitchen with my friend, Chef Maili Halme. Playing with her in the kitchen is a true Silver Lining. Oh dear heavens is she ever talented.  Well, this week we had a great time and came up with some super yummy recipes that I’m excited to share with you here.
Maili and I talked a lot about how nutrition contributes to cancer prevention and healing from treatment, so for the next few weeks, we are going to share some seriously easy and delicious recipes that are powerhouses when it comes to contending with cancer.
The first recipe, Hot Kale ‘N Grapes is unbelievably easy and seriously delish. My family devoured the entire batch! I know it sounds like a bizarre recipe – at least it sounded bizarre to me – however grapes taste completely differently when you heat them.  When Maili described the idea to me she said, “Grapes are transformed from something good to something that everyone oohs and awes over. There isn’t a magic ingredient. Heat is the only magic trick.”

photography Blue Caleel

photography Blue Caleel 

Maili made the grapes and kale recipe by happenstance. Don’t some of the best things in life happen that way?  The grapes were literally sitting on a cheese platter at one of the cooking classes that she was doing and she threw them in with the kale as a last minute experiment. The Silver Lining: kale and grapes are powerhouses in Cancer Town.
Hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we are!
Special thanks to Blue Caleel for taking these photographs (while I was taking notes, chatting and stuffing my face!). --Hollye Jacobs

Now for Maili's Version of Hot Kale N Grapes:

photography Julie Farrell

Something magical happens when you cook grapes.  This is one of those recipes where someone's eyes light up when they eat the grapes and they say "what did you do to make those grapes taste so amazing!"  The answer is so simple:  heat.  There is not magic ingredient just a the magic trick that happens when you take a cold grape and cook it in a sauté pan:  the sweetness is intensified and the flavor transformed.   

For those of you who have made the now famous Gina Salad (warm grapes, warm bigs, caramelized balsamic onions, goat cheese and marcona almonds over arugula)  you already know how warm fruit tastes like nothing else in a salad or side dish.  And even if that warm fruit cools, it has already undergone a metamorphosis that changes the taste of the original raw fruit.  (just think of any raw ingredient and how it changes once you roast it.)  And I'm not trying to get too carried away on a tangent (as a tend to do) but you can also roast whole grapes in the oven.  Clark Staub from Flatbread roasted entire bunches of grapes in the oven as a side dish for one of his farm to table dinners.  They were amazing.  In fact I'm going to do a separate post on oven roasted grapes but I've made hyperlinks to Clark's recipe here.

Now back to our kale and grapes recipe. While there are a number of type of ale there are two main types of Kale that most people cook with:  Curly Kale or Lacinto Kale.  Curly Kale is the kale you see in most grocery stores and that previously was thought only as a green background garnish until its recent nutritional powerhouse health benefits put it in its own leagueprotecting against cancer as well as being cholesterol-lowering and packed full antioxidants and vitamins.  It is high in Calcium, Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and is high in fiber.  So I'm glad to hear that it is healthy but I'm personally all about taste and I'm addicted to it.  It must have something my body needs, because I literally crave it and eat it at least once a week either cooked or in a kale salad (with lime or lemon juice, feta cheese, carrots and nuts.)

Lacinto Kale is also known by a number of other names (Tuscan Kale, Italian Kale, Dinosaur Kale, Cavolo Nero, or Black Kale)  No matter which name you use it is all the same exact thing.  I'll take a picture the next time I'm at the Farmer's Market so you can see the difference.  And while it seems like the gourmet new stylish think to cook with, it has been in America since the 1770's:  Thomas Jefferson planted it on his farm at Monticello

So which Kale should you use in the recipe?  Whichever one you can easily find.  They both work.  Curly Kale is found everywhere.  Lacinto Kale is found in many farmer's markets and at specialty stores like Whole Foods.  


This recipe is so quick and simple.  Kale keeps well in the refrigerator and so do red grapes.  So it is an to throw together as a last minute side dish for anything from fish to chicken.  

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil, but grapeseed oil is better for high heat)
1 medium size bunch of kale, chopped into small pieces or slices
1 cup of red grapes, sliced in half
pinch of kosher salt (about an 1/8 teaspoon of salt)

In the largest sauté pan you have, turn the heat to high and put in the grapeseed oil and then the kale.  Sprinkle the kale with kosher salt.  Turn the heat down to medium high and continue to cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the kale begins to brown.

Cook the kale more than you think you need to.  Just go that little bit farther to bring out the nutty and crispy taste of the kale.

When the kale is cooked push it to the side of the pan, turn the heat to high again and add the grapes.  Turn the to medium high and cook the grapes for about 2 minutes.  Add an extra pinch of salt to the grapes if you wish.

Then combine the grapes and kale and serve warm.  

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"The true cook has, in his or her modest sphere, such pleasure in recipe making as the musician or poet in composition."

--Kitchen Cooks Oracle, London 1927


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