I must say, working at Whole Foods certainly has its perks. Even with the employee discount I still refer to it as “Whole Paycheck” since most of my income is eaten up by my food budget, but I’ll be the first to admit that is by choice. I mean really, spending 40 hours a week walking through the produce department, watching the meat cases get stocked, the cheese samples get cut up and put out, the rotisserie chickens come fresh onto the shelves…it’s too much to resist! I’m constantly chatting with coworkers in other departments about what’s fresh, what we’re getting in locally this week, what’s on sale, etc. The meat department alerts me when a case of fresh pork belly comes in – they know me so well. And of course the first day we got fresh figs in produce last week I bought two pounds of them (and might have finished them in two days…oops). Whenever the Rogue Creamery blue cheese (wrapped in pear brandy-macerated grape leaves. Seriously) is on sale I’m the first one to the counter, and you can bet your ass that when the Creminelli salami is two for one, I buy multiple.
For all the flack that Whole Foods gets publicly (I get it: industrial organic not so good, John Mackey make lots of money, plus we so don’t have that one wheatgrass shampoo that you totally love and can’t get anymore! Ugh!), it’s not only a great place to work but also a great food market in cities where options are limited. Although Santa Fe has a bangin farmer’s market, I am always working on Saturdays and miss it almost entirely. The only other food options are Sunflower, Albertsons and Trader Joe’s – none of which I can stand shopping in.
Another fun thing about spending exorbitant amounts of time combing the aisles of Whole Foods is that I have learned a lot of tricks about shopping in such an expensive metropolis. While it is true that many things are priced such that you may have to choose between getting those artisanal spelt crackers you love so dearly and putting gas in your Subaru this week, there are many ways to shop Whole Foods cheaply. Mostly that means not buying lots of packaged shit, which we should all be limiting anyway in my book.
One such cheapy trick that I recently discovered in the specialty department is the prosciutto “ends” – basically the hunk at the end of the prosciutto that can’t be sliced down any further without threatening the integrity of ones fingertips. They then cut that up into chunky rectangles and sell it at a fraction of the per-pound price of the regular, skinny slice prosciutto. The difference in price is enormous, and for those of us who really don’t have any problem with eating larger pieces of salty, fatty pork, they are the bomb. I have been cutting them up into lardons (longer rectangular pieces) and sautéing them with veggies or gobbling them up straight from the counter top. No shame.
Kale and prosciutto is a great, classic blend of flavors, and when a dash of Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine) is added, the sweetness soaks into the leaves of the kale and sets off the salty prosciutto bites very well. I topped mine with crushed red pepper flakes (only after turning off the heat to avoid cooking the pepper into the kale too much) and ate the whole thing for lunch. I was going to say this feeds 2-4 as a side dish, but honestly I think it serves 2 max, and only 1 if you’re like me and will easily inhale a head of kale and look for more.
Sauteed Kale with Prosciutto Ends and Red Pepper Flakes
1 head of kale (curly, green, purple, dino, lacinato, whatever) washed, stripped from the stems and ripped into pieces – I find it easier to do the stem separation with my hands rather than trying to get my knife all up in there. Plus cooking is so much better hands-on!
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tbsp oil (I use sesame but olive is good too)
1/4-1/2 C prosciutto ends, cut into small strips
Dash of Mirin
A couple Tbsp water
Red pepper flakes
Prepare the kale and set aside.
Heat the oil on low heat in a pot with a lid and throw the garlic in. You don’t really want to cook the garlic much, but more flavor the oil.
Toss the prosciutto ends in and mix around in the oil and garlic. You can increase the heat a bit at this point, but very little so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Let the prosciutto cook for a few minutes, rendering the fat out and letting it sizzle.
Add the kale and mix everything well to coat. At this point I turn the heat up a bit more so it’s nearly at medium.
Throw in a dash of Mirin and mix well. I then also add a dash of water and cover the pot to let the kale steam for just a couple minutes.
Remove the lid, taste the kale to see if it’s cooked enough for you. If it needs more time, mix the whole thing and put the lid back on for another minute.
When the kale is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat, add a little sprinkle of salt (remember how salty the prosciutto will be!) and red pepper flakes.