October was a powerful month. It managed to pull the perpetually sunny southern California into semi-submission to its wiles. During our 12-day visit to the east coast in the middle of the month, something here changed. Upon our return, it was as though a switch had been flipped. Suddenly it was dark for the first four snooze cycles of my alarm clock. My drive home was cloaked in navy velveteen, the sky betraying its last few gasps of mauve behind inky silhouettes of palm trees that keep watch over Sunset Boulevard.  Though warm and golden during the day, dawn and dusk decidedly fell prey to the seductive, autumnal call of October.

I can’t blame them. Even in temperate zones, fall is cotton-clad warmth. Fall is cozy. Fall is a gilded, tender embrace before the year tumbles swiftly and rambunctiously into oblivion. However fleeting it may be, fall is a lovely time of year.


As I bid adieu to summer’s berry-laden bounty each year, I am quickly comforted by the sweet, earthy delights of squash and wintry greens. Enter kale, and its acerbic wit. Growing up, I enjoyed heaps of kale in a delicate beef stew, speckled at the last minute with a beaten egg. Its stiffly leafed fortitude is no match for heat; no matter how many leaves you add to the stew, it always seems to accommodate them.

Though I had planned to braise a bunch of kale with cauliflower and beans last week, I couldn’t resist tossing a few leaves into a blistering hot pan with garlic and the last ears of the summer’s sweet corn. I made this for myself one night when I was home alone, fully intending it to complement some leftover chicken but never making it that far. The back-arching tang of the lemon joins with a bit of sea salt to goad the vegetables into asskicking mode. Pay attention, they seem to say, this is going to knock your socks off. Hang on tight and keep another pair of socks handy; November is here, and it isn’t messing around, either.

Kale and Sweet Corn

Serves one – can easily be doubled as needed
Inspired by Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appétit October 2009

Enjoy as a hearty side dish, or as a very light entree on a day when you’ve had too much lunch

1 T olive oil
2 large kale leaves
1 ear of fresh corn
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
Half a lemon
Sea salt
Fresh pepper


  • Clean and cook corn
  • Trim and dry kale
  • Heat olive oil
  • Add garlic
  • Sear kale
  • Cut corn
  • Toss corn, kale, lemon, salt, pepper off heat

Shuck the corn, taking care to clean off all the silk. Place the corn in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat – when the water is boiling, the corn is done. Drain the water and set the corn aside to cool just enough for you to handle it.

Rinse the kale and pat the leaves dry with paper towels. Fold each leaf in half so the center rib is exposed along one side. Using a sharp knife, cut along the rib to excise the bulk of it from the leaf. You won’t cut all the way to the top of the leaf; just as far up as you need to cut to remove the bulky part of the rib that you don’t want to eat. Discard the ribs and chop the remaining leafy bits into 1”- wide strips.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. About a minute after the oil is really shimmering, add the garlic. Wait a moment, then add the kale. It will crackle and snap, but the spatter should be minimal so long as the kale is relatively dry. You will see it transform quickly, from dusty green to intense forest. Quickly stir a few times with a spatula until the color has uniformly changed. Remove from heat.

Cut the corn from the cob with a sharp knife and scoot the cut corn into a bowl. Add the kale and garlic. Give the lemon a generous squeeze over the bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss with a fork to combine. Eat immediately.