Alice Waters is one of Berkeley’s best-known residents, but I bet few of us have ever actually spoken to her.

Next Wednesday, we will have a chance.

Waters will participate in an on-line discussion about cooking for a website called Pass the Ball/WebEx, which describes itself as “an idea warehouse where people across the world are sharing ideas and collaborating together to turn good ideas into great ones.”

Berkeley residents can log on to the website at 10 am on April 21 and post questions to Waters, who, I presume, will be sitting at her own computer, answering them. Here’s what the facilitators of the discussion think will happen:

“Bestselling cookbook author, award-winning chef and champion of the sustainable food movement, Alice Waters will be live on WebEx to share her inside tips on creating simple, delicious and sustainable food for all. Come meet and interact with this culinary legend online as she shares techniques from her new book, In the Green Kitchen. Get practical first-hand advice on how to transform the way you cook at home.”

Okay, I have some questions for her.

Why, when I go to the Farmers’ Market do I buy so much food that most of it eventually rots in my refrigerator?

What can I do with kale? My husband hates kale. Does anyone like kale?

How about zucchini? I feel the same way about zucchini.

Are fava beans really worth the effort? All that peeling and popping for just a few beans. Won’t frozen beans work just as well?

What really can you do with spring onions?

Why don’t people like you? I like you.

If you can’t join the conversation, there is actually a great series, Green Kitchen, done by Waters and Davia Nelson of the Kitchen Sisters. It’s a series of videos featuring well-known chefs doing simple things in the kitchen. (And Episode 11 is on sautéed zucchini! I better go watch. Note there is no episode on kale.)

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. Re raw Dino kale raw salad, I use about 1/2 oil & Meyer lemon juice, or less lemon if it’s a Eureka. I don’t like raw kale unless it’s the Dino/Laccinato kind. I dress it right before eating, but leftovers stay wonderfully fresh for days and maybe the lemon does its thing on the kale, but it still tastes raw.

  2. I used to be in the “no to kale” camp after a few years of a CSA box that had a bunch of standard kale every single week. Then I discovered “dinosaur kale” and “Lacinato kale.” The leaves are elliptical, ruffled and have a deep, dark green hue. When cooked, they are far more tender than the normal kale with it’s leathery, spiky leaves. Normally I just saute some minced garlic in oil for 30 seconds, toss in the washed and sliced kale leaves, stir, then lower heat and cook covered. I add salt and pepper to taste.

    Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” has a mixed greens recipe that cooks kale (and other greens) with parsley, cilantro, garlic, paprika and cumin, then garnishes with oil-cured black olives, lemon juice and tomato.

    As for zucchini, I eat a lot of it during the summer but can’t say I really like it. The only two dishes where I truly appreciate the subtle flavor are ratatouille (I use the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated) and a zucchini, tomato, chorizo dish in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. The Bayless dish is superb on its own or in a corn or flour tortilla with cheese. In the summer you can get everything you need for the dish from the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market: Mexican-style chorizo from Fatted Calf, plus zucchini, tomato, onion and cilantro (and cheese from Spring Hill and tortillas from Primavera).

  3. Maureen: that does sound good and not least because Dinosaur – very dark and also the most “wrinkly” — tends to be the most tender. Questions and observation for you: How far ahead do you dress it before first serving? How heavy a hand with the lemon juice? And, when you save it “lasting for days” – that’s dressed? The observation is that after its dressed and sat for a bit, and especially after a day or more has passed, you really can’t say it’s raw anymore – it’s just chemically-driven cooking rather than heat-driven (as with, e.g., an acidic marinade for meat).

  4. Laccinato aka Dinosaur kale (the very dark kind) is so good raw even my meat eatin’ veggie hatin’ son loves it. Remove ribs, chop into fine ribbons, dress with olive oil/lemon juice/salt&pepper/shallots. Add toasted pine nuts & the cheap Bulgarian feta from Country Cheese. It will last for days.

  5. Thanks everyone for all your suggestions on kale and zucchini. I told my husband about all the ideas, and he may, he may, agree to try one. I haven’t worked harder at cooking kale because of his reluctance. I know the season is winding down, but I will give it a go. And I have a whole summer to figure out zucchini.

  6. I garden on the rooftop of my downtown Berkeley apartment building. We scored a big hit with our neighbors with our collard greens and our kale. I was unfamiliar with collard greens. At most garden meetings, I heard lots of tips and collard greens and kale have much in common and you can prepare them similarly.

    Here is the best tip I got last year, which can be used with collard greens of kale. Roll the leaves up and slice the vegetable as thinly as you can. Then sautee them as you would braise other, lighter, faster-cooking greens. Infuse the oil with garlic or whatever you lilke. The very thin strips of kale/collard cook much faster than cooking with the whole leaves. And, as long as you remember you can have endless variety of seasonings, you can do anything with kale that you might do with spinach. . . just assume it takes a little longer. And season.

  7. Gather, a new restaurant in Berkeley, does a very tasty kale salad. Check it out. Say. . . howsabout scoring the recipe for readers? Or doing a story about Gather. You may have already. I am really interested in Gather so I try to read any and all comments about it but then I become fuzzy about where I read them.

    I like just about everything about Gather but I am struggling with their pricing. I know good, organic, local food is expensive. And I know their prices aren’t really ‘expensive’, not for the quality of the food and the atmosphere, but it is too expensive for me. Which brings me to more food related story ideas: howsabout exploring how the Berkeley foodie movement tends to be upper middle class and how people who aren’t really upper middle class spend an upper middle class amount of money on their food? I think this dynamic is similar to the cultural pressure to identify one’s self through what they can buy/consumer. . . it is not really sustainable to make food chic and trendy and expensive but all foodies, including Waters, squawk on, overlooking economic reality for people with incomes below the median level. Much like people should not have to spend an inordinate percentage of their income on shelter costs, people should not have to spend an absurd portion of their income on good. Discuss?

  8. Fear not the kale. If you’re at Whole Foods near lunchtime, see if the salad bar has their kale-and-avocado salad. The kale is amazingly tender and light, like it just popped out of the ground that morning, and with small bits of tender avocado it makes an unexpectedly good salad.

  9. Who needs Alice? It strikes me we have all the expertise we need right here on Berkeleyside — from our contributors (Sarah) and readers (Thomas). Thanks for giving Frances the impetus to stop the rot in her fridge!

  10. If you treat kale similar to Swiss chard, there are many ways to use it. The Italians use it often in soups and stews. I have made gratins and casseroles that incorporate kale as a layer or filling. Don’t be put dff by its toughness. It will soften when cooked.

  11. Kale: One tasty option is to treat them soul-food style. In contrast to many green veggies, kale tends to like pretty extensive cooking. You don’t want withered beyond recognition, sure, but don’t try for a quick saute to tender-crisp. Blanch and saute or just boil and toss with the sauted others. It likes sweet, for one thing. A little honey if you want to go heavy with it or, what I like, carmelized onion and maybe a few drips of honey. Also works well with acids (vinegar, citrus). The two are not mutually exclusive: (mildly) sweet and sour works nicely.

    Zucchini: Aside from brutal disguises (like scraping and stuffing and baking): Slight carmalization helps a lot – the trick is to avoid turning it to mush. E.g., take long slices and very briefly apply hot dry heat to each side. You can also do it pan-roasting style (lower heat, longer cooking time) with thick slices but you have to have a good feel for how not to let it become mush. Flavor-wise, I like the classic sesame (a few drops of oil, toasted seeds) and/or citrus acid, often with a modest dash of garlic (don’t overdue it). It also does well “raw” but marinaded.

    Spring onions: very versatile! pickle; roast; bake in cream sauce; stir-fry with delicately flavored stuff; spin them around by the greens until they break off and fly off in a random direction; slice off the greens and throw them at raccoons and other pests; or, mash them into a pulp and then contemplate “why did I just do that?”.

    Hey, there’s an idea: how about a Berkeleyside cooking column?

  12. Frances: Are you kidding me on the kale front?

    Check out Tori Ritchie’s Tuesday Recipe for Kale Krostini or ask Sam @ Omnivore Books for her Massaged Kale recipe. Or try the Lacinato Kale Salad @ Gather.

    Or just buy yourself a big ol’ bag of dehydrated Kale Chips made right here in your hometown and crunch away.

    Or — major horn toot alert: Check out my very first blog post, at, um, Lettuce Eat KALE for a super easy and simply delicious recipe for Roasted Kale that I defy you not to like!