Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kale- a love story

Once upon a time , there was a little girl who grew up in a land where dinner always included a vegetable. Corn, green beans, peas and carrots made up the kingdom most nights, with spinach, sweet potatoes and square boxes of frozen squash filling in the gaps . On festival days  broccoli, parsnips and rutabagas would grace the land with their exotic qualities. Beets and cabbage would occasionally tour the land, much like a collection of Holy Relics would in the Dark Ages. The realm would come and pay tribute to these , but they really had no idea how to use these to the best advantage. It was a happy and healthy land none the less.

Then one day the little girl grew up and married a man who came from a culture that had thousands of years worth of vegetable perfection due to a climate with a long growing season and a wide variety of vegetables. However the Prince had also grown up in the land of few options, so something was lost. Time went on, they rediscovered the culinary roots that he had come from , and there was a great happiness in the land. One day someone told the girl that had grown to be a woman that a strange green thing often used to decorate salad bars was not only edible and delicious, but that the  people from the land of The Prince had been using it very creatively for a long, long time. She tried it, and a new love was formed.
Kale ! That wonderful, delicious, nutritious often overlooked green gem ! I think amongst American and German cooks (up till recently) would simply cook this with a cream sauce or add to a soup. Good think if you like green veggies, but bad thing because these ways often serve up terribly overcooked, wimpy, slimy greens. Modern cooks often make these into kale chips ( yummy) or a quick sautee ( also yummy). However, if you use them in something I call "The Italian Trinity" ( dark green with tomato and white like garlic or onions) and add a pork product, they become super yum .

One word about preparing kale and other such dark leafy greens- you must remove the leafy parts from the stem before cooking. It is not poisonous, but rather that is is tough, woody and just not pleasant to eat. Doing this step is not hard- you simply rip the leafy part off of the stem and then cut or tear into bite sized bits. Or chiffonad if you are feeling fancy. One dish that really works well with kale is something I call Sausage, kale and pasta.
Ingredients include ( going clockwise) a handful of fresh basil cut into a chiffonad, handful of fresh italian parsley chopped, 1 bunch kale with stems removed and cut into chiffonad, 2 onions sliced into half moons, 1 pound rigatoni, 1 pint grape tomatoes  cut in half, as much garlic as you like, de-germed and sliced and 1 pound italian sausage cut into small peices.

In a dutch oven , pour in a serious glug of olive oil and add the garlic and onions. Cook till they sweat and add the cherry tomatoes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush them, helping the juice to escape. Meanwhile, start a pan of water to cook the pasta. Meanwhile, after about 5 minutes add the sausage and cover to cook for about 10 minutes ( add water if the mixture becomes too dry- like a 1/4 cup at a time. Add the kale, cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, or till the kale is wimpy.Add the basil.  Cook your pasta and add directly to the pan with sausage, and add a spoon or two of the pasta water if necessary. Toss in the fresh parsley and serve.
If you desire, add about a half cup of heavy cream to the tomato mixture before tossing with the pasta- gives it a sort of vodka  sauce quality. We top this with some freshly grated cheese and often fight over who gets to lick the pan after dinner. It is a winner !


Jeremy Logsdon said...

Oh, that sounds delicious! I'm so glad you are back to blogging daily. You give me hope that I may yet learn to incorporate vegetables into my diet. :)

Dutch said...


Here is a blog I read about kale.

Di said...

Dutch- what a WONDERFUL blog !!! You have to love anyone who creates a blog about "oddball" veggies. I am going to follow this one and see if she can inspire me to learn how to use some of my final frontier sorts of veggies- banana flowers and so forth. And a kale cake ? I think I love this woman already- thanks !!!