02 February 2009

kookoo for kale

I appear to be late to the kale party. Seems like everyone has been all over this healthy, superfood for a long time. I've dabbled in the kale kingdom, but I guess I have always been more partial to green veggies which require the most minimal cooking. In my opinion, kale is best after long cooking -- though I know some like raw kale salads -- and until recently, it seemed so wrong to cook a vegetable for... quite... a... long.... time. Usually, that leads to nothin' good.

Anyway, I saw a crazy recipe recently for crispy kale "chips" (I forgot which magazine -- need to implement that filing system!) which sounded easy and totally unique. Basically, you roast cavolo nero leaves (kale variety shown in photo) in the oven until crispy. Add a little salt, and munch munch munch. Guilt-free, I'd imagine, too.

I haven't attempted that method yet, but while watching the 'Tuscany' episode of Gourmet magazine's Diary of a Foodie TV show, a demonstration by Ruth Reichl drove me straight to the kitchen to turn a gorgeous bunch of kale into a simple, delicious lunch of braised, spicy greens over pasta. I can't find this recipe on the web site, but it's more of a method than a formal recipe, in my opinion. Here's the basic gist:

Strip the central spine out of the leaves and chop them roughly. For one portion, I used about this much cavolo nero kale (aka Dino, Lacinato, Tuscan kale):

Heat 1T olive oil over medium heat in a medium non-stick pan. Add 1/2 an onion (diced) and sautée until slightly translucent. Add a good pinch of sea salt, a pinch of red chili flakes (to taste) and 1 or 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Sautée until garlic is fragrant. Then toss in the chopped kale:

Sautée until the kale is slightly wilted and coated with the olive oil. Then, begin braising with hot water (I turn to my beloved Zojirushi hot water kettle for this), 1/2 cup at a time. Add the water and cook, stirring frequently, until the pan is almost dry again. Repeat, taste, repeat, taste, etc. Each braising step yields a different result, so see what you like. I like about four steps, which looks like this:

A special textural addition, which wasn't in Ms. Reichl's demonstration, is a spoonful of crispy, buttered breadcrumbs. It seemed like the tender, healthy greens needed a little richness and crunch.

I toasted a small quantity of panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs, with a pinch of sea salt, in a tiny sliver of unsalted butter until golden brown:

To serve, cook one portion (about 2 oz.) linguine or other pasta in boiling salted water. Drain the pasta and twist it into a serving bowl. Top with the cooked greens, some fine gratings of Parmesan cheese, and a spoonful of the crunchy breadcrumbs. Yum! A simple, satisfying bowl of goodness:

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