Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kale, Three Ways

Is there anyone out there who hasn't eaten kale? Who is still a kale hater? Let me help convert you.
In the last few years, kale seems to have become the poster child for healthy eating. I admit I was late jumping on the kale bandwagon, and the only kale I grow in my garden is the lacinato or Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale), which is called cavolo nero in Italian and is typically used in the Tuscan soup ribollita (recipe here). 
This dish of beans, sausage and kale is something I normally make with swiss chard or escarole, but I decided to try it with kale instead. While I still think Swiss chard has a sweeter taste, kale is perfect for this recipe since it stands up well to the longer cooking time required for the beans and it reheats without any loss of flavor. In fact, reheating only improves the taste.
I used these beans I bought from - fagioli del purgatorio - and loved them. These didn't need presoaking and maintained their shape even after reheating. They're native to Gradoli, a town in Lazio. The name "purgatory beans" dates back to the end of the 1600s, when they were boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, and eaten as part of a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday, called "pranzo del purgatorio."
Even though it's summer here, I've made this dish a couple of times because of all the kale growing in my garden. It freezes beautifully too, though, so make some for one of those cold winter nights when you don't want to cook.

I've used my kale in a couple of other ways this summer too. 
Maybe I'm the last person on this planet to try kale chips. I was inclined to dislike them, but everyone I served these too (and me too), thought they were delicious. They're really easy to make and they're a healthy snack alternative. I used a recipe from Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa.
Pull out the center rib from the kale, then spritz with some good olive oil, a shake of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
They're crinkly and taste kind of like parmesan cheese. Without the cheese, I'm not sure I'd be sold on kale chips. But this platter disappeared quickly.
The other kale dish that was a hit was this kale salad. You don't need a bonafide recipe. Just chop some raw kale, add some corn shaved off the kernels (I cooked the cob for about three minutes first ), then I chopped some carrots and parboiled the bits for a few minutes. I added some red onion, toasted hazelnuts and chopped shishito peppers from my garden, but you could use red peppers or any vegetable you like. Parmesan cheese shavings were tossed in too, then the whole thing was mixed with an easy-to-make dressing of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice - an idea I got from my buddy Marie, of Proud Italian Cook
It made a refreshing lunch and I didn't have to feel guilty about that piece of cake I ate following the salad.

Kale, Beans and Sausage

2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch of lacinato kale chopped (I used approximately eight cups, but you don't have to be exact)
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 cup dry fagioli del purgatorio beans (or another small, white bean, but you'll probably have to soak them ahead of time, unlike the fagioli del purgatorio beans)
2 cups water
1 parmesan cheese rind
herbs of your choosing - I used fresh parsley, thyme and oregano
salt, pepper to taste
hot red pepper flakes 
roasted red pepper or bits of chopped tomato (optional)

Remove the casings from the sausage and place in a saucepan, covered with water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the sausage and slice, but retain the water for later use. In another pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the kale to the pot and the water leftover from cooking the sausage. Let the kale cook down for about five minutes (with the lid on), then add the beans, the sausage, the water and the parmesan rind to the pot. Don't add the salt yet, or the beans will toughen, but DO add the pepper, the herbs and the red pepper flakes. I sometimes add a small amount of chopped tomato and/or roasted red peppers. Let everything simmer with the lid on for about one hour, or until the beans are tender. Keep checking and add more water if necessary. When everything is cooked, add the salt. If it's not "soupy" enough to your liking, add more water. 
It's great served with grilled bread that's been rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil.

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Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Three fabulous and healthy dishes! I'll have a serving of each of them, please. ;-)



Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

I'm kinda late on the kale bandwagon too. But I really like it, especially in soups -- it doesn't wilt like baby spinach. And frankly, I could have soup year round. There is something that is so comforting about it. I'm definitely pinning it as well as the other dishes. Now I have a very important nosey question to ask you -- what kind of cake did you have for dessert. I know, I know it is a personal question but I love knowing what other people eat. Do you think it's an illness?? Great recipes, Linda, as always!!!!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Marisa. It was a blueberry banana cake.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Ha ha Marisa is funny! I must find those beans I like that you don't have to presoak. I'm with you on the kale chips, I think the cheese makes them, I made them long ago without cheese and I didn't care for them at all, but Ina's recipe was good. I'm so glad you liked my embarrassingly easy dressing in your delicious sounding salad too.

Chiara Giglio said...

tre splendide ricette per apprezzare questa verdura che purtroppo è poco amata(forse perchè le buone ricette sono poche ), quindi grazie a te !Buona settimana

Paola said...

Each dish uses kale in a unique way . I am going to try the Kale, Beans, & Sausage using Italian style chicken sausage very soon.

Claudia said...

I grow kale and all summer have been using Swiss chard in recipes. Sometimes my mind and my garden are not in synch! I especially love the kale paired with the sausage. Kale is one of those hearty greens that doesn't run away when it sees a piece of meat! I had mixed reactions to the kale chips. The first time I tried them out, everyone was: "wait! What" now the're mainstream.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Looks delicious, LInda! I used to make a mixture of sausage, broccoli rape and cannellini beans all the time when I lived in NY, but broccoli rape, or rapini, as they call it here-is almost impossible to find in Colorado past early spring, so I think kale is a good substitute. It is a popular vegetable here, with many different varieties available. I have not tried kale chips as yet-- I'm dieting, so perhaps I should! ;)

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

When I tried kale chips I wasn't impressed but I didn't add the Parmesan so that could make a huge difference. I am growing a variety called Blue Dwarf kale and with the cooler weather approaching it should perk up again. I'd love to try the soup! Even my husband will eat kale in soup :)

Frank Fariello said...

I have to admit, I'm still not a big fan of kale, although I am partial to the lacinato variety aka cavolo nero. A bit more delicate in flavor and texture than the standard kale.

AdriBarr said...

I enjoy kale in hearty soups, especially Tuscan kale. It's got a depth of flavor, almost a smokiness, that I find lacking in American kale. I sure remember the days when the only thing anyone did with kale here in Los Angeles was put it in the center of a table as a decoration. No one EVER ate it!

I have yet to come over to the side of kale chips, however. They just do not grab me. But, having said that I appreciate that many moms are getting their kids this super crispy vegetable creation. Often when I am in the market I hear kids asking for them - which surely beats having the kids down a bag of deep fried and heavily salted potato chips.