Supposedly kale is one of those "super foods" that is super good for you. For many people this is a motivating factor to eat the stuff, but for me it is a bit of a put off. When I hear that I should eat a food because it is good for me, I automatically conjur up images of bitter, tough, chalky, not-good-tasting foods. I don't eat kale because my mom or doctor or nutritionist say I should, but rather I eat it because 1) when prepared well, it is delicious, and 2) it is really easy to grow in the home garden*.
Admittedly, when prepared poorly, kale is a god awful, disgusting food, and I pity the child whose mother makes her eat it. At its worst: tough, leathery, bitter leaves. At its best: tender, hearty, rich and complex flavor.
This weekend I clipped several leaves off my 'Lacinato' kale plants*, and tried two new ways of preparing it. I made a spicy minestrone of white beans and kale, and also a kale salad with a spicy peanut dressing.
The kale salad is actually a recipe that was sent to me by a reader early last summer. I finally got around to making it, and it was a hit at my house. Definitely something I will continue to make throughout the winter.
Spicy kale and white bean minestrone.
Unfortunately I don't remember exactly how I made it, but I sorta remember.
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 12oz can white beans (rinsed)
1 bunch kale (about 9 lacinato leaves), chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
handful of roasted tomatoes, use a 12oz can if you don't have these in your freezer
2.5 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked pasta
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper
Parmesan cheese rind (if you have around)
Sweat out the onions in olive oil until they are translucent. Add the crushed garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add the kale. Stir in the kale to coat with olive oil. Let it begin to wilt before adding white beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, and cheese rind. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, then add pasta. continue cooking until pasta is al dente. Serve with grated parmesan and/or a drizzle of good olive oil.
*A note about growing kale at home: aphids LOVE it! Since the plant is so hardy, aphids won't actually kill it, but a leaf covered in insects is not appetizing. I control the aphids by blasting them with a strong stream of water from the hose. Spray the stems and under the leaves to get those bugs where it hurts. Do this a couple times a week (not a one time deal).
*'Lacinato' is an Italian heirloom kale variety (AKA 'Dinosaur', 'Tuscan', 'Black', and 'Nero di Tuscano'). It is easy to start from seed, flavorful, and frost tolerant.