March 20, 2012

Kale Love

The first time I tried kale, I was pretty sure it wasn't for me. I had seen a post claiming that baked kale chips were perfect for people who don't like kale.  Since I didn’t know whether or not I liked kale, I thought the recipe would be a good introduction and a good use of the kale we had gotten in one of our weekly produce boxes.  We were more than a little disappointed.  Maybe I overcooked them (it's tough to tell when a dark green leaf starts to turn brown), but the chips tasted like burnt popcorn.

It was a couple months before we tried kale again, but when we did, we went for the other extreme: raw kale salad.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I (and the rest of my family) like it, and I started making a point of looking for kale whenever I was at the farmers market. 
Two years later, kale has become a staple around our house. It's one of my favorite greens and one we've practically survived on this winter (our first back in Arkansas without the luxury of the year-round Dupont Circle Farmers Market).  Even when local produce was scarce at our co-op and the pickings slim at the small winter market, there was always kale.  (And now that it's spring, we’re still seeing plenty of it.)

I've made this dish at least once a week over the winter. It's quick, and the ingredients are fairly easy to keep on hand.  If I don't know what to make for dinner or don't feel like spending the evening in the kitchen, I make this.  We’re still surprised at how good it is every time we sit down to a bowl of pasta with kale and carrots.
It's also a forgiving recipe. Have another vegetable on hand? Add it to the pan! Love lots of garlic in everything? Throw that in too! Veggies starting to stick to the pan but the pasta's not done? Deglaze with some white wine and keep them going until you’re ready to add the kale.
Pasta with Kale and Carrots
printable recipe
Serves 4.
8 oz. dried short pasta (whole wheat or regular; we love farfalle)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other sautéing oil)
2 medium carrots
½ red onion (optional)
2 small or 1 large bunch kale (we've been using a locally grown black kale)
2 ounces freshly grated parmesan
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a 4-quart pot of water to boil.
Wash kale, remove tough ends of stems, and roughly chop.

When water is boiling, salt generously and add pasta.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a 12-inch skillet.  Peel carrots and slice about ⅛ inch thick.  Chop onion if using.  Add onions and carrots and cook until softened and just beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.  Add kale when the pasta is almost done and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
When pasta is al dente, reserve ½ cup cooking liquid and drain pasta.

Add pasta, half the cheese, and about half of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the pan of vegetables.  Toss over medium heat about 2 minutes.  If it looks dry, add a bit more cooking water or extra virgin olive oil.

Serve immediately topped with remaining parmesan cheese.
Variation: This dish is also great with roasted tomatoes—not enough to make a sauce, but just enough to color the dish and add some extra brightness and flavor. Add them to the pan a couple minutes before adding the kale.  (Of course, I recommend using tomatoes preserved from last summer, but I’m sure a jarred store-bought variety would also be good.)


Stacey said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! I was not a fan of kale until I made your wonderful recipe today. I added a few cloves of garlic to the vegetables to disguise the bitterness of the kale. What a success! I look forward to making this again. Grazie mille!

Elizabeth said...

Di niente! I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed it!

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