Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eat Your Greens

Do you like greens? I really do. Before I continue, if you haven't seen The Up Series, you should probably go rent it this weekend.

Back to greens. We eat a lot of them in our house. Swiss chard, mustard greens, collards, baby bok choy, and our favorite, kale. Kale is the perfect vegetable. It's healthy, it cooks up fast, and works well with nearly every meal.

Today marked the coldest day of the year in Chicago. It's snowy and bitterly cold out. Luckily warmer temperatures are around the corner. No matter, the recipe I'm about to share will brighten even the most frigid of winter days.

This salad is my favorite, favorite, favorite. You only need a couple of ingredients and few minutes to throw it together while the other components of your meal come together. This recipe is remarkable for its simplicity and bright flavor. I could eat the entire bowl myself.

Note: The recipe calls for black kale, but any kind of kale will do. If you don't want to bother with the breadcrumbs, you can throw in a few homemade croutons, or tear up a bit of a baguette. Parmesan also works just as well as Pecorino.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad wtih Chiles and Pecorino
via In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 bunch Tuscan Kale (aka black or lacinato)
1 thin slice country bread (part whole wheat or rye is nice), or 1/4 c. good, homemade coarse bread crumbs
1/2 garlic clove
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 c. finely grated Pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the bottom two inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4-5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.

If using the bread, toast it until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

Pound or mince the garlic and combine with 1/4 tsp. salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add cheese, oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine.

Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well to combine thoroughly (the dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat the leaves). Let the salad sit for 5 minutes (or up to an hour), then serve topped with the bread crumbs, additional cheese, and a drizzle of oil.

Want more recipes? I've included two more favorites below.

Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Plan ahead for this recipe, as you need to soak the uncooked beans overnight. (You can use canned, drained, and rinsed beans, but limit how much you stir them to avoid them getting mushy. The freshly cooked dried beans maintain their structure much better during sautéing.) Giant corona beans, cellini beans, or white cannellini beans are the best choice here.

1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked
3 tablespoons olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
One bunch of kale, leaves cut into wide ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Drain the beans, then heat the oil over medium-high heat in the widest skillet you’ve got. Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. (If you don’t have a big-enough skillet, just do the sauté step in two batches, or save the extra beans for another use.) Stir to coat the beans with the oil, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 or 4 minutes, before turning to brown the other side, also about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.

Add salt to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the greens and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.


If you haven't had crispy kale, you have to make some. It is addicting and dare I say, almost as good as a bowl of popcorn. This is our go-to quick side for a weeknight dinner.

Crispy Kale
Adapted from the Strawbery Banke Museum

1 bunch of kale, (about 1 pound), cored, leaves rinsed and thoroughly dried

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry kale thoroughly. Meanwhile, flatten kale leaves and use the point of a knife to remove tough center ribs. Stack leaves and roll them together, then slice crosswise into chiffonade strips 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide.

Place kale in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, garlic and salt, making sure leaves are well coated with oil. Spread evenly across a large baking sheet.

Bake, tossing once or twice, until leaves are crispy but not burned, about 10-15 minutes. Serve as is as a finger food or snack, or top with poached eggs as a breakfast or lunch dish.

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