Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Kale Pesto

We knocked out a healthy bunch of red Russian kale tonight for dinner simply by substituting kale for basil in pesto. We tossed our kale pesto with thick homemade whole wheat noodles, but any pasta will do. Also, we sprinkled a handful of raisins over each portion, always a delicious combination: sweet raisins are great with kale, and together they pack an iron punch for vegetarians, pregnant ladies and Popeye impersonators.

Again, this is a situation where kale type matters: you want a sweet variety like red Russian, karinata or even those flowering ornamental kales I've only ever seen in regular old supermarkets. The curly red or green kinds are a little too bitter for this type of showcase.

1 bunch (4-5 cups) red Russian kale, stemmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1/4-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place kale and garlic in a strainer over the sink and pour about 5 cups of boiling water over: this will blanch any bitterness from the kale and mellow the raw garlic. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until they are touched with golden brown. Combine small batches of kale, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse well until you have a smooth paste. Stir your batches together and salt to taste. Toss with hot pasta, spread on crackers or bread, or use to top baked potatoes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Balsamic Kale Salad with Strawberries and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Here's another kale salad, this one with a balsamic vinaigrette and two classic toppings; the sweet strawberries and the comforting blandness of the hard-boiled egg are a perfect foil for the assertiveness of raw kale. This plus an artichoke made a successful kale-centered dinner, with the added bonus of cramming a full bunch of kale into one meal.

A word about raw kale salads: they really do best with lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan kale, black kale or cavolo nero), which is much less severe and therefore better served raw than other varieties. If you don't believe us, the New York Times actually pays Melissa Clark to say so. So if you think you're ready for raw kale, please be careful not to do this with the curly green kind--it'll make you hate kale, which will make us weep.

You can also use with other fruit, depending on the season--try pears or apples in the winter, peaches and nectarines later in the summer.

1 bunch (ours was about 25 medium-sized leaves) lacinato kale
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard
10 strawberries, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (totally optional)

Wash kale and remove stems. Slice into very thin ribbons and place in a large salad bowl. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard and salt and pour over kale, mixing well to coat. Let it marinate for at least an hour (up to a day).

When you're ready to serve, divide kale into individual bowls and top with strawberries, hard-boiled egg and parmesan.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Potato and Kale Casserole

Operation Kale Binge is on track: we have consumed three and a half bunches of kale in three days! Mostly, we've been just having an extra-large portion of Wheeler greens along with whatever else we were planning to eat, but we've also generated some as-yet-unblogged recipes, like this filling, savory dish. It's loosely based on a recipe for "Delicious Winter Casserole" that came with our CSA newsletter a few years ago, but that one was mostly about using up red daikon, which isn't a concern in June, so we've pared it down to just thinly-sliced potatoes, some delicious fat, pepper, kale and parmesan cheese.

We sliced the potatoes extremely thinly on our mandoline, so this cooked up in less than an hour. If you're slicing them on your own and they're a little thicker, just cook for longer after you take the foil off (in our pre-mandoline days, we needed about half an hour covered and half an hour uncovered).

3 large red waxy potatoes, very thinly sliced
4 tablespoons melted salted butter
10 leaves kale (the curly-edged green or purple kinds are good here), washed, stemmed and finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, drizzle melted butter over the potatoes and mix well with your hands, making sure each slice is coated. Grease a large cast-iron skillet and arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with kale, black pepper and 1/3 of the parmesan cheese. Repeat until you run out of kale, then top with a final layer of potatoes and a sprinkling of parmesan. Cover skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through.