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Correspondence with my Daughter: Kale

February 10, 2012

Dear Mom,

One of my adventures in food that has stuck as one of my staple meals, is kale. I first got it at a farmers market a few years ago when we first moved to Boston. I think Ian had convinced me to get it (he definitely promotes my adventures with food because he will eat anything, see Miso Soup story, haha).  I had no idea how to approach preparing the kale and was a little overwhelmed with the mere size of it. After some internet poking around I found a recipe though the The Wednesday Chef that had one of our favorite ingredients — ricotta.

I have made some revisions over the years to the recipe and also discovered frozen already cut kale at whole foods which helps reduce the task of cutting down that huge head of kale. It also significantly cuts the cooking time (bonus!) because you don’t have to cook down the kale as much.

One of the things that I haven’t figured out about Kale is the difference in varieties. Like last night I used “Blue Curled Kale” and have also used the “tuscan” variety. I have no idea what that means and how they differ. Something to explore…

Love,
Sarah

Ricotta & Kale Pasta
(adapted from The Wednesday Chef )

For two servings with some leftovers for lunch the next day, I use half a 16 oz. bag of frozen kale along with half a box of penne.

16 oz bag of frozen, chopped kale (if you can’t find frozen kale, strip the leaves off the stems and chop)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
Pinch of salt and red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
Penne (or whatever pasta you have)
Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping

1. Heat up your pan with some olive oil. Add the garlic and a sprinkle of salt and saute till soft. Add the kale and saute for 5 minutes (if using fresh kale, saute for 10 minutes until wilted).
2. Add the chicken stock, along with red pepper flakes and a little more salt to taste. Let it simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone (this may take longer with fresh kale).
While it is simmering boil and cook your pasta.
3. Once the liquid is soaked up by the kale, turn off the heat and add your ricotta. I slowly add the ricotta and add more or less depending on how cheesy I want it. Taste and add salt or seasoning if needed.
4. Drain the pasta and add it to the the kale. Stir until everything is combined. Top with a good amount of Parmigiano.
5. Eat!

————————————

Dearest Sarah,

This recipe looks awesome and very simple!!  I applaud you (and Ian) for trying different food stuff:  I seem to be stuck in a rut, so this is inspiration plus!

But I can help you with the different Kale varieties.   Dad just asked me to add Kale to one of our customer’s list of vegetables to grow for them.  I use  Cook’s Garden Catalog for most of our seed orders  because they are always attuned to new varieties not only in the United States but all over the world.  I also like Ellen Ogden (co-founder of Cook’s Garden with her husband Shepherd Ogden) because she not only overseas the catalog but also directs its test kitchen program.  She is a gardener/cook and to me that is an invaluable combination in understanding varieties of vegetables.

According to Ellen, from her book  From the Cook’s Garden  “Tuscan kale, with slender leaves, is becoming more available outside of the kitchen garden – you will find it at many farmers’ markets, where it is sometimes  cavolo nero or black kale.  The Tuscan variety isn’t really black, just a darker green than the typical kale, and it has an earthier flavor.  It cooks to melting tenderness in less time than its sturdier American cousin, so if you use the latter, cook it for a few minutes longer.”

There are 3 types of Kale that you might find either in the supermarket or farmer’s market.   Cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan Cabbage, Tuscan Kale, Lacinato  and dinosaur Kale) which as Ellen says cooks in less time than the sturdier American cousins, which include Winterbor  a pale greenish blue version that is very curly and it’s counterpart Redbor which is a deep purple and also very curly.

So if you can find the Tuscan Kale, I would go with that variety for your dishes.  I also found out that Kale is super nutritious, so kudos !  Maybe I can wean Dad off broccoli and we can start eating Kale instead!

Thanks so much for the recipe!

Love always,

Mom

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2012 6:56 pm

    Thanks Mom! I will have to look for the Tuscan variety now and try it out. I also have been toying with the idea of kale chips: http://joythebaker.com/2011/09/carrot-ginger-coconut-soup-and-kale-chips/ ?

  2. February 11, 2012 8:36 pm

    Those kale chips look really interesting!! Dinosaur kale is the same as Tuscan Kale. It’s not as ruffly curly as the American Kale. Let me know how they turn out!! Love, Mom

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