November 13, 2016
You can still find the makings for green salads at the market, but as cooler weather replaces summer heat, my craving for green salads wanes. It's time now for the heavy-duty cooked greens: kale, collards, and mustard and turnip greens.
We'll stick to kale today. In Fast & Fearless Cooking for the Genius I tell you in great detail how to deal with your green-and-leafies when you get home from the market. Here's a brief summary.
Instead of sticking them in the crisper drawer--from which you will only reluctantly retrieve them, and usually after they've wilted--try this. First, wash them in a big bowl of lukewarm water. Then strip the stems from the leaves. You can cook and eat the stems (cut into small pieces), but they need longer cooking than the leaves, so you'll cook them separately.
Put an inch of water in a large pot and when it boils add the leaves (whole or roughly cut). Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for ten to twelve minutes, turning them over occasionally. When they are wilted, remove the leaves from the water and drain. At this point you can go away and leave them until they are cool enough to handle or until you have time to continue.
Squeeze a handful of cooked leaves until they are as dry as you can get them. If you like, squeeze them over a bowl so that you save the juices, which you, as cook, can drink later, if you like. Plop the fistful of leaves into a small plastic freezer bag. I usually freeze the whole bunch of kale in one bag, but if that's too much kale for your family meal, divide the leaves in half after squeezing and freeze in two bags. Seal tightly and freeze.
Great. That's got them out of your way. You don't have to experience guilt every time you open the refrigerator and see those waiting (and fading) kale leaves. But what do you do with your frozen kale? How do you get your familiy (or your self) to eat it?
Let's make kale with garlic, currants, pine nuts, and olive oil. Take your little package of kale from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for fifteen or twenty minutes. You can then easily cut the lump of kale into thin-thin slices.
While you're waiting for the kale to thaw a bit, heat a dry skillet (no oil) on medium and add a tablespoon or two of pine nuts. You could use other nuts, but these are traditional and delicious. Shake the pan frequently to brown the nuts on all sides. Do not leave the kitchen while toasting pine nuts, because they burn in the twinkling of an eye. When they are golden on all sides, pour them into a little dish until you need them.
Put a generous glug of olive oil in your skillet and heat over medium heat. Peel and chop
garlic (one to three cloves, depending on their size and how fond you are of
garlic) and put it in the pan along with a pinch or more or red pepper fl akes (if you like a little heat). Put your thinly sliced frozen kale into the skillet, adding a little water at the same time. Reduce the heat and cook covered for five minutes or until the kale is nicely soft. Add salt and pepper, a handful of currants (or raisins), the toasted pine nuts, and another glug of olive oil. This Italian version of kale can be served hot or at room temperature. It's also very good as bruschetta (note the spelling, and remember that the CH is pronounced as K), served on grilled French or Italian bread.
Kale pesto is another way to serve the kale you've already partially cooked
and then frozen. A food processor makes this very easy. Remove a package of
frozen kale from the freezer up to an hour before making the pesto. Turn on the
processor and drop in a peeled clove of garlic. The garlic will be eaten as is—
that is, raw—so keep in mind how much raw garlic taste you want in your pesto.
You can add more than one clove if you're up to it. The processor chops garlic
very quickly; turn it off after the garlic pieces have bounced around for a few seconds.
Now slice and add the partially defrosted kale, a quarter-cup of freshly grated
Parmesan cheese and a pinch of sea salt. Start the processor and pour in, as
it runs, a third of a cup or more of olive oil. Stop the machine at least once to
scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process again so the scrapings are well
incorporated. Finally, add a quarter cup of pine nuts (or almonds or walnuts if
you have no pine nuts) and pulse once or twice.
Serve on toasted bread or crackers as an appetizer, or use it to dress hot pasta
(for this, lighten the pesto with a cup of the pasta cooking liquid). You could
also spread it over pizza dough instead of tomato sauce. Or mix it into polenta
or mashed potatoes.
These are just a few of the ways to make kale delicious (if you're someone who doesn't already think that it is). But the key lesson today is this: Process and freeze your kale the minute you get home from the market rather than letting it languish in the refrigerator.