vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged kale

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I tried the crispy kale chips once, but I didn’t time them right and they incinerated in my oven.  I think there’s not a lot of room for error in terms of over-cooking.* 
However, the ones that weren’t hopelessly charred were really tasty.  I would definitely try it again.
* I still don’t understand people how there are people who don’t need to use their kitchen/oven timers religiously.  How do you do this?  How do you keep from getting distracted and burning things?

I tried the crispy kale chips once, but I didn’t time them right and they incinerated in my oven.  I think there’s not a lot of room for error in terms of over-cooking.* 

However, the ones that weren’t hopelessly charred were really tasty.  I would definitely try it again.

* I still don’t understand people how there are people who don’t need to use their kitchen/oven timers religiously.  How do you do this?  How do you keep from getting distracted and burning things?

Filed under kale

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Kale and White Bean Soup, Dried Beans

photo by Lisa Hubbard, Gourmet magazine

You know that hour in the morning before I started work, when I would sit wearing my cozy slippers and drink tea and write about food for all of you?  I now spend it walking briskly outside with my dog, wearing everything warm I can find.*  We also look for stairs to run up and down, because while walking tires out my legs just fine, it apparently isn’t enough for my dog and his stubby little legs.  I mean, it’s good, and I feel invigorated and healthful in the manner that you would expect after spending an hour briskly trotting in cold weather on a sunny morning, but it means I have to carve out other time for cooking and internet rambling.**

In addition, it is extraordinarily important that you know about this soup that I love: Kale and White Bean Soup.  Katy made it and found it disappointing, but I love it irrationally.  It’s one of the first things I made when I discovered the joys of dried beans, and it has all sorts of healthy business in it, but it’s also super tasty, and it freezes incredibly well. 

First, though, we have to discuss beans.  Sometimes I feel like I’m the last person on earth to discover these things,*** but dried beans are great.  They are really filling and healthy, so you can make a satisfying meal that’s not all meat.  I try to eat less meat because it’s good for me and environmentally sound, but also because the kind of meat that I can feel okay buying and eating (organic, grass-fed where applicable, humanely-raised, from a farmer’s market or farm I am familiar with if possible, etc) is really fucking expensive and can be kind of a pain to locate.  And beans are dirt cheap.  Canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are even cheaper.  Even the fancy expensive Rancho Gordo beans are cheap.  Those ones are around $5 a pound, which is obscene for beans, but still, do you know the volume of beans that results from a pound of dried beans?  It’s huge. 

We can talk more about beans later, and probably will because I can talk about beans for a long time, but this recipe is built on dried beans, which means that it’s pretty healthy, and makes a ton, and is inexpensive.

The soup takes a while to cook, but it’s not much hands-on cooking.  You could start the beans in the morning while you’re getting ready for work and then leave them to soak during the day.  Then when you get home, start the soup itself, cooking the onions, etc, while you make something else for dinner that night.  The soup will be done by the evening and you can have it for lunch the next day or night.  That’s if you like to eat on the early side.  If you don’t mind eating later, you could do it all in a night.

Other notes:

  • I really think the sausage is required, and it’s really better if it’s kielbasa or chorizo.  However, if you don’t add the sausage, I would be generous with adding red pepper flakes.
  • I would also not skimp on the parmesan rind.  In some other magical world of sunshine and puppies and friendly local cheesemongers, you can get those for free, but I buy them from Whole Foods.  Because I’m a yuppie. 
  • I often have to thin the soup out, particularly after it’s sat overnight in the fridge.
  • It really is better the next day.
  • And again, freeze leftovers in individual-sized portions and then you have an easy, healthy, filling backup dinner in case you’re tired or sick or don’t feel like cooking later.

* Some time is spent also with my dog barking at trucks and other dogs, which is a super awesome activity to do around someone who isn’t really a morning person.  This is an area for improvement.

** But I will, because internet rambling is one of my favorite things.

*** There was, once, a time when I know what was cool and new bands and stuff like that.  Those days have passed, and I can only hope for and celebrate when the things that I enjoy come back around into fashion and I can talk about how I’ve been listening to Patsy Cline or vermicomposting for years as if I foresaw the coolness instead of just plugging along while my weird geeky hobbies.

Filed under soup kale beans stubby little legs dinner

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My Favorite Soup

cutting up kale

This is how you prepare kale: wash, fold the leaves in half and slice out the ribs, chop the leaves.

In other places, people are making things with summer squash and tomatoes and I am still making things with kale, because I live in Maine.  It’s okay.  I’m actually secretly making things with summer squash, too, because I bought them at the grocery, and I feel guilty about it, and I will regret it when squash season kicks up and I think I will die if I have to salt and drain another fucking zucchini, but whatever.  Kale.  Still in season.

That’s okay, though, because I love kale and if I get a big batch of it, and if the weather isn’t too hot, I can make my favoritest soup ever.  Which is this one: Kale and White Bean Soup.  From Gourmet.  Naturally.*

It makes a gigantic amount of soup.  But the soup freezes really nicely, and it’s also delicious. 

This also allows me to use some of the beans that I bought on whatever buying binge I most recently went on at Rancho Gordo.  I cannot say no to the hot lady in their logo.  They’re really good beans, by the way.  Which brings me to the other point that I enjoy about this soup— it features dried beans, rather than canned.  You could swap in canned and the whole operation would be shorter, but I feel more like I’m cooking if I start with dried beans.  And they’re cheaper and have a better texture.

Back to the recipe.

Best Ever Kale and White Bean Soup

  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy (I use Rancho Gordo’s Yellow Eye Beans which I think have a little bit of a smokey flavor)
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California, according to the recipe, but I just use whatever variety I have)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick. This is not considered optional in my household. 
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped.  Again, I use whatever variety of kale I have.

1. Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.  This step is to reduce the beans/gas effect.

2. Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.  Depending on how fresh your beans are and the type of beans, it may take longer.  It could even take quite a bit longer.

3. While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

4. Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Delicious.  It honestly makes a whole meal.

Also, check out how hydrophobic kale leaves are!  It’s not because they’re coated with anything, it’s because the surface of the leaf has nanometer-sized bumps that keep the water from adhering.  The same thing happens with collards, broccoli, cabbage, etc.

* Again, seriously Conde Nast?  You’re launching PARADE FOOD, a food magazine by the one magazine that I would actually rather recycle than read, but couldn’t possibly keep the best food magazine in the world around?  Do you even know how much I enjoy Ruth Reichl?  A LOT.

Filed under kale rancho gordo soup Why do you want to ruin my life Conde Nast?

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Kale and Farro

photo by sweetbeetandgreenbean

Farro and hearty greens can easily veer into health-food-store territory.  You will know health-food-store territory when you find yourself there: you will feel very virtuous and not terribly satisfied.  That is not what this dish is about.  This is about it being a weeknight, possibly cold out, and wanting a hearty meal that doesn’t take a lot of mental thought or effort or dish washing.*  With that in mind, I would highly recommend not cutting out or significantly reducing the bacon, parmesan, or salt. 

I originally made this with beet greens (which are wonderful and sweet and tender and something like a bonus prize that comes along with beets), but I usually make it with kale at this point.  If you’re making it with beet greens, because they’re more delicate than kale, you’ll want to let the farro cook on its own for a little bit longer before adding the greens. 

In DC, I could only find farro at Dean & Deluca, Balducci’s before it closed, and a tiny Italian grocery in Cleveland Park.  I don’t know what’s wrong with DC, food-wise, but it kind of blows.  [Dave, reading over my shoulder: “Oh, your farro problems.” Yes.]  In Maine, the local Whole Foods carries farro.  You can also order it online relatively easily.  It is delicious, totally worth digging around for.  I liked it enough to take the bus to Georgetown on a Saturday afternoon and wade through the college students and tourists walking OH MY GOD SO SLOWLY to get to Dean & Deluca to buy it.

[Insert Leafy Green Here] and Farro

  • 2 - 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 large shallot (or an onion and garlic clove, or some variation thereof), chopped
  • 1 cup farro**
  • 1 bunch greens, chopped into 2” pieces (cut out the stems if you’re dealing with a green, like kale, with tough stems.  The easiest way to do this: fold the leaf in half lengthwise and run your knife along the stem where it meets the leaf)
  • 2 cups of chicken stock and/or water (at least half of this should be chicken stock, ideally homemade; you can use all chicken stock, too)
  • parmesan cheese

1. Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan or saucepot (make sure it has a lid) until browned and crisp.  Scoop out the bacon and dry on paper towels.  Leave the fat in the pan.  Do you have enough fat in there?  If not, add some olive oil.

2. Add the onions/shallot/garlic and cook until softened, maybe 5 minutes.

3. Add the farro, then the liquid.  Bring to boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer, 5 - 10 minutes for kale (the amount of time you simmer the liquid here depends on the type of green you’re using.  The farro takes maybe 30 minutes, if you’re dealing with a pretty tender green, add it late in the cooking, if you’re dealing with a tougher one, add it earlier).  Add a fair amount of salt (maybe a teaspoon) and fresh pepper.

4. Add the greens, cover and simmer.  The greens will reduce in size considerably, so don’t worry if it seems like they don’t all fit at first.  Simmer, mixing things up occasionally (easier with tongs) until everything’s done.  If it looks like there’s not enough liquid, add water.  You want the farro to be the texture of risotto: soft but still a bit chewy.  As you’re tasting, make sure there’s enough salt.  Remember: health-food-store food!  You don’t want that! 

5. Serve with parmesan and crispy bacon pieces on top.  My favorite is the broth left over at the bottom of the dish.  Be prepared with spoons.

* This is also one of Dave’s favorite dishes.  The first time I made it he was decidedly uncertain about whether it constituted a full meal or whether he would need to call in a reserve protein.  Reserve protein was not required.

** Feel free to adjust the amounts, you want approximately two or two and a half parts liquid to one part farro.

Filed under I want to eat this all the time kale