Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cooking a dinosaur

Did I mention that [The Man I Love] loves vegetables in the brassica family? That's cabbages to you - the whole cabbage clan. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens and kale.

Last week at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market I picked up a bunch of kale - a variety called Tuscan black kale. It's also called nero di Toscano, lacinato, cavolo nero, and dinosaur kale.

Kale is rich in folic acid, Vitamin K and Vitamin C and beta carotene, so it's good for you. Unlike the frilled and ruffled Siberian kales and ornamental kale, cavolo nero has narrow leaves with pebbly-textured foliage in a deep blue-green color. I don't know why it's called "dinosaur" - maybe its texture is supposed to be like the giant reptiles' skin.

To prepare it, strip the thick central stem from the leaves. Then chop it as fine or as rough as you like. I chopped it into pieces about 1" by 2".

Greens like kale, collards and mustard have a bitterness that is complimented by rich fat. Cooking bitter greens with pork is a tradition in many cultures.

In Tuscany, the pork of choice is pancetta - a salt-cured pork belly like bacon. In U.S. supermarkets, you find it sliced from a roll - like a spiral of bacon.

Chop the pancetta and saute it in olive oil until it's brown. While the pancetta browns, I chopped up an onion and peeled three cloves of garlic, and smashed them with a knife blade. When the pancetta is just a bit crispy, I took it out and put the onions and garlic into the combined fat from the pancetta and the olive oil. If there's too much fat, pour some of it out.

Let the onions and garlic cook over medium heat until they are golden - about 15 - 20 minutes. Then, add the chopped kale, and about a cup of broth - chicken broth is good, but you can use any nice broth.

With the greens and broth, add a teaspoon or so of dried thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and some chopped parsley.

Bring it all to a boil, and then cover it and cook for about an hour. You can keep it at a simmer on the stove or you can cook it in a 350 degree oven.

When its done, the kale is deep dark green and smells rich and flavorful. The taste is intense, dark, with a touch of bitterness that's a perfect foil to meat. We served it alongside a roast pork tenderloin. The next day, we cooked some pasta, and tossed it with butter and the warmed-up leftover kale.

Black Tuscan kale. It's good and it's good for you.


Kate said...

Looks delicious! Kale is the kind of green easily overlooked in the produce section even though it looks lovely; people are intimidated by it, I think. Now I'm inspired again to try some. Yum.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

This is one of those greens that I have trouble finding here. I can almost smell this...yum.


Blondie's Journal said...

I often see Kale in my grocery store but had no idea how to cook it. Thanks so much for the step by step procedure and information!


Jodi Anderson said...

I love kale. My favorite method of preparation is roasted kale chips.

Now I'm hungry for something green!

rosadimaggio said...

è da qualche tempo che ti seguo perchè mi piace molto questo tuo modo di fare conoscere l'America, soprattutto Los Angeles che io amo in special modo.
Leggendo questo tuo post, se non ti offendo, vorrei farti sapere che per noi italiani, le carni di prima scelta non sono quelle che si trovano sotto la pancia, come hai scritto tu nel caso del maiale per la "pancetta".
Per prima scelta noi intendiamo carni di animali allevati "bene" cioè con foraggio naturale, bene tenuti nei recinti e bene curati dai veterinari e quindi bene selezionata.
Perchè sappiamo che quando la carne costa poco vuol dire che non è affatto di prima scelta, e la carne a questo punto si vede dal colore e si sente quando si mangia perchè "puzza".
Per quanto riguarda poi la ricetta del cavolo cotto con la pancetta e l'aglio non è esclusiva della Toscana, ma bensì di tutta l'Italia, in quanto da noi è considerato un piatto molto povero che veniva ( e viene tutt'oggi ) preparato dai tutti i contadini, perchè non avendo denaro, cercavano di risparmiare su tutto ciò che potevano e quindi di conseguenza del maiale non buttavano via mai nulla.
Da quì poi il detto italiano " DEL MAIALE NON SI BUTTA VIA MAI NIENTE ", per dire che si sfrutta tutto fino alla fine.
Ultima cosa, hai preparato la ricetta con troppo grasso proveniente dalla pancetta, cioè una volta cotta la pancetta e la cipolla e l'aglio, tutto quel grasso residuo và "categoricamente" gettato.
Il cavolo, dopo aver messo la cipolla e la pancetta (l'aglio anche quello viene tolto) viene condito "esclusivamente" con olio di oliva extra-vergine (possibilmente proveniente dalla Toscana perchè sono i migliori di tutta Italia ).
In ultimo ha chi piace, si può aggiungere anche le patate lesse tagliate a pezzi e mescolate a tutti gli altri ingredienti della ricetta.
Spero che non ti sia offesa per questa mia precisazione ma era doveroso ( essendo io una promotrice della vera cucina Italiana nel mondo ) affinchè non ci siano errori nelle trascrizioni... poi ogni persona può cucinare come più gli piace ma dando delle corrette informazioni.

kcinnova said...

I have never eaten kale, and while the cooked version is not as pretty as the bright green version, I am inspired to try it!

g said...

rosa - I translated your comments via google, and I see that you corrected me on my description of the source of pancetta. I am sorry - I was being perhaps too flip. In any case, my pancetta is the american version, and probably different from the Italian. You also scolded me for using too much fat - I think you are telling me I should have rendered the fat and poured some off. I am a fat miser, so I probably used a little less than my recipe called for, but I will take your comments under advisement.

And I agree that potatoes would be a great addition to the kale.

In any case - I appreciate that you've been following my blog, and hope you enjoy my posts about Los Angeles. Thanks!

mo.stoneskin said...

Maybe Kale is what killed off the dinosaurs. Be careful.

Gilly said...

I adore Black Kale, but it is hard to find here, though if I ever get to a Farmers' Market maybe I could find some.

I have a lovely recipe for Black Kale soup, I made enough for two days and we finished it all up on the first day!

phd in yogurtry said...

You make it look sooo good. But, my lover is spinach and I cannot stray. I've tried - collard, mustard, kale. No thanks. Sadly. I'd like to be more than a one-greens woman.

Queenly Things said...

I'm with The Man You Love, these are my favorite veggies.

Elisa, Croatia said...

Mmmm that's an interesting name, Dinosaur kale and looking closely the texture does resemble the reptile's skin! I'm sure we have this vegetable available here,and you mentioned pancetta so a good way to add veggies to a meal. I sort of have to force them to my hubby. LOL.