Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat More Kale

The world might be a better place if we all had more kale in our lives. It's been called a "superfood" for good reason. And for less than $1 a bunch, I try to make it a regular part of my meals. Loaded with vitamins C, K, beta carotene, calcium, and possibly cancer preventing compounds, it's hard to say no to kale. It's tasty to boot! Try the curly variety or one of the other colorful varieties. It's great in soups, steamed with loads of garlic, with beans, or roasted to make chips. If you're particularly daring, try a shot of it in your next smoothie.

I love kale paired with lemon and parmesan. In my mind, lemon and parmesan are like chocolate and peanut butter--the scent intoxicating and completely satisfying. Try this combination with your next bunch of kale. This could just as easily be turned into a pesto for a richer dish.

Tortelloni with Kale, Lemon, and Parmesan

1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb fresh tortelloni (or ravioli, or tortellini cheese or spinach flavored)
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Toast the pine nuts and set aside. Boil the tortelloni in salted water and prepare the kale. Heat the garlic until just fragrant. Add the kale and stir adding more oil as needed. Add 1/4 of pasta water and let the kale steam. Cook until kale is crisp, tender, about 5 minutes. Pour off the excess liquid then add the juice of half a lemon and stir. Add the tortelloni to the kale and then the zest, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and finish off with a bit more olive oil.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beans 'n Greens 'n Crunch

Although this isn't the perfect time of year for swiss chard, I go to this dish for a reminder of Summer. Rainbow chard can still be found in my produce section--its brightly colored red, orange, and green stems make it the most eye-catching leafy green in the whole store.

Swiss chard is hands down my favorite of all the greens. It is just tough enough to not wilt away to nothing when cooked, and I love the way the bright red stems stain the surrounding ingredients. The stems are slightly sweet and the leaves tender with only the tiniest bit of bitterness. I prefer it served lightly sauteed with lots of garlic as a side dish, chopped up in pasta, or alongside white beans for a filling meatless main.

Swiss Chard with Cannelini Beans and Herb Breadcrumbs

1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch swiss chard, stems included, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup panko bread crumb
2+ tsp Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper

On a foil lined sheet pan, mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and pepper, and a spot of olive oil. Mix together with your fingers then put in a hot oven to toast, stirring often so not to burn. Toast until fragrant and browned all over then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the garlic in oil for thirty seconds. Add the chard stems and cook until they just begin to soften. Finally add the leaves and stir for a couple minutes until wilted. Remove the chard from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Toss in the drained beans and spread out in an even layer in the pan. Let them sit for a minute to just brown slightly then toss and cook for another minute. Add the greens back to the pan and toss to combine. Add more oil if it seems dry then season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the toasted bread crumbs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beans 'n Greens, Indian Style

Let us not forget that the lowly lentil is in fact in the legume family. This Indian inspired version of beans and greens is a nice change of pace. When I make this again, I will consider doubling the spices for an even more intensely flavored dish. That earthy, lentil flavor needs to be overpowered with fragrant spices. The dollop of yogurt that finishes the dish adds a cool, creaminess making this ideal for a light lunch or dinner.

Lentils and Chard with Mushrooms

1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed
4 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric

In a small pot cover the lentils with 2 1/2 cups of water, salt, and bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, lower the heat and cover, simmering for about 30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and cook until tender. Move the mushrooms to the outer rim of the pan and add some more oil and the garlic. Add the spices and stir 30 seconds. Add the chard and mix everything to combine. Cook another 2 minutes until wilted. Add the lentils and some of the cooking water (about 1/4 cup) to the pan. Simmer until all the flavors come together. Serve with yogurt.