Kale is the new Spinach. There I said it. We have all been thinking it and its beginning to get awkward in my kitchen. The spinach sighs heavily when the kale is brought home from the farmers market. Its leaves are strong, rich in color and texture. The spinach wondering if it really is the dark, leafy green family at all; or perhaps was adopted away from iceberg. The kale boasts that it looks great in vibrant red, yellow or orange as well and that it can give life extending health benefits for all that partake. Spinach once believed this, but wilts its head in sadness now for a time gone before. The 80’s. Time marches on and so must we. Have faith in your farmers; for they are the trend setters and they say Kale is the new Spinach.
Feeling daunted around Kale still? Not sure if it should be treated like collards and tamed by vinegar and near death boiling tactics? Here is a quick, easy and confidence boosting recipe for you; as you court your new dark leafy green BVFF (best veggie friend forever). Its reminiscent of creamed spinach but lighter and with a crunchy top and cheese layered gratin style.
It doesn’t matter if you get the green, red, yellow or orange veined kale. All the same in terms of cooking. Its more of a fashion thing than true taste altering thing.
RECIPE: Serves 2
Rinse one bunch of kale and set on paper towel to dry. The stems are edible; however they take longer to cook so it’s up to you. If you want a quicker preparation, then cut the leaves away from the stems and move on. No hurt feelings. I like the contrasting texture of the leaf to the stem so I keep them.
In a deep saucepan add 2 cups milk (any kind). Add 2 cloves, finely chopped. Add a handful of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary, whole. Add a tablespoon of black peppercorns, a healthy dash of salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon nutmeg. Bring milk to a simmer. Give it another 5-8 minutes until the milk has turned a lovely deep orange flame color and smells of fresh herbs. Remove from heat and strain over another saucepan.
Put the strained milk back on the flame and add in 2 cups of mushrooms (whole or sliced but good size chunks). I like shiitake, Portobello or crimini. Pick your morel poison as you like. Now add the kale. Give the stems a rough chop before tossing in just so the pieces aren’t huge when eating them. Add a bit more pepper and salt to taste and I like to add a few teaspoons of chopped thyme for color. Then put a lid on the pan and let simmer another 8 minutes or so until the kale is soft and tender.
Meanwhile, grate up about 2 cups of cheese. I say parmesan reggiano, pecorino or even gruyere. A nice hard white cheese with a nutty flavor is best.
Turn the oven to broil.
Prepare individual ramekins or a small baking dish by layering the bottom with kale, then a sprinkle of the cheese, more kale & mushroom, more cheese and so on til the top of the dish. Spoon over with a tablespoon of the herb & spice infused milk. Top off the dish with a fine covering of breadcrumbs or panko. Finish it with a sprinkle more cheese, a crack of black pepper. Place ramekins or dish under the broiler for just a few minutes until the crumbs are toasty brown and the cheese has melted in.
This is a great side dish alongside pork tenderloin, roast chicken or even a nicely grilled swordfish. Kale, the new poster child, gets along with almost any protein you introduce it to and also plays well with other veggies and pastas. Does it have any flaws? Well, I can’t find one yet 😉
Eat your greens. Make your Mother proud. You’ll be surprised by how Popeye-ish you are on your next weekend warrior adventure.
Have a great Saturday!