Tuesday, March 23, 2010

i may not sip lattes, but i do eat an awful lot of kale

This weekend as I stood in my Vermont kitchen listening to "All Things Considered" and chopping kale for dinner, my refrigerator stocked with nickel bags of microgreens and artisan cheeses from the farmers market, I realized that I am a liberal cliché. Which is just fine with me: I'd rather pluck my eyes out than listen to Rush Limbaugh, and while I hope to one day sample a deep-fried Twinkie, I already know it will have nothing on a New York Times chocolate-chip cookie.

To the kale, then, comrades.

Awhile ago I told you about a braised kale dish that I'm pretty smitten with and cook on a regular basis. The one I made this weekend was conceived by the same cook and is basically the same recipe—sauté some garlic and onions, braise the kale, squeeze a lemon over the greens—sans the chick peas and served over pasta. For those of you kale-eating liberals who partake of the green on a regular basis, this new recipe is good for variety. But if you voted for John McCain and are only going to try one kale dish in your lifetime, it should be the old one. (Frankly, if you voted for John McCain that means you voted for Sarah Palin, which means there's no hope for you: Get in your SUV, drive to WalMart, and buy that case of Twinkies you've been eyeing.)

Don't get me wrong: The recipe below is also good, and reviewers on Epicurious.com raved about its ability to turn non-kale-eaters into kale lovers, but I don't need everyone to love kale, just like I don't need everyone to love health care reform (you may not love it, but it's here [barely]), and I think the chick peas are a better complement to the kale than the pasta.

Spaghetti With Braised Kale
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's column in Bon Appétit, October 2009

1 pound lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ pound spaghetti
2 teaspoons or more of fresh lemon juice, to taste
finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Rinse kale and drain the excess water, but don't worry about getting the greens dry; some water clinging to the kale will help with braising.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook gently until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling heavily salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid. Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

A few notes: Reviewers on Epicurious suggested adding red pepper flakes, which I didn't try here but think would be a suitable addition. I used whole-wheat spaghettini and didn't measure the pasta; reviewers on Epicurious suggested that the kale would be enough for a full pound of pasta but I disagree—the higher the ratio of kale to pasta, the better. I added way more than 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and was liberal with the Parm, as well. The yachtsman, shockingly, wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot Cheeto, but the ample leftovers reheated well (I added a fresh squeeze of lemon juice each time), both on the stove and in the microwave.

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