Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Kale Chronicles

My favorite part about summer is the plethora of unique fresh veggies that appear at the grocery store and farmer's market. Sure, I love the usual suspects like carrots and peppers, but part of the fun of cooking is being inspired by what is in season at any given moment. One class of veggies that doesn't get nearly the respect it deserves is the leafy-greens family. This includes things such as Swiss chard, collard greens (a current obsession when I eat Ethiopian food), and my personal favorite, kale.

I love, love, love kale. It has a strong enough flavor to stand on its own, but it is versatile enough that it blends in with whatever flavors you desire.

When looking at what to make for dinner, I try to adhere to the cook-once-eat-all-week mantra. This pasta dish stores and reheats really well, so you can nom all week from one easy night of cooking. I've adapted this meal from a WeightWatchers recipe. I like to use more kale than the original because as I said, I really like kale, and the extra greens make it more satisfying in my opinion. You really can't go wrong with whatever kind of sausage you use, and you could probably even use other greens like broccoli rabe, chard, or even asparagus if you can't find kale.

I went a little kale-crazy, and I wound up buying two bunches, which is kind of a lot of volume for one person. Thus, I needed to find another recipe to make with my limited ingredients. The idea for kale chips was born!

The term "chip" in relation to kale is kind of a misnomer. They're really more of a crisp than a chip. They're not quite hearty enough to survive a salsa or a dip, but they're light and delicious and perfect for a savory, crispy food craving!

A few notes on kale chip prep: make sure your kale is REALLY dry. Otherwise, it won't crisp up evenly, and you'll have some chips that are overcooked and some that are still floppy. Also, as I found out, the kale chips tend to get soggy if you don't consume them immediately (but a little moisture didn't deter me from eating them!). Enjoy them fresh out of the oven. Plus, they're really yummy when they're still warm.


Pasta with Sausage and Kale
Adapted from recipe "Rigatoni with Sausage and Kale"

2 cups uncooked pasta (I like to use fun shapes like bowties or curly pasta that holds the kale better)
8 oz uncooked bulk turkey or chicken sausage, spicy (I've used spicy turkey sausage and spicy chicken parmesan cheese sausage...both were great!)
1 bunch uncooked kale, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup canned fat free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Meanwhile, brown sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking up sausage as it cooks, about 3 minutes. Add kale a handful at a time. Cook, stirring frequently, until limp, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add broth to skillet and scrape up browned bits on bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon; season with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low; cook until kale is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in rigatoni; heat through.

Sprinkle each serving with about 2 tablespoons of cheese before serving.
Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.


Baked Parmesan Kale Chips
Modified from Skinnytaste

1 bunch kale
cooking spray (I used canola, but olive oil would work well, too)
sea salt
black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray large baking sheets with cooking spray.

Wash and thoroughly dry kale. Remove any thick stems, and tear kale into bite sized pieces.

Place kale pieces on baking sheets in a single layer. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for ~10 minutes, moving the kale around as it shrinks and gets crispy.

Remove from oven, top with cheese, and bake for another ~5 minutes until cheese begins to melt, edges are crisp, and some kale begins to get brown around the edges. Enjoy!

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