Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kale with Red Pepper and Onion Sofrito:Three Ways

                           “A mistle thrush is singing on my spade in the kale patch”*

I doubt that many of us were told when we were growing up to “Eat your kale, it’s good for you.”  Not anymore. Walk through any farmers market and every farmer has some variety of kale for sale.
While it has been available for years, to many it was only familiar as an ornamental plant for the fall garden. But the Portuguese knew all along; consider their kale and sausage soup, for example.
I will admit that I saw this idea on a television program but they apparently considered it unworthy of including in their recipes.
It’s not.
On the program made it was made for an appetizer, a bruschetta with ricotta topped with the cooked kale mixture. Which is one way you could use it.
By itself, it makes a delicious way to cook and serve kale or any green that takes some time to cook. I’ve made it with collard greens for oldest daughter’s southern beau. You can also use spinach, but the spinach will cook much faster.
So what is it that makes it so good? The base is a slow cooked sofrito, or flavor base, of red bell pepper, onion, and garlic. As the peppers and onions cook, they begin to brown. Some of that browning also collects on the bottom of the pan and when the kale is added it cooks in all of that caramelized sweetness.
You could also toss some pasta into it along with a little ricotta and Parmesan which is what we often do.
When you make this, don’t use a non-stick pan. The “brown bits” (the fond) that occur when cooking the vegetables won’t collect on the bottom as of a non-stick pan well as they will in an aluminum or stainless sauté pan.
You can use any variety of kale. There’s curly kale and “the kale with four names”: Tuscan (or lascinato, or black, or dinosaur) kale.

Kale with Red Pepper and Onion Sofrito  For two servings
One bunch (about 9 ounces) kale
2 cups sliced onion
1 ½ cups red bell pepper, sliced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
hot pepper flakes, optional
juice of ½ lemon
olive oil, for cooking
water, for the kale
1. Remove the leaves from the stems of the kale. Discard the stems. Chop the leaves into small pieces. Place the kale into a colander and rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. Place a large pan onto the stove over medium-high heat. When hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions and peppers; stir and sauté the mixture for a few minutes. Season with salt and black pepper and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes until the peppers and onions begin to take on some color; they do not need to be completely caramelized. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent them from burning. Stir occasionally throughout.
Getting the correct color on the sofrito
3. When the onion/pepper mixture is soft and golden, add the kale to the pan. Season the kale with salt and ground black pepper. Add about ½ cup water to the pan, stir and cover. Lower the heat and let the kale cook. Check as the kale cooks, adding more water as needed. After about 8 minutes, taste the kale to see how tender it is. It will probably need about 15 minutes total cooking time, depending on the size of the pieces. Add more water, cover and gently simmer until the kale is tender.
4. Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan. Add a little olive oil then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir the garlic into the kale mixture. At this point the kale is done. It can be held in the pan until needed. Before serving, heat the kale mixture and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust; Gloss the kale with a little more olive oil if desired.

Rigatoni with Kale and Red Pepper/Onion Sofrito

Follow the recipe above for the kale and red pepper/onion sofrito and have it ready. You can use the hot pasta water for cooking the kale.
For two servings
the kale/onion/red bell pepper mixture
8 ounces rigatoni
3 to 4 Tablespoons ricotta cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente according to the directions. Drain the pasta, then place it into the pan with the kale mixture. Stir together. Add the ricotta cheese and mix together so the ricotta begins to melt. Remove from the heat, divide between two bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

*from “The Bone Clocks," by David Mitchell.

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