We got a lovely bunch of Tuscan kale at the market last weekend – the first we’ve seen in some time. We love kale and eat it all sorts of ways, but my very favorite thing to do with it is to braise it in the cooking liquid from a pot of white beans. The recipe is from a Paula Wolfert cookbook called Mediterranean Grains and Greens, and it is pure genius – the bean liquid, flavored with garlic and bay, gets absorbed by the greens and also reduces to a thick sweet glaze that enhances the sweetness of the kale. The beans and greens are served together, and are particularly good alongside lamb chops or steaks, with a nice earthy red Italian or French country wine.
Kale with White Beans
- a cup or two of white beans, any type (I usually use small white beans, but cannellini would be swell)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- olive oil
- One bunch Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato kale, or cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale)
Soak the beans in salted water overnight. Drain and rinse, then put in a saucepan with the garlic and bay, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until done – about an hour. When the garlic cloves have softened you can mash them with a spoon to add flavor to the broth. Salt the beans, and keep them warm while you prep the kale.
Wash the greens well (kale often has a few critters hiding in its folds) and cut the center stems out of the leaves. Chop the leaves roughly.
Heat a good amount of olive oil in a large heavy skillet – I generally use at least 4 tablespoons. When it’s hot, add the greens – they will fill the pan at first, so stir carefully.
Stir to coat the leaves with the olive oil. As they begin to wilt, start adding ladlefuls of broth from the bean pot. This is a lot like making a risotto – you want each ladleful to be absorbed before adding more liquid. Eventually (this seems to take at least ten minutes, maybe more) you will have a much smaller-looking amount of greens in a thick, pale green gravy. Keep warm while you cook your lamb chops or whatever you’ve got.
This is a really easy way for two people to eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting. The only way I can get leftovers from this is to cook up two bunches of kale – it’s just so good!