Kale is that "let's just be friends" kind of guy of the vegetable world - not the sexy, motorcycle-riding kind of guy like, say, asparagus that it's hard to get enough of - mostly because he's never around. Kale, like those "let's just be friends" guys, is good for you and gives you what you need, without you moping and waiting around for him to call.
But it's true that I don't love kale so much. Mostly because you have to chew it about 1000 times. On the upside, it tastes pretty good and comes in different crinkly colors and textures. And, it's supposedly one of the best nutritional bargains around. Diana Dyer, local blogger and author of "A Dietician's Cancer Story" says:
"Kale is off the charts when it comes to being loaded with molecules that are both antioxidants and have other health-promoting benefits (including cancer-fighting activity)."
I was looking at Diana's blog and noticing how many kale recipes she has and how often she mentions its super-food benefits. If only it weren't so darn tough!
A big lonely bag of mixed kale has been the only thing left from our Tantré Thanksgiving share for the last week or two. It pretty much refuses to turn into green slime like spinach does if you turn your back on it for a couple of days. Refusing to let all those phyto-chemicals and isoflavones go to waste, it seemed like a good time to pull out that one favorite kale recipe. This recipe also let me use up those last remaining heirloom tomatoes I pulled green off the vine in November and which have now ripened on my countertop in December.
This recipe will make you feel virtuous because 1) the ingredients are always on hand, 2) it's great for entertaining your vegetarian or flexitarian friends on a cold winter night, and 3) it uses up as much kale as you happen to have.
Garlic Veggie Casserole with Kale
1 bag of kale - mix of different kinds and other greens are ok too - washed and chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. hot pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
2 T. olive oil
3 large-ish potatoes - scrubbed and cut into 1" dice
1 can canellini beans (or any white bean) - drained
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes - chopped into 1" pieces, save the juice
1/4 C. kalamata olives, sliced
1 C. grated parmesan
Saute garlic and hot pepper in olive oil until garlic is just golden. Add kale, stir, cover and steam until kale is kind of tender. As tender as kale gets, just so it is cooked.
While kale is cooking, boil potatoes until just barely done, maybe 8-10 minutes. Then drain potatoes.
Combine potatoes, beans, tomatoes (with their juice), and olives with the kale and garlic.
Put into an 11 x 7" casserole dish and cover with the grated parmesan. Bake at 350º for about 30-45 minutes, until cheese is turning golden and casserole is hot.
For extra virtue, serve with a side of whole wheat couscous or quinoa.
As you can see, this is also the perfect dish to serve at Christmas time or on any Italian national holidays - red and green galore. It's absolutely delicious. And like that "let's just be friends" guy, this is one you can bring home to the parents and will probably eventually end up marrying. That motorcycle guy is no damn good anyways.