We're heading into kale season and I couldn't be happier. Kale provides everything you want and need in food: it's nutritious, delicious, easy to prepare, affordable and readily available well into the frost season. Indeed, those of you who live in frost areas are really in luck because a good frost can deepen and sweeten the flavor of kale and other winter vegetables.
My favorite kale is an Italian variety called Cavolo Nero or Lacinato Kale, also known as Tuscan Kale or even more fanciful, Dinosaur or Dino Kale. It is delightful when simply steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. But here's another preparation that's pure magic, one of those simple, alchemical recipes whose result is greater than the sum it's parts. Four ingredients, plus a little salt and heat, and you're in heaven.
While some people leave them in, I prefer to remove the center stalk as it takes much longer to cook than the leaves. (One of these days I want to experiment with cooking up the stalks, as it seems a waste not to use them. Has any one tried this?) The easiest method, and the most enjoyable, it to simply strip the leaves from the stem by gripping the bare, thicker end of the stalk with one hand and ripping your fingers up towards the top with the other. Most of the stalk will be left behind; you can tear off any little bits of leaf still clinging to it if needed.
I just run a knife through the whole mass of leaves a few times to break it down a bit. The volume of kale will reduce considerably as it cooks, so no need to tear into bits as some recipes advise.
serves 2 to 4 as a side dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large bunch of dino kale, stripped of stems, washed and drained in a colander
4 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Choose a wide pan with sides, or a wok; either way, having a lid that fits is important. Film the bottom with the olive oil and set over medium heat. Add the kale and a few pinches of salt. Toss lightly with tongs so the kale is evenly coated with oil, then lower the heat and set the lid firmly on top of the pan.
Meanwhile, mix the tahini and lemon juice in a small bowl or coffee cup. The tahini may stiffen up a bit, which isn't a problem. After about 5 minutes, check the kale and give it another toss. It should be wilted and there should be enough liquid in the pan to keep things moist and steaming. Add a little water if it seems too dry. Cover and cook another few minutes or until the kale is almost black in color and has a nice, chewy texture. Turn off the flame and add about half of the tahini sauce. Toss. Add more sauce if need, up to the entire amount, to coat the kale. Taste for salt. Serve hot.
For more information on Cavolo Nero, visit the Seeds of Change Dino Kale page.
Related: Recipe: Kale Salad with Pecorino and Lemon