Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dino Kale with Lemon Zest & Toasted Walnuts

If you think you don't like kale, chances are you've never tasted dino, an heirloom variety which dates from 18th century Italy. Also known as cavolo nero, lacinato kale, Tuscan kale or Italian kale, dino (short for dinosaur) has sweet, delicate tender leaves and is delicious eaten raw in salads as well as cooked. An honored staple of Italian cuisine, its most beloved incarnation is as an ingredient in ribollito, the hearty Tuscan peasant soup.

This simple recipe for braised dino kale yields a savory, intensely flavorful dish using just a handful of quality ingredients. Start by toasting the walnuts until they are fragrant and golden, being careful not to burn them. I like to do this in a heavy cast iron pan on the stove top so that I can watch the walnuts closely as they brown. (See photo above).

Prepare the lemon zest by removing the thin yellow layer of peel from a lemon with a small sharp knife. Slice zest into very slender strips about 1/4 inch long. Grated zest may be used instead but the strips contribute a pleasing texture and pungent citrusy dimension to the recipe.

Next chiffonade the kale by stacking the leaves on a cutting board and rolling them into a cylinder. Slice crosswise into ribbons as in photo above. The finer the chiffonade the more quickly the kale will cook.

After the ingredients are prepared, which can be done several hours ahead of time, the dish requires less than ten minutes to complete. It is excellent eaten warm or at room temperature. One bunch of kale yields roughly four modest servings.

Dino Kale with Lemon Zest and Toasted Walnuts:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup sliced leek
1 clove garlic, diced
1 bunch dino kale, chiffonaded
1/4 cup fresh water
2/3 cup shelled walnuts, toasted until golden brown
zest of 1/2 organic lemon, thinly sliced into small strips
juice of one organic lemon
sea salt to taste
1 small fresh hot red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Saute the leek and garlic in olive oil in a heavy skillet until fragrant. Add kale and saute until wilted, about five minutes, adding a sprinkling of fresh water to moisten the leaves and complete the cooking with a little steam. Kale should be tender but not mushy, and should retain its green color.

Place kale mixture in a warm ceramic bowl. Break toasted walnuts into pieces and add to kale along with lemon zest, lemon juice, sea salt and red pepper. Toss lightly, correct seasoning and serve immediately. Excellent with small steamed Yukon Gold or purple Peruvian potatoes.

Note: All of the ingredients in this dish are in keeping with the dietary laws of Pesach.