The Friday Family Meal: Cavolo Nero, the Kid Friendly Kale

Img_5228Cavolo Nero, Tuscan Kale, Black Kale, Dinosaur Kale, whatever you want to call it, it’s better than it sounds (cavolo nero gets my vote for euphonious Italianate appeal)

But really: Kale. For kids. Are you kidding me? No. This variety is tender, it cooks faster than other hearty leafy greens like chard and collards, it’s not too bitter. It’s the most gastrokid-friendly of the bunch. And it’s in season. Just a couple nights ago I cooked two bunches of the stuff, and—no joke—my five year old was stealing it right out of the bowl on the kitchen counter.

For a meal, I suggest buying two bunches and preparing one bunch as a side, and incorporating the other bunch into the main (take your pick from the ideas below; again: want a precise recipe? give a shout).

The basic prep:

Rinse it in a colander under cold running water.

Tear the leaves off the stalks by grabbing the stalk with one hand and stripping the leaf off with the other.

Discard the stalks or parcook them to chop and and use in soups, stews, or in a fritatta as I did (after cooking for 10 minutes in boiling salted water then chopping finely. The fritatta was rejected by my daughter.

But she loved the leaves, which I’d blanched in salted water, then sauteed in garlic and lightly chili-flaked olive oil (I think the lesson of recent posts is: copious olive oil, medium high heat sautee, salt and your kids will likely dig it).

Other things to do with cavolo nero leaves, after blanching in salted boiling water:

top a pizza, along with prosciutto or pancetta and some cheese (i had good luck with a mix of parmesan and gorgonzola dolce and quattro formaggio from trader joes. I guess that makes it a 6 cheese pizza)
chop and toss with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese with pasta
chop finely and mix into a rich beef-stock risotto
serve as a side dish to braised beef, roast chicken, or (even better) duck!
serve on crostini with parmesan
mix with ricotta and stuffing ravioli (right, as if you have the time. Maybe on sunday? that’s my favored pasta making day with the kids. well, maybe every two months or so)
—Hugh

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