22 February 2009

When all else fails, use Kale

Kale was the featured ingredient of last week, something I was first introduced to in my young days of working as a waitress at Pizzeria Uno. Hey, I needed the money, don't judge me. Mandatory for all new Uno's employees was 15 hours of "pizza school" - kid you not - on top of on the floor training that most food services people are used to. As I was running my usual expo shift at the food window, the following phrase was ingrained in my mind ... so much that it's the title of this post -- "When all else fails, use kale." The trainer had a slightly annoying southern twang as this phrase rolled off her tongue, then followed by me non-chalantly rolling my eyes and counting the hours down until I could have a stiff drink. Not my proudest days, but hell, it was money.

Regardless, kale is often only known of as that annoying ruffage on your plate, under an orange slice or some other garnish. To counter that, I looked for a few recipes for last week featuring leafy greens, so here goes. Both were delicious, and let me tell you ... kale is cheeeeeeap at the grocery store, so if you're looking for a way to save some dough, go kale. Woo! Like, less than two dollars for over 2 lbs kind of cheap. Won a spot in my heart RIGHT THERE.

Ahem. Onwards.

On the menu for the week:
- Giant Chipotle White Beans with Kale and Chard, from Heidi at 101Cookbooks
- Winter Greens Lasagna, compliments of Chowhound

Both were insanely good, and not only fed me but also a number of co-workers, with some still to freeze. Can't wait for that night of no-cooking when I pull out a serving of this lasagna and bring it back to life. Nothing beats a good meal without the effort during the week.

So, starting with the lasagna ... which, I justify as being healthy due to all the kale and chard. Trust me, I can justify anything in this little head of mine ;)

Winter Greens Lasagna
From Chowhound

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound kale, washed, tough stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1 pound Swiss chard, coarsely chopped

(KT: After making this, I'd even use a bit more greens ... hard to believe, but it really cooks down ... And I love chard stems, so I include ... but up to you )

1 1/2 cups crème fraîche

(KT: I had to use sour cream due to lack of creme fraiche at the store ... it works, but go for the real deal if you can find)

1 (9-ounce) box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 pound fresh ricotta
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottom pot, heat up some oil, and cook the garlic and onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. Then, add the cream and start slowly adding the kale / chard. It takes a while to tame ... be patient. Season with salt and pepper for each layer you add as it wilts. Cook down until all greens are in the pot, about 10 minutes. Take off the heat.

Meanwhile, spread a cup of the creme fraiche / sour cream on the bottom of the pan.

Layer with noodles, then greens mixture (without added liquid), then top with ricotta and parmesan. I mixed the ricotta and parm together to kill two birds with one stone, but can do separate if desired. Keep layering, noodles, greens, ricotta + Parm until you run out of greens.

Pour the remaining creme mix over the top of the noodles. Then mix remaining sour cream / creme fraiche + Parm together and spread over the top. It's a messy process. Have fun with it.

Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes until browned and bubbly. Yum.

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