Last night I went to a lecture at Miller library about the importance of eating locally. The presenter, Joan Norman of One Straw Farm, shared with us a recipe for Macaroni and Kale. It’s a long-time family favorite of hers and a recipe that she provides to CSA customers when they find that their weekly shares contain kale. Joan stressed that if you’re going to eat locally and you live in the Baltimore area that you’re going to need to learn to eat kale, collard greens, and swiss chard. I’m perfectly fine with swiss chard and collard greens, as well as most other dark greens. But I’ve never had kale. Since I was running an errand in Clarksville today, I stopped by Roots Market and got some organic kale with the intention of cooking it for dinner and test-driving Joan’s recipe.
Joan described how to make the dish. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Meanwhile, remove the stems from the kale and chop up the leaves into bite sized pieces. When the water comes to a boil, toss in the pasta of your choice (she suggests something like Rotini) as well as the kale. When the pasta is cooked, drain the water from the pasta and kale. Toss everything together with a mixture of butter and garlic, or olive oil and garlic, and some good Parmesan cheese.
Joan says that this is a great recipe for kids because when you boil the pasta with the kale, the pasta is soaking up the nutrients in the kale. So if they pick around the kale they’re still getting the nutritional benefits. (She says that by making the kale bite sized, it will wrap itself up in the rotini and kids will eat some of it by accident anyway.) I don’t have any kids to worry about, but M can be a picky eater sometimes.
Since I can’t leave well enough alone, I adapted Joan’s recipe (only a little bit!) to fit our tastes.
I wasn’t sure if I’d like the kale or not. I’m not normally skittish about vegetables, but when I was chopping up the kale, it had such a strange smell. I’m really sensitive about smells and if something rubs my nasal passages the wrong way I’m going to steer clear of it. (Probably the main reason why I can’t eat fish, no matter how hard I try.) I followed Joan’s instructions and when the water came to the boil, I tossed in the chopped up kale and half a package of Cellentani pasta from Trader Joe’s. (It’s the corkscrew shape.) I decided that I was also going to add in some minced onions, so I chopped those with the garlic while the pasta and kale cooked. I wilted the onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil over low heat. (I actually used a wok since we are without a saute pan right now and it worked perfectly.) When the pasta and kale was done (6 minutes) I fished them out of the pot and dumped them into the wok with the onions, garlic and olive oil. I tossed everything together for a minute and added about a tablespoon of unsalted butter, coarse sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. When the butter was melted I transferred half of the pasta and kale to a bowl and added in a few tablespoons of good Parmesan cheese (skip the green can!). M doesn’t eat cheese so I left it out of his half. At the last minute I also diced up a couple of tomatoes from our garden to garnish the top.
The verdict? Delicious! The kale doesn’t have a strong flavor at all, and the texture was fine. Since it was chopped into bite sized pieces, it stuck to the pasta and I almost didn’t realize I was eating it. Joan was right– I’m sure people with kids would have no problem getting them to eat this dish!
And a nod to my frugal friends– this dish was really cheap to prepare. The kale was only $2 for the whole bunch, and it was organic so for those who aren’t organic shoppers you may be able to get it for even less. The pasta was $1.99 for the package but I only used half. I also used tomatoes from my garden (free) and added in about $2 to cover the salt/pepper, half of the onion, few cloves of garlic, and portions of olive oil, butter, and parmesan cheese. So for about $5 I created a meal that serves about 4 people. Not bad!
I really hope that the library continues to offer programs like this. I think it’s important that people understand why buying locally grown, organic produce is not only the best option for our health, but also for the health of our local economy.