Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kale and Escarole

One of my favorite things to make with kale is the Portuguese soup caldo verde.  It's very popular in both Portugal and Brazil, and it should be popular here too!  I adapted this recipe for ingredients available in our area and to my taste from Leite's Culinaria:
Caldo Verde
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces linguica or Spanish chorizo
6 waxy potatoes, scrubbed
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound kale, washed well, center ribs removed, sliced very thinly
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil.  Once shimmering, add the garlic and onions, stirring frequently.  Add in the meat and once it is browned, add the potatoes, and then the stock.  Simmer gently until the potatoes are just tender.  At this point, you can remove some of the potatoes, puree, and then return to the pot for a thicker soup.  Stir in the kale, cook just to wilt, then season to taste with salt and pepper. 
This will produce about six hearty first course servings.
A couple of other things to try with kale (start all of these by washing, removing the rib, and finely slicing)-
saute and add to a fritatta with diced red peppers and cooked diced potatoes
finely shred and add to your favorite stir fry
saute with garlic and red pepper flakes, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar right at the end

Now, on to escarole...  This slightly bitter green can be used cooked or raw depending on the maturity of the leaves.  If the leaves are tender and pale, the best thing to do is gently wash the leaves, the tear them into bite sized pieces and use them as a base for salads.  Escarole goes beautifully with fennel, citrus fruits, and many cheeses (fresh goat or a nicely aged parmesan for example).  It will be important to dress the salad simply- perhaps just lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chunky salt.  The flavor of young escarole can be easily lost in the fray.

If the escarole is more mature, sauteing in olive oil with garlic and finishing with some lemon juice and salt is my favorite way.  This preparation goes well with mild main courses such as roast chicken or pork tenderloin.  The larger leaves can also hold their own in soups- chicken, lentil, and white bean soups all compliment the subtlety of the greens.

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