I only know one or two ways to cook greens – the way I observed my mother cooking them and the way I observed my southern mother-in-law cooking them. Believe it or not, the two methods are similar. Italians and southerners agree that greens should be cooked until thoroughly done. Neither culture is a fan of “crisp” greens and neither am I. So when I saw a package of baby kale at my local Trader Joe’s, I decided to cook the greens as if they were spinach or broccoli rabe using my Italian method of blanching the greens and then sauteeing them with garlic and olive oil. The end result was a lovely bowl of flavorful baby kale with garlic and olive oil that did not taste raw, but still had enough bite to not be mushy. I loved the way they turned out and I hope you will too. As you can see, they do cook down quite alot, so if you are serving more than four people, double the recipe.
Ingredients: 3 – 4 servings
1 large package of baby kale from Trader Joe’s
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups water for blanching
1 cup reserved blanching water
Half a lemon cut into wedges
First take out the baby kale from the package to wash it. You may notice that every leaf of baby kale has a long thin stem. If you don’t really care for long thin stems, bunch the leaves together and cut off as many stems as you can. Notice in the picture I still was left with stems – those little devils – but it’s baby kale, so how tough could they be. Place the leaves in a colander, rinse them well with cold running water, and dry the leaves with paper towels. After washing and drying, before this dish becomes baby kale with garlic and olive, the kale must be blanched.
Next bring two cups of cold water to a boil in a 2 qt saucepan and then throw in the baby kale leaves, pressing them into the boiling water until all are submerged. This is called blanching. I used to be afraid to try blanching, thinking one false step could ruin everything, but honestly, as long as you stick to the two minute time, your greens won’t get over boiled, so fearlesslythrow those greens in there and boil the leaves for two minutes. Turn off the heat and after reserving one cup of blanching water, drain the kale in a colander.
Next, in a 10 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil until shimmering. Throw in the sliced garlic clove and stir it around until the garlic softens and is translucent. Watch carefully. There is nothing worse then burned garlic. Add the drained kale to the olive oil/garlic mixture. Stir it carefully with a wooden spoon until all the leaves are coated with the oil. (I love wooden spoons. They are silent while you stir, they don’t scratch pans and they make you remember your mom and granny.) Saute this mixture for two minutes, adding some sea salt and ground pepper to taste. Then add the reserved cup of blanching water, stir it all together, and simmer it on low heat until the greens are still bright green, but tender. About 5 to 10 minutes depending on the kale. Maybe more if your kale is older and tougher. Test it by eating a small bite.
When kale is tender, turn off the heat and squeeze half a lemon over the greens. Pour the greens into a pretty serving bowl. If you plan to have them later, place them into a plastic container and refrigerate them. You may heat them up before serving time or serve them at room temperature. My mother always placed her greens on a serving platter and covered them with waxed paper (remember waxed paper?) until serving time.So there you have it, baby kale with garlic and olive oil, a lovely vegetable that is easy and also vegan, in case you happen to have a vegan guest, and are at a loss as to what vegetable dish you can make without dairy or meat.