I happened to have five bunches of kale in the fridge that I stripped and began cooking last Friday evening for no reason other than the obvious one that it needed to be cooked. Then our son Oliver and four friends rolled through the door from New York. Hi hi hug hug. Got anything to eat? We’re starving!
Ah-ha, that’s why I was cooking the kale. In ten minutes five bunches of cooked kale seasoned with a little garlic and some hot red pepper flakes disappeared. Don’t they feed you at that school? I wanted to ask as they headed out the door. Two of the kale-eaters were headed to New Hampshire and needed to be dropped off somewhere for the next stage of their trip.
If they’d had ten more minutes they could have had Spaghetti with kale, salami and toasted garlic.
Kale is fast, easy, delicious, healthy as God, and this dish meets my standard for a last-minute pasta recipe – prep done by the time water boils; sauce finished before the pasta is al dente.
With Jody opening TRADE I’m anticipating a string of long days and nights ahead. Work will take a bigger bite out of her waking hours, we’ll have less time for kitchen prep, with more meals squeezed into the dark end of the day. That’s the way it goes until a new restaurant finds its feet.
She could eat at work to satisfy her hunger, but if past is any prologue, she’ll wait until she gets hometo eat with us, where she can be replenished. Replenishment is what you need when, in Joyce Carole Oates’s words, your “soul feels as thin as a playing card.”
We started this blog five months ago talking about just that kind of meal. As fall unfolds we’ll be eating – and writing about – a lot more of them. I’ll be cooking more often (buckle up), and the blog may become a little more ad hoc. Like life.
Hey, it’s an adventure. And there’s always kale. Enjoy. Ken
Spaghetti with Kale, Salami and Toasted Garlic
- Kosher salt
- 2 pounds dinosaur kale (lacinato)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped garlic
- 3 ounces salami, inedible casing removed and cut into ¼-inch dice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
- Strip the leaves off the stems of the kale. Discard the stems. Wash and drain the leaves. If you’ve never prepped kale check out Jody’s notes before you begin.
- When the water is boiling add the kale. Stir until the water returns to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Scoop the kale out of the water and drain in a colander. Do not discard the kale water. Allow the kale to to cool briefly and then chop fine.
- Add the pasta to the kale water, cover briefly until the water returns to a boil, then remove the cover, stir and cook 7 minutes or until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil with the garlic over medium heat and cook 5 minutes or until the garlic is toasty. Don’t let it get too dark or it will taste bitter. Add the salami and chopped kale and cook 2 minutes to meld the flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Scoop the pasta out of the water directly into the pan with the kale. Add ½ cup pasta cooking water, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve in warm bowls with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
No matter how much kale you buy it cooks down to an amount smaller than you need (okay, want). If you enjoy kale as much as I do there are only a couple of solutions– buy armfuls of the stuff and become practiced at removing the leaves from the stalks, or use it in a recipe where you can stretch it, instead of just sucking it down unadulterated. Unlike broccoli rabe, which Roxanne will eat but not actively seek out, kale is one of her favorites. I’ve learned to store cooked kale in a quart container that I can shove toward the back of the refrigerator where impatient teenagers won’t see it.
Some practical kale matters:
People in my classes often claim to eat kale regularly, but I wonder how they manage when I see them separating each half leaf from the stalk in meticulous little pinches, like someone opening a W-2 statement. Others slice the leaves off, which is a little more efficient, but still too slow for me. The fastest way of getting the kale show on the road is to grab the stalk at the thick end and then use the forefinger and thumb of the opposite hand to encircle the stalk like a napkin ring. Then, in a single swift show of who’s boss, shoot the ring down the stalk. The leaves tear right off. The fresher the kale, the more efficient this is. Ken prepped five bunches and drank half a beer in about ten minutes the other night. Bouncy music helps.
Try to use kale within a day or two of purchase. If your kale is older, slice off the ends of the stalks and soak the entire bunch in ice water for fifteen minutes to refresh it.
I tend to blanch smooth-skinned kale, and but don’t bother with bumpy-skinned varieties. I blanched the lacinato in this week’s recipe because I wanted the blanching water to flavor the pasta. Also, by blanching the kale before adding it to the pan with the olive oil and toasted garlic I avoided the risk of burning the garlic while waiting for the raw kale to wilt.
Kale’s a versatile impromptu ingredient. We had a chunk of salami that was begging for company in a pasta sauce, but the kale would have gone equally well with other items in our larder last Friday – shiitake mushrooms or bacon or hot red pepper flakes. I generally pick only one or two other ingredients to go with kale (garlic doesn’t count) – salami or bacon, or hrpf, not salami AND hrpf – or the flavor of the kale gets lost.