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Dinosaur Kale with Leeks and Peppers

Dinosaur Kale with Leeks and Peppers
  

I always try to maximize the visual appeal of food when I serve it, but this is one case where the cook gets about 90% of the visual enjoyment. Dinosaur kale -- also known as Lacinato Kale or Italian Heirloom (cavalo nero, i.e. black cabbage) -- is absolutely striking as it lies on the board waiting for prep, with its sculpted deep blue-green pebbly surface -- but once cooked would be hard for even the most experienced greens experts to identify by sight. It seems somehow wrong to cook these elegant, primitive-looking fronds and lose their spectacular appearance, though the taste and texture is definitely worth it. I know that next time I use this interesting variety I'm going to buy an extra bunch to use in my centerpiece for the table. It's also tender enough (when separated from the stalks) to be eaten raw in a salad, if you just can't bear cooking it.

zDinosaur Kale with Leeks and PeppersKale is a relative of broccoli and collards and brings with it all the health and nutrition benefits of its cousins (vitamin K, folic acid and beta carotene and other important carotenoids) but even though I'm a committed broccoli guy, kale's never been my favorite of the family. Even with a long cooking, the more familiar varieties of kale always seems to have some fibers that just don't want to yield, and its bitterness is sometimes too aggressive. The Dinosaur variety (apparently so-named due to its resemblance to the supersized pebbly skin we imagine dinosaurs to have had), on the other hand, cooks quickly to a pleasant tenderness, and with a milder version of kale's characteristic bitterness and a sweeter, nuttier taste. It's also easier to prepare, as the leaves are easily and quickly torn from the stalks  -- unlike the tedious stalk-by-stalk process of preparing the more familiar varieties by running a knife along the edge of the stalk.

Dinosaur kale is frequently paired with white beans and chicken broth in both Italian and Portugese cuisines to make a satisfying soup -- sometimes including sausage, especially in the Portugese version. I combined it with leeks and peppers (and garlic, which is almost always around when the Dinosaur is in the house) and used it very successfully as a side to a traditional Italian preparation of pork (braised in milk, subject of a future post) for a casual Sunday supper.

Dinosaur Kale with Leeks and Peppers

1 bunch Lacinato Kale
1 leek
2 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1/4 C white wine
1/2 C chicken broth or water
8 strips of roasted red pepper
salt, hot sauce to taste

Wash the kale and strip the leaves from the stalks, discarding stalks. Tear into pieces no more than about 4 or 5" long. Clean the leek and cut the white and light green parts into strips about 1/4" x 4". Peel and slice the garlic.

Simmer the leeks about 5 minutes, covered, in the olive oil and wine, until the leeks are just starting to turn tender.  Turn up the heat, add the kale and toss to coat the kale with the liquid. When the kale turns a darker shade, add the water or broth and garlic and cook, covered, about 8 more minutes. Kale should be tender but not mushy. Toss with the pepper strips and season to taste. May be prepared ahead and warmed gently for serving.

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Comments

Stephen,

That kale _is_ stunning. And I'm with you, kale is my least favorite green.

Can't wait to try this -- especially if it's less bitter than the usual. I thought my monitor had gone wacky when I first saw the color!

Funny: I DID keep some dinosaur kale in a vase for a day or so before cooking it!

And hmmm: I wonder if kales maybe vary in tenderness/flavor. I too've had a mostly off-again relationship with kale but last week cooked some with chicken and tomatoes. The kale stripped off the stalk in seconds, then was tender and DELICOUS. Maybe we're more accustomed than we realize to consistency??

What a vegetable indeed. You amaze me with your veggie selection. Always so surprising and interesting! Looks great!

Hi Stephen,

Nice photo!
Dino kale is my favorite kale. Its great in soup, mild & tender compared to other kales.

This kale is outstanding!
I grew it amid bright red miniature zinnias...Striking to say the least.
I like it shredded, sauteed in olive oil, garlic, freshyly ground pepper and a little parmesan.

I have been eating Dino Kale for years and also Purple Kale, they are the best to me, better than Broccoli. No need to bother with the rest of them! Its a shame you can't buy Purple Kale anywhere but the most saavy of healthfood stores. Raley's in northern california now carries Dino Kale. I asked them to carry the Purple Kale but they will not because no one else but me asks for it!

Kale is best fried with a little olive oil until colapse then add a little brown sugar and rice vineagar.

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