before it’s too late

rice penne in a colander

It’s almost summer, and I still have kale on the brain. We’re kicking off the covers at night and sleeping with windows open to cool air and cricket songs: sure signs that it’s time to tuck winter greens into the back of the recipe box to wait out the heat of summer, but here I am still trotting out the kale recipes. As if we haven’t had the Winter of Kale. As if we weren’t already surrounded with halos of golden virtuosity, positively humming with the health benefit of daily doses of dark, leafy greens.

The truth is, my kale obsession has nothing to do with virtue and everything to do with our CSA, and the fact that months of cruciferous goodness have created quite a backlog of tried and true recipes that I can’t bear not to share. Plus, I’ve heard about the rain in Oregon, and I’m betting that my northwesterly sisters will be able to make use of it for another couple of weeks.

There is little difference between the ingredients in the boiled kale recipe and this one, but the different preparations – that one’s a braise and this one’s a saute – result in distinctly different flavors. In this recipe, the caramelized onions really come through with a nutty, buttery sweetness, which combined with the kale, have an effect that is rich and vaguely cheesy. Even without the optional parmesan, it’s surprisingly reminiscent of macaroni and cheese.

Pasta with kale and caramelized onions

I’ve found that this recipe can be made with virtually any crucifer – I’ve used cabbage, cauliflower, and even brussel sprouts before. If you want add another layer of texture, consider finishing with some toasted bread crumbs at the end: whiz a slice of bread into crumbs in the cuisinart, add a little olive oil, a bit of salt, and maybe some finely minced garlic, and pulse again for a couple of seconds. Toast the bread crumbs in a frying pan over medium heat until they are browned and crunchy.

extra virgin olive oil
2 large bunches of kale, preferably dino or lacinto
1 large yellow onion
red pepper flakes
sherry or red wine vinegar
1 12 oz bag rice penne pasta, preferably tinkyada brand
parmagiano reggiano, optional

Set a big pot of salted water to boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and give it a good stir to make sure the pasta doesn’t clump up or stick to the bottom. While the pasta is cooking, work on the onions and kale.

Halve the onion lengthwise, then slice it into thin half-moons. Using a good 4 tablespoons of olive oil, saute in a large frying pan over medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize. This could take 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently – don’t let them burn or dry out.

While the onions are cooking, prep the kale. Strip the leaves from the stems and slice thinly. Add to the caramelized onions with a good pinch or two of red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and a little more olive oil. Saute until the kale is tender, about five minutes.

When the pasta is barely al dente, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of kale and onions, tossing together with a bit of the cooking water, and letting it all saute another couple of minutes over medium heat. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper flakes, or olive oil if necessary. Pass parmesan separately at the table.

Serves four members of the team.

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