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Friday, June 21, 2013

How Do I Love Kale? Let Me Count the Ways (Day 1: Kale Lasagna)

If there is a fad, you can be bet I will miss it entirely. You know how stick-straight hair came into style in the nineties? I just figured out how to straighten mine about a year ago. My kids joke that when it comes to fads and pop culture, talking to me is like talking to a visitor from another planet. In fact, if I appear to be ahead of a trend, it is probably because I just caught onto it from thirty years ago, when it was last in style.

That said, I have been reading that Kale is a big fad right now, and the trends I do keep up on are food trends -- well, sorta, anyway.

I never grew up eating Kale. Kale is a cold-weather vegetable, and growing up in a Greek family, we mostly ate the vegetables that grow in Greece -- the vegetables that are commonly found in Greek cooking. My older brother's family is unusually health conscious, when it comes to food. My nephew told me three years ago that he loves Kale juice, which, it turns out my brother makes every Saturday morning for the family.

I am not sure I had ever heard of someone raving about Kale before that. Note: my nephew was about 9 years old at the time. Fast forward about 3 years and I am buying seeds for our garden. I think: "Kale! We should be eating that!"

So, now, my cup runneth over with Kale, and I have been busy figuring out what to do with Kale. All this cooking hasn't left me much time to post, but to make up for it, I will be posting 7 Kale recipes in 7 days!

My Philosophy of Cooking...
I am going to take a moment to tell you my philosophy about cooking, which, if you choose to embrace, will make cooking so much more enjoyable for you. Cooking should be fun ... relaxing. Beware of recipes that insist you use, for example, a certain brand of butter. Those recipes seem to me to be more about the creator and less about the food. That said, I am inclined to tell you which cheese, for example, I use, but if you don't have that cheese, use what you have or what you can find. I'm sure it will still be delicious, and then it will be your recipe! And that is all part of the fun of cooking! Don't obsess over the little things, like the brand of butter. Honestly, I don't have any friends who would be impressed if they knew what butter I was using. Do you? If something is absolutely crucial to the recipe, I will tell you, otherwise, don't feel guilty if you have to improvise or substitute ingredients.

Day 1: Kale Lasagna

This is WAY better than regular lasagna, in my opinion. Of course, I am not a huge pasta fan. It is not a big part of Greek cooking ... so there you go!

What you need:

  • Casserole pan or lasagna pan
  • 1 large head of kale
  • 1 lb. sausage
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta or pizza sauce (read the ingredients and look for things you recognize, if you don't have a favorite)

How to prepare:

  1. Butter or spray a medium-sized baking dish (if you use a large lasagna pan, just double all the ingredients).
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Prepare the kale.
    Preparing Kale ...
    All Kale pretty much needs to be prepared the same way before you can start cooking it. These same steps apply to all the recipes on this site:
    A. Wash kale well.

    B. Cut out the stems. I find the easiest way to do this is to fold the leaf in half and cut out the stem from both sides at once.

    C. Chop or tear kale into roughly 2" pieces.

  4. Bring a dutch oven or large pot with about 3" of water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil. Add kale and reduce heat to simmering. Cook for 6-10 minutes depending on how tough the kale is. I find my fresh-from the garden kale only needs 6 minutes.

  5. Strain kale in a strainer in your sink. If so inclined, save the water to drink as a tonic. The water from boiled kale is reputed to have many health benefits.
  6. If you have a salad spinner, spin the kale to remove additional moisture. If not, squeeze kale in paper towels to dry out some.

  7. Layer the kale over the bottom of your baking dish or lasagna pan.

  8. Pinch off pieces of sausage and layer them around the baking dish. If you know the variety of sausage you are buying is greasy, you probably want to brown the sausage first and drain off the fat. Then proceed with this recipe using browned sausage. For the first time this year, we bought half a hog from the meat-processing plant. If you can do this you will be amazed how much higher quality your pork is. Also, the sausage they make cooks up with no grease in the pan. Call around. You might think, we don't have any meat processing plants where I live, but I used to live in Fairfield County Connecticut, and there was a meat processing plant within half an hour, so don't assume this is not available to you!

  9. Pour about half of pasta or pizza sauce over the pan.
    Use your favorite pasta sauce. I had a jar of Sclafani Pizza Sauce (made in Stamford, CT), which worked really well. If you don't know whether a pasta sauce is "good." read the label. If all the ingredients are ones you would use, it will probably be pretty good.
  10. Layer about half of your mozzarella cheese over the pan.

  11. Repeat with kale, sausage, sauce, and remaining mozzarella cheese.
  12. Sprinkle Parmesan or Romano cheese on top.
  13. Cover and bake 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 20 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned.

Tomorrow:  Day 2: Disappearing Kale Chips

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