They call it dinosaur kale because the leaves are as dark green and bumpy as we imagine the skin of those giant reptiles to have been. It looks antediluvian. In our garden it's not nearly as delicate and fine-looking as the red Russian kale planted next to it. I've never grown black Tuscan kale before this season, and I've never cooked it before.
As far as the red Russian kale goes, it has been good lightly blanched in boiling water and then sautéed in olive oil with onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. The black Tuscan kale leaves were just too tough for that kind of quick cooking. I decided to cook them the way I cook mature collard greens — long and slow.
So I sautéed some smoked pork belly (lardons
) in a big pot. I carefully trimmed and then washed the dinosaur kale leaves in several changes of water to be sure there was no sand on them, and to get rid of any lurking bugs, caterpillars, or slugs. Not that slugs are a problem right now — the weather has been too dry for them except in the woods, or along the damp and dewy edges of the woods.
Salt, black pepper, and hot red pepper flakes were the only seasonings I used, along with the bacon and bacon fat and some white wine. The greens wilted down as they steamed in the pot, and then I let them cook for a long time — hours — tasting them from time to time and adding more water as needed so they wouldn't dry out or scorch.
I did all that on Sunday, and I wasn't particularly impressed with the result. The greens still seemed tough to me. Too crunchy. Fibrous. So I did an experiment. Yesterday morning I took a portion of the cooked greens out of the dish I had stored them in overnight, in the refrigerator, and put them in the freezer for three hours. People say greens are sweeter and nicer after a freeze or a frost.
Maybe freezing them and then thawing and reheating them at lunchtime would tenderize them. I think it worked. We ate that batch of frozen-and-thawed greens at lunch with some Louisiana-style red beans and rice and a grilled duck breast. The dinosaur kale was pretty good.
Maybe the kale leaves are tough because we've had dry and warm weather for a month or more now, and a lot of bright sunshine. It's even been hot some days. Maybe dinosaur kale will be better in October and November — and beyond — when the plants have enjoyed some cooler weather, more rain, and even some frost.
You need to de-rib the Black Tuscan... or, with plants as numerous as yours, leave the bottom rings of leaves to feed the plants and pick leaves that are around six inches long.ReplyDelete
We do the latter early in the season...the former with big leaves.
When...WHEN...we get enough leaves on our poor, sorry little plants...
I will try the above, it sounds nice!
The Dinos will overwinter well...as will the Commies...
and the flower shoots in spring are to die for!!
In the southern U.S. greens are almost always cooked with pork, usually bacon, and some bacon grease. I often substitute duck fat. And of course I add white wine, which is certainly not traditional in the U.S.Delete
Do you use beer much in cooking, Stateside?Delete
Given the German influence that is....
No not much cooking with beer as far as I know. Or wine either, really.Delete
There's a saying about some veggies in Dutch: "daar moet eerst de nachtvorst overheen": "it needs a night frost first", so you might be right with your experiment, Ken!ReplyDelete
We put the rest of that dino' kale in the freezer today. I'm pretty sure it will be better when we take it back out in a few weeks or months.Delete
i've been growing dino kale also! i like the tender small leaves in salad. and you are just right - should be better after the frost.ReplyDelete
Wow, who knew all that about cooking kale!ReplyDelete
Ditto to what Judith saidReplyDelete
One thing that breaks down the fibers in Tuscan kale is to rub the cut up kale briskly between the palms of your hands. I thought this was only for eating it raw in salads, but a fellow gardener says she does this even if she's cooking it. You might give this a try if you don't want to take the time to freeze it.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Carol, I'll try that. So far I'm more favorably impressed by the Siberian (Red Russian) kale than by the dinosaur/lacinato/Tuscan stuff. People sometimes put their collard greens, raw, into the freezer for an hour or so before cooking them. Supposedly that sweetens and tenderizes them.Delete
I always de-rib, and we only eat the youngish leaves. In our experience, the big, tough leaves never taste very good no matter how I cook them, so we leave them to the mulch pile. It will be interesting to hear how yours come out after they freeze.ReplyDelete
I didn't de-rib these leaves, because I figured they needed to cook for a long time and the ribs would be cooked too. They were. The ones I froze for just three hours weren't bad. Then I put two containers of the cooked greens in the freezer for a longer stay. We'll see...Delete
Ken, if I may be so bold as to use your first name, One of the things I do with Tuscan Kale is make drink nibbles. Chop the kale and toss wit olive oil, salt, and pepper (or red pepper flakes if you want it a bit spicier). Lay on a rack over a baking sheet IN ONE LAYER, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Put into a 250 degree oven and bake for about 1/2 hour or so, I start checking after 15 minutes. The kale will crisp up and is really yummy with prosecco.ReplyDelete
Thanks, I'll have to try making chips. Next time we have people over for apéros, I think.Delete
Hi Ken, we enjoy your blog very much. As regards Tuscan Kale - cook it like the Itlaians. Derib and wash. Then blanch in boiling salted water for seven minutes . Drain and dry on tea towel. Then saute in a shallow pan with garlic and fennel seeds for anither seven minutes. Delicious and definitely not fibrous. Best wishes Venetia.ReplyDelete
That's the way I've cooked some of my Red Russian Kale this year, and Curly Kale in past years: blanching and sautéing. You can vary the spices. I'll try it with the next batch of Lacinato Kale that I harvest. Thanks for the comment.Delete
Maybe you saw this post about cooking Siberian kale. I also like to cook chard (Fr. blettes) by sautéing it with spices and seasonings, and you don't even need to blanch it first.Delete