Sturdy fuel is what we need around these parts as the snow drifts get older and wind pants are a necessity for the daily commute. (In Boston, we walk everywhere.) Enter kale, a vegetable that is part spinach, part cabbage, and with enough leafy self-assurance that it could stand up on the kitchen counter by itself if you wanted it to.
But with a good knife and enough heat you can tame an unruly bunch of the green stuff into a stir fry or soup. And all your foodie friends will applaud because you are serving a dish that is fresh and seasonal even in the deep, dark winter.
So, overcoming my usual trepidation of vegetables, I grabbed a bunch of kale from the corner market and sprinted home before I could talk myself out of it. (OK, I did pause to pay.) The other reason I thought I could tackle kale is because I received my very first wok for Christmas this year (thank you, brother). I followed a recipe from one of my favorite foodblogs, 101cookbooks.com, for Asparagus Stir-Fry that includes the option of including kale. I did.
I invited my friend Rebecca over for lunch and she didn’t even bother to take off her snow pants because the smell of toasted cashews parked her right down at the table. Despite my plans, there were no leftovers, and we were well-fueled for a frosty walk through the arboretum amid the cross-country skiers.
I may not have had leftovers to pack up for lunch the next day, however, I was left with a half bunch of kale. After a bit of rummaging in the cupboard I came up with this recipe that I enjoyed over whole wheat spaghetti. And despite my best efforts, no leftovers – again!
Sautéed kale with toasted almonds
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, diced (or use 1 clove, your preference)
1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1 cup kale, chopped
1 hearty pinch of sea salt
Grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
Whole wheat spaghetti
Place the onion with the round side up so that you slice it in crescent slices. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and reduce heat, stirring occasionally while you prepare the rest of the dish. This isn’t quite carmelizing the onion, but if you cook it while you chop the garlic and kale and prepare the pasta, the lower heat/longer sautéeing time will draw out the onion’s sweetness.
Set the pasta water to boil. Chop the kale by first breaking the leaves off the center stalk. Discard the center stalks, chop the kale first lengthwise and then crosswise. Toast the almonds in your toaster oven (or use a small frying pan). Once the pasta is cooking in the boiling water, add the garlic to the onion and turn the heat up a bit. Stir constantly. After about 1 minute, add the almonds to the wok. Add the chopped kale and salt. You’ll need to turn the kale over quite a bit until it begins to soften.
When the pasta is ready, do not drain! Instead, transfer the pasta directly into the wok using tongs or a pasta spider. Let the water from the pasta drip into the wok. Stir. If the mix seems dry, add a bit more of the pasta water, the starch in the pasta water helps to make a sauce.
Serve, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, eat immediately, and laugh at the cold.