Happy Spring!

Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

Spring has sprung! Make a meal this week with market vegetables that is quick and easy and leaves you plenty of time to play outside.

Last week at market I was drawn to Lacinato kale. Known to Italians as cavalo nero, or black cabbage, Lacinato kale is a deep, dark green with dimpled leaves. It’s known by quite a few other names such as Tuscan kale, Italian kale, or palm tree kale - the latter because harvesting the outside leaves can lead to the plant looking like a palm tree. Dinosaur kale is another name that I thought that was just a marketing ploy. Apparently some people imagine that the leaves look like dinosaur skin. It might help some dinosaur-crazy kids want to eat it!

Despite the name cavalo nero, kale is not cabbage. At least it doesn’t form the tight head we associate with round cabbages. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds describes it as “loose-leafed cabbage,” and Victory Seeds as “a primitive, open variety of kale.” Which is it, cabbage or kale? Well, cabbage and kale both fall under the species Brassica oleracea, as do many of the vegetables we commonly associate with the genus Brassica, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and many others. I was left wondering which brassicas are not oleracea. A least a few well-known ones are not: turnips, mustards, rapini, and Chinese cabbage.

Whichever species of Brassica you eat, they are highly nutritious. Members of the Brassica family are high in vitamin C, soluble fiber, and cancer-fighting compounds. Although eating them raw is one way to preserve the nutrients, Brassica crops retain many vitamins during the cooking process.

Sometimes it’s hard to find a vegetarian recipe that our whole family will enjoy. Especially one that’s not complicated. Beans are a great start to a vegetarian main dish but can be pretty bland. Sometimes when we serve them it’s in a dish with a lot of ingredients, but this one is pretty simple. Olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper help make the beans and kale into a tasty dish without a lot of effort.

To round out our meal I served a crusty Bread and Butter baguette. As a gluten-free alternative I also made a quick cheese grits casserole. My grits casserole is really more like polenta, making this an all-around Italian meal.

Garlicky White Beans with Kale

Adapted slightly from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

Serves 4 as a Main Course

1 ½ pounds kale
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
⅔ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

  2. Wash the kale in several changes of cold water, stripping off the leafy green portion from both sides of the tough central vein. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water, then kale stems. When the water returns to a boil add the kale leaves and boil for 7 minutes. Drain well. Keeping leaves and stems separate, chop them when cool.

  3. Heat the oil, stems, and garlic in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the garlic is golden (this will take about 2 minutes), add the kale leaves and cook, tossing well, until heated through and evenly flavored with the garlic, 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Add the beans and stock and simmer just until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.

    Printable recipe here