Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hale to the Kale

Willie Mae cooked for my great-grandmother, then my grandmother and, even for a short time, my mother. She was a large woman with a high-pitched booming voice and an old fashioned Southern twang. My mother grew up with her as did my brothers and me. While we loved everything about Willie Mae, we especially loved her cooking. She cooked in the old Southern tradition of stewing and slow-cooking nearly everything from baked beans to baby back ribs. Even her apple pie was more of a heavenly applesauce spread in between two layers of flaky pie crust. The only thing that didn't really work were her chocolate chip cookies since they were also cooked forever and therefore hard as rocks.

The other day, as I was trying to figure out what to do with a big bunch of kale from my CSA, Willie Mae sprang to my mind and I wondered why she'd never made kale for us. Kale is after all a big hearty Southern green used in all kinds of braises and stews. Plus, kale is full of vitamins A, K and C and it's also an amazing source of manganese, calcium and fiber.

However, if Willie Mae ever did cook kale, I imagine she prepared it the same way she did her slow-cooked green beans, which she simmered all day in a hunk of bacon. I decided to follow her lead with a couple slices of bacon, a little chicken stock and even some cannellini beans for an Italian flare. To save our hearts and my sanity, I poured out the rendered bacon fat and only simmered it for 15-20 minutes. The results have permanently turned my husband and I from wishy-washy on the kale front to actively buying it every time we see it at the market. It's that good and so easy to prepare. Baby girl loves it too, picking out the beans first, then the bacon and finally the kale. It's a great dish for picky veggie-eaters since it's soft and tastes mildly of bacon. What's not to love?

Simmered Kale with Bacon and White Beans
(If you're tired, a large bowl of this with some crusty bread would make a fine meal.)

What You'll Need:
2-3 strips of bacon cut into bite-sized pieces (go for the pasture-fed pork if you can - I got mine from my local market, but I also recommend Niman Ranch bacon)
1 large bunch of kale chopped
1-2 cups chicken stock
2 15 oz. cans of cannellini beans rinsed

Place a large pot over a medium-high heat and cook the bacon until much of the fat is rendered, but before it gets crispy. Pour off the fat and add the kale. Toss with tongs until the kale is wilted. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the beans, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

*This can be made with just about any leafy green. This past week I used a mixture of dandelion and swiss chard. And, a good friend used turnip greens in his version and chicken sausage - the possibilities are endless.

*Sorry there is no picture this week because I was super silly and deleted it!! I have kale in the fridge so stay tuned for an update to this post with a picture of the real delicious deal.

* One more thing, my title isn't a mistake. I meant it as hale as in hale and hearty kale, but used it like hail as in hail to the king. My husband insisted I post an explanation as he's a crazy meanings obsessed lawyer.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $7.00
• Leftovers – Expect 7-8 side servings and about 4 meal servings.

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