Turns out the latest wonder vegetable, kale, is a member of the humble cabbage family and while we are all struck by its goodness credentials – high fibre, more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, full of antioxidants, a natural anti-inflammatory and rich in both omega 3 and 6…phew! – not many people know what to do with it.
Kale comes in a few varieties including the regular curly kale, red russian kale and, my favourite, black tuscan kale (also known as tuscan cabbage or cavolo nero, in Italian). In simple terms, you can use it as you would cabbage or spinach but it needs a little more cooking time as it can be tough. I prefer to blanch it in boiling water first, before chopping it to saute or braise. Unlike spinach, it will not completely wilt but will retain its texture and you can choose to serve it on the crisp side so it keeps its bright green colour, much like cooking chinese broccoli, or cook it a little longer until it softens but be warned it will change to olive green. The Italians do tend to favour over-cooking their green vegetables until quite soft, but I prefer to cook them as the Chinese would a stir fry.
My recipe for Braised Cavolo Nero with Chick Peas and Anchovies makes the most of this wonder vegetable as a bright and colourful side dish or tasty vegetarian meal if you omit the anchovies, just try it with some black olives instead. You can easily substitute curly or red russian kale too. The trick to making it flavoursome is to finish it with a generous amount of a premium quality extra virgin olive oil and some shaved parmesan…green veggies never tasted so good!
- 1 bunch cavolo nero (tuscan cabbage or kale), thick stems removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek or large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red capsicum, sliced
- 400g can diced tomatoes
- 400g chick peas, rinsed and drained
- 150g anchovies, chopped
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- shaved parmesan, to taste
- Blanch cavolo nero in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and refresh under cold water and chop finely. Heat olive oil and sauté leek and garlic over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add capsicum and sauté for 5 minutes until softened. Add tomatoes, chick peas and chopped cavolo nero and simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through and cavolo nero has softened a little but retains its bright green colour. Add anchovies and extra virgin olive oil, season to taste and serve with shaved parmesan.
- • Cavolo Nero is also known as Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale or black kale. Other varieties of kale can be substituted in this recipe.
- • If you prefer the cavolo nero to be softer you can cook it for a few minutes longer but it will become olive green in colour.
- • This makes a delicious side dish when served with grilled or roasted meats but is also an excellent vegetarian main dish if you omit the anchovies (you can substitute black olives instead).