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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kale and Cannellini Beans, Two Ways: A Love Story

It's August in Anchorage, which means one thing:  rain, rain, and well, more rain.

The rain took a very brief hiatus on Sunday, just long enough for me to do the half-marathon with my training partner, Paul.  We had a personal best time, the sun was shining and everyone felt a little bit better about living in Alaska in August.  Until yesterday, that is, when the clouds and rain moved back in.

On the plus side, there's nothing like an Alaskan August to get you thinking about fall foods, including serious dark leafy greens.  I've already posted photos of the kale and white bean bruschetta from last Friday, but the classic Italian combination of cannellini beans and Tuscan kale is also fantastic as a side dish.  I even made a sandwich with a piece of fresh baguette from my favorite artisanal baker, leftover salsa verde (recipe here) and some fantastic parmesan.  It sounds strange, but trust me, it was crunchy, chewy and somehow soul-satsifying.

Basically, this is a dish that can turn into a soup, a side dish and an appetizer.  If you used canned white beans, you can skip the first step.

Tuscan Kale and Cannellini Beans
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010

1.5 cups dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
4 cups Tuscan kale, stems removed
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper to taste

Put beans in a large pot and cover them with cold water, bringing the water to at least three inches over the beans.  Bring the pot to a boil and let it boil briefly, about a minute.  Remove the pot from the heat, put a lid on it and let the contents sit for an hour.  Then, drain the beans, return them to the pot and add an additional eight cups of water, along with the onion, garlic and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy.  This should take approximately an hour to an hour and a half. 

While the beans are cooking, destem and roughly chop the kale.  When the beans are ready, add salt and kale and cook for an additional four minutes.

Drain the pot and transfer the beans and kale to a large serving dish, and the boiling liquid can be kept if desired to add to stock.  Add the oil, lemon juice and red pepper--I used tiny dried Italian peppers labeled peporoncini, and I would start with one and add another if I wanted more spice.  Gently combine the ingredients and add additional salt if necessary.

Serves up to 12 as a side dish, but I recommend setting aside some for the bruschetta:

White Bean Bruschetta with Kale
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010

1/2 good-quality baguette, cut into 1/2 thick slices
1 garlic clove, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 cups of the kale and cannellini mixture from the above recipe

Cut the baguette--I prefer diagonal slices, which also has the advantage of leaving the ends to snack on while cooking.  Rub the bread slices with the cut side of one of the garlic clove halves.  Brush the bread with the olive oil and toast under the broiler until just golden.

Top with the kale and cannellini mixture and serve.  Makes twelve appetizers.

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