Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dinosaur Kale, and the girl who loves it

Wandering through the humid jungle, wearing a loin cloth and a bra made of palm fronds, I stumbled upon a pile of nubby, dark green leaves. I rested my spear against the trunk of a nearby tree, hung my sack of fruit on the closest vine, and inspected the bumpy leaves. I had never seen such a leaf, but I was bound and determined to have some :

OK fine. I was actually wearing jeans and a t-shirt that said "club sandwiches not seals." And, I wasn't in the humid jungle, I was in Studio City, CA at my local farmer's market. However, the part about carrying a bag of fruit, ruining across an intriguing pile of nubby leaves, and then lusting after those leaves is totally true.

I had seen these before, in one of my favorite
blogs, but hadn't ever found them myself for sale. I love greens in all forms and these, boy oh boy, these greens have become a front runner.

Dinosaur Kale is also known as Cavolo Nero, Black Cabbage, Tuscan Kale, and Lacinato. It is beautiful raw, gorgeous cooked, and delicious, period. Dinosaur Kale retains its texture better than traditional kale and tastes sweeter, all while maintaining the traditional earthiness that all greens naturally posess. I am falling for it, and fast.

The first batch that I bought I simply cooked in a bit of chicken broth with a shake of vinegar and a few drops of hot sauce -- it was divine. This time, however, I opted for something a little bit more complicated. As I've mentioned before, my mother is from the South. Therefore, I grew up learning to love (and cook) blackeyed peas, grits, biscuits, greens, and the like. I have always particularly adored blackeyed peas; I could eat them every day and be happy.

I decided that I should combine the deliciousness of the Dinosaur Kale with some of my Southern cooking roots. This dish of Beans and Greens was created. Of course, I can't really claim this concept as my own -- beans cooked with greens is a classic combination, I can't even begin to list the variations on this theme. But this one, with my own little tweaks, I do claim. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Beans and Greens
--serves 4-6


--4 cups total of broth (I used a combination of smoked turkey broth* and chicken broth)
--1 large onion, roughly chopped
--1 cup shredded smoked turkey (diced ham could be substituted, as could baked tofu)
--3 to 4 cans blackeyed peas (or 1.5 cups dried blackeyed peas, soaked in water overnight, and boiled for an hour)
--3 bunches Dinosaur Kale, stems removed, washed, and the leaves sliced into large pieces (if you can't find any, substitute another kind of kale, or any other kind of greens -- turnip, beet, spinach, swiss chard, etc.)
--hot sauce to taste ( I prefer the green Tabasco sauce)
--white vinegar to taste (at least a splash -- a touch of sour is important)
--(or you could use a few shakes of the vinegar used to marinate hot peppers like my mother does)


1) bring broth to a boil
2) add remaining ingredients
3) simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour or more to allow the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally and keep the lid partially on. If the beans and greens dry out too much, add more broth or water. You want this dish to be a little soupy
4) taste, adjust seasonings, and serve

To Serve:

Ladle into a bowl, offer hunks of bread (I like sourdough), and pass the hot sauce.


I discovered that the more hot sauce I added the better this was. When I got it just to the point that it was almost too spicy hot to eat, it was perfect. Something about adding lots of heat to a dish full of smokey broth, nutty blackeyed peas, toothsome bits of turkey, and tender kale just made the entire combination irresistible.

*Smoked Turkey Broth:

(see previous post for picture)

The night before you need the broth, boil a few smoked turkey legs/wings in enough water to cover the pieces with an inch of water. Boil for hours. I mean it -- hours. When the liquid level reduces down, add more water. Boil the hell out of the legs/wings. When you are satisfied that every last drop of flavor and nutrition has been extracted, strain the liquid, let it cool, and put it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use it, just remember to skim the hardened fat off the top.

Take the skin off the meat, discard the skin (unless you love skin, I don't), and shred the meat for later use.

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