I was slow to the kale craze, but then again it took years for me to get a smartphone. Once I figured out how to use the curly tough stuff, I was smitten. Now I know how to massage raw kale with lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt for a great salad, and I can even throw some into a smoothie with cocoa powder, frozen bananas, and almond milk.
It makes sense that I’d love pairing kale with another staple at my house — beans. We eat a lot of legumes — beans and rice, beans and sausage with spinach, chili with black beans, black bean salad, curried chickpeas, chickpeas with feta and cucumber, cannellini bean salad with tuna, and those are just the dishes that I can remember off the top of my head.
My favorite way to eat kale is in this adapted recipe I first saw on one of those cooking channels: White Beans and Kale. I’ve been meaning to share this one ever since I brought some leftovers to work to share with Brittany Bowker, who works with me on the Calendar section (and whom next week I will gratefully welcome home from her winter work station in Bali). She loved the dish. The best part is that this recipe is one of the easiest things I put together after work; it takes about 10 minutes of prep time and maybe 30 minutes of cooking, but you can do some of the preparation while you’re in the cooking process. If you have your act together really well, you might chop everything the morning before.
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large bunch kale, leaves stripped from the hard stem and chopped
4 15-ounce cans cannellini beans
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
shredded Parmesan for topping
(Serves four at my house, but we’re big eaters.)
Use a deep fry pan or a soup pot, and start by putting the olive oil in and warming it up, then add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until the onions start to get translucent, then add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Toss in the chopped kale (it will seem like a lot of kale, but it will break down). Turn the heat down to medium low and squeeze the lemon over the kale, sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and the red pepper flakes over it and stir to mix all the ingredients together.
Put a lid on the pot and let the kale cook until tender. Note: You don’t want the kale to burn, though, so I usually add about ¼ cup water at this point and watch it, stirring every once in a while for about 10 minutes. Add the cannellini beans, draining three of the cans of beans before adding, leaving the liquid in one of them. Fold the beans in until everything is mixed well, put the lid back on and turn heat to low, simmer about 20 minutes. Serve in either a bowl or a plate, with a handful of shredded Parmesan on top.