Can I get a Kale Yeah?!!
Do you make a funny face and roll your eyes when you hear the word kale? Do you have it in the category of “something healthy I’m supposed to eat but don’t really enjoy and don’t know how to cook it”? I understand. The majority of kale you see in a grocery store is Curly and, I admit, it doesn’t look yummy. But at the farmers market we get to see gorgeous varieties like Lacinato (also known as Tuscan) and Red Russian. These varieties are so pretty, they deserve an oil portrait by Matisse. Lacinato has a deep green color and the leaves bubble up a little in between the veining on the top side. Red Russian leaves are somewhat flat and the stems have that gorgeous purply red color that no doubt inspired its name. Again, both varieties are strikingly beautiful.
Kale is part of the cruciferous family, along with broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, and bok choy. While it is at its most nutritious when raw, its thick leaves and strong flavor don’t help its case for appeal or friendliness. The two things you can do, in my opinion, to get this super nutritious green in, is first, cut it very thin or small - in a chiffonade cut, for example, which is the ribbon cut. Remember to remove the “rib” or stem first by folding the leaf in half then slicing or ripping out the rib. If you stack the leaves on top of each other and then slice across widthwise, you’ll get a nice “ribbon” of kale or chiffonade cut. You can leave the ribbons in place and cut them across to dice the kale into even smaller pieces.
The second thing to do is saute kale to address the texture issue and pair it with something that can overplay that intense green flavor, such as: vinegar, mustard, spices, bacon or sausage. Hey, you need protein. Kale is one of those vegetables I like to sneak into soup or pasta dishes so I can get the vitamins but not notice.
This week I thought I’d share another Oktoberfest style recipe - Sausage, Kale & Mushroom Pasta. I’ve made this dish with spaetzle for a chef demo I did at the Doylestown Farmers Market Oktoberfest event before the pandemic. It works just as well with gemelli or penne pasta. Gemelli best replicates the shape of the spatzle, however. Hopefully you have some Oktoberfest sausages on hand. If not, your next favorite German style sausage will do. The sausage, kale, mushrooms, onion and garlic, along with some pasta water form the sauce for the pasta. This is a nice, hearty dish for the cool weather that should be coming along any day now. Prost!
Sausage, Kale & Mushroom Pasta
Recipe by Chef Kelly Unger
4 sausages of your choice, cut into small bite sized pieces
1 small bunch of Red Russian Kale, chiffonade
8-10 ozs mushrooms like cremini, portobello or other meaty variety available, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1lb pasta such as gemelli or penne
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Optional - ½ bunch of parsley, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil to cook the pasta. While the water is getting hot, saute the onion and sausages in olive oil in a large saute pan. Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and saute until nicely browned and sausages are cooked. Add the kale and garlic, a little more olive oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the kale just wilts. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cover.
Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until al dente. Once the pasta water becomes cloudy, just before the pasta is cooked, remove 1 cup and add to the saute pan. Stir to incorporate. Drain the pasta, leaving about ½ cup of water in the pot and add to the sausage mixture. Turn the heat up to medium/low, stir all the ingredients together with a large spoon, folding the pasta into the sauce. Add the fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add parsley if using. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Note: you can grill the sausages, let them rest for 10 minutes, slice and add to the saute pan with the kale and garlic.