Cooking from the Farms: Cider Hill’s Curly Kale

Posted on July 10, 2010

I’ve written kale in the title but this is really a tale of two vegetables.

A tale of escarole and kale, similar (both robust in texture and bitter in taste, both excellent additions to salads and soups) and yet different (an endive versus a cabbage, a crunchy leaf versus a meaty leaf).

A tale of their meet up with a home cook who has to please four palates.  Who can’t decide what to prepare or how best to prepare either ingredient.  Who knows she must use her CSA vegetables before they suffer a terrible fate (i.e., spoilage).

The hands of the kitchen’s clock sweep its face.  Hour pass, hours of many thoughts and much indecision, valuable hours of vegetable freshness.  The ticking of the minute hand seems to mock the cook’s many ideas and her failure to act on any one of them.

You see, kale reminds her of winter, sprouting as it does long into the cold of fall.  It reminds her of hearty stews made with the dark leafy green and sausages and floury potatoes.  While escarole conjures up summer, its early appearance in a backyard garden, the scarole of lighter warm weather soups and a hot day’s salad.

But they also remind her of each other, how they both require a parboil and favor a braise when cooked.

Most confounding of all is she knows if she chooses to cook one vegetable instead of the other, some persnickety diner seated at her table will pine for the other, the exact one left in the vegetable bin for another day.  No matter which leafy green she chooses to serve, someone will leave the dinner table disappointed and vegetable-less.

Whatever is a cook to do?

She might make Seafood with Two Greens Braised and Served in the Roman Style.

I did.  I made both greens, and I made them both by braising them and serving them with a Roman-style sauce using orange, currants, and pine nuts.  Why both?

  1. With the vegetables prepared the same way, I can compare and decide which is most successful, and which family members like best.
  2. If someone doesn’t like the taste of one green, they are bound to like the other.
  3. A big head of greens tends to cook down, way down, to less than you imagined.  Making two heads gives me enough dinner vegetables.
  4. I’m using things up that need to be used up before they go bad.
  5. Something within compels me to do this much cooking and experimenting.

You may have noticed.

When you read the recipe, you’ll also notice I have used two different seafoods, scallops and swordfish.  Two of us like the shellfish, two of us don’t.  This is also a tale of two seafoods, of cooking to test out ideas, and of cooking to please many tastes.

Cooking like this is the story of my life.  Lucky for me it’s a story I like being part of.

Scallops or Swordfish with Braised Greens in a Currant and Pine Nut Sauce

Pick any one of your week’s sturdy leafy greens for this recipe – escarole, kale, rapini, even chard.  The accompanying sauce, its assertive sweet-tart profile, will enhance a sturdy and bitter green. The sauce won’t get lost in the mix.  Served alone, vegetable and sauce make an unusual but delicious side dish.

If you don’t care for one of the two seafoods used here, try serving the greens with a crispy-skinned chicken breast, pan-roasted on the bone.  A gamier duck breast would also work, would transform the dish from bright and summery to rich, something for a colder, darker night.

While you may parcook the vegetable in salted water, I like using stock as the cooking liquid.  Stock adds another layer of flavor to the finished dish.  Of course, you’ll be left at the end of cooking with a substantial amount of the stock, but don’t think of throwing this away.

Instead, let it cool, put it in an airtight storage container and stick it in the freezer.  Infused as it is with the garlic and greens, the stock can be added at a later date to a pot of homemade minestrone-style soup.

For the greens:

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 head broad leaf escarole, washed and cut in 2-inch wide ribbons

or

1 head curly kale, washed, ribs removed, cut into 1-inch wide ribbons

For escarole:  Add stock and garlic cloves to a saucepan and bring liquid to a boil.  When the liquid is boiling, add the escarole and simmer for two minutes until it is wilted.  Remove to a strainer with a slotted spoon and drain.

For kale:  Add stock and garlic cloves to a saucepan and bring liquid to a boil.  When the liquid is boiling, add the kale and simmer until it is tender.  The kale will need about 8 minutes to become tender.  Remove to a strainer with a slotted spoon and drain.

Reserve the cooking broth for assembly.

After the greens have drained, heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet  and add the greens to the skillet.  Cook the vegetables over medium low heat until soft.  Add a spoonful of the reserved broth if necessary.  When done, keep the skillet over a low flame.

For the currant sauce:

1/2 cup currants

3/4 cup broth from cooking the vegetables

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 generous Tbsp. orange marmalade

1/4 cup pine nuts

Add the currants, broth, and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let boil one minute then remove from heat.  Stir in the marmalade and let sit while you finish braising the greens and cook the fish.  This will  soften the fruit.

After softening, strain the liquid from the fruit into a saucepan, reserving the currants in a separate bowl.  Put the heat under the saucepan and reduce the liquid by half.  When reduced, add the currants back to the liquid and then stir in the pine nuts.

For the seafood:

Enough sea scallops (or swordfish) to feed 2-4 people (8 – 16 scallops, or 3/4 – 1 1/4 pounds of fish)

Salt and pepper the seafood.  Heat a small amount of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat and, when hot, sear the seafood (no more than 2 minutes on each side for scallops, and about 4 minutes per side for swordfish that is up to 1-inch thick).  Remove to a plate and begin assembling your dinner.

To assemble the plates:

Divide the vegetables between plates, spoon a couple of tablespoons of currant-pine nut sauce over the top.  Top the vegetables with fish and drizzle a little more of the sauce over that.

©2010  Jane Ward