jump to navigation

Tuscan Kale & Beans November 18, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, food porn, random stuff.

You’ll recall that, on our last trip to the market, one of the mystery vegetables we acquired was Tuscan kale. Black kale. Cavolo nero. Dinsaur kale. I’m not sure if it’s a good sign or a bad sign when one vegetable has so many aliases. . . 🙄

However, this fall is the first time I’ve even heard of this stuff, and it seems that I can’t turn around without stumbling on another article about how “different” and “superior” Tuscan kale is – with, of course, accompanying recipes. So, you know me. Something is “different” and “superior” – well, I’ve gotta try it. (Unless it’s fish. My curiosity kind of wanes at fish. But that’s sort of a different story, isn’t it? 😉 )


So we’ve got a sizable bunch of this kale stuff, along with a pile of recipes, starting with directions for steaming. (It’s just like common kale and needs to be blanched first, for a really long time, then cooked. Unless it’s much more tender, and, therefore, one must be careful not to overcook it. 🙄 ) Um. . . great.

So we decided to go with something. . . different. I found a recipe for a dish called “Kale Farinata” – something neither of us has ever heard of, let alone tried. Good. Basically, the recipe appears to be a polenta with kale and beans. OK, we can get behind that. 😀

We made a few tiny changes to the recipe as we made it, and have further refined the recipe, so here’s my version of Tuscan Kale & Beans. I’m going to warn you right up front that this is not something you’re going to toss together after work one night – it’s a weekend project. But on the bright side, most of the time is spent either soaking beans or simmering, so it’s not like you can’t do anything else. That, and there will be a huge pot of stuff for later in the week when you’re done, too, which is definitely a good thing. 🙂

Since you have the actual directions right here, I’m just going to hit the highlights.


First, you’re going to want to soak ½ pound of dried white beans in a saucepan. I used great northern beans, but you could, I’m sure, use whatever white beans you want. Heck, you could probably use kidney beans, too, if you so desired, though I’m not sure how the finished product would look. Of course, you know about sorting and rinsing them – just like we did when we made the pea soup a couple of weeks ago. Let the beans soak overnight, and come back to them the next morning.

Add salt, rosemary, thyme, some sage, and a couple of cloves of garlic (you can leave them whole if you want – I did) and make sure the beans are well covered with water (by a couple of inches, anyway), and bring them up to a boil. Move them to the back burner and let them gently boil for a couple of hours.


Meanwhile, dice up a couple of onions (I used half red and half white), a couple of ribs of celery, a carrot, and mince a couple of cloves of garlic. In a good-sized dutch oven or other heavy stew pot, sauté in a few Tablespoons of oil, stirring occasionally, adding a bit of salt, until the veggies are nicely wilted. Just as an aside, when I’m sautéing garlic and mirepoix, I usually wilt the other veggies first, before adding the garlic. It’s way too easy to burn garlic, and who needs that? 😯

Now comes the cool part! Add this gi-normous pile of kale (cleaned and cut into ribbons) – and honestly, any kale, or even other green, would work just fine, I think. Give that a few minutes, then take a small can of tomato paste, diluted with a ladle-full of the liquid from the cooking beans – the bean broth.


You’re going to want to stir that up, then just cover it and let it cook on low for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are done. Yeah, remember the beans? 😉


Now, here’s where it gets weird. (In a good way, though.) Once the beans are done, take your ladle (or a slotted spoon, I guess), and scoop about a cup or so of the beans into the greens.

Take the rest of the beans – with the bean juice broth – and purée the whole works, until they’re the consistency of, well, puréed beans, I guess. 😕 Stir that into the kale mixture, and you’ve got a nice, warm, one-dish meal. Just stop right there, and either serve it right away with some fresh bread and a bottle of Chianti, or stick it in the fridge for a day or so, then serve it with the bread in the wine.

If it’s too thick, especially after being refrigerated, you can easily thin it with a little white wine. Serve with a sprinkle of parm and some fresh black pepper (and, of course, the bread and wine), and it’s just delightful as is. And while I do believe that this dish could be made using any kale or chard or other greens, there is a “green” flavor – more vegetal, I guess – to this variety of kale that I haven’t tasted in the common kale, nor in the various swiss chards or collard greens I’ve tried. It truly is a different flavor.


The original recipe (for farinata) directed me to add ½ cup corn meal and cook it until this turns into a polenta.

Don’t do it.

The problem is – it never does become polenta. It becomes cornmeal-gritty greens. yuck.gif

There’s just not enough liquid in the dish to get soaked into the corn meal enough to soften it. And it’s not even like there’s really much in the way of liquid that can be increased in the recipe, other than the water that I cooked the beans in. ? And there’s certainly not enough corn meal to allow it to set up the way polenta does when cooled, to be cut into pieces and browned in a sauté pan.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this dish. I thought this was a great way to highlight the contrasts among the hearty greens, the whole beans, and the mashed beans (not so much the grittiness of the corn meal, though). The kale was neither overpowered nor overpowering – the unique flavor was highlighted and accented by the relative blandness of the beans and the sweetness of the carrots peeking through.

I will say, though, that after enjoying the swiss chard and beans for most of last week’s lunches, and this kale and beans for most of this week’s, I think I’m going to pass on greens and beans for a couple of weeks.

Unless, of course, we find awesome stuff at the market this weekend. . . 😉

%d bloggers like this: