Black Kale

Photo: Carina Salvi

Like dandelion greens and zucchini blossoms, black kale (cavolo nero) is one of those old-time veggies once categorized as peasant fare and now, of course, all the rage among today’s sophisticated Italophile foodies. Like other kales, it thrives in cold weather and its bubble-wrap-like texture and slightly spicy flavor improve after the first frost, so look for it now and throughout the winter at your local Greenmarket. The young raw leaves aren’t bad strewn about a salad, but cooking until soft with plenty of garlic as in this recipe from Beppe and Maremma’s Cesare Casella is the way to go.

Cesare Casella’s Black Kale Bruschetta
1 pound black kale
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced, plus one whole clove
2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 quart vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups canned peeled tomatoes with juice
4 large slices hard-crusted, firm-crumbed Italian or French peasant bread

Illustration by John Burgoyne

Wash kale and remove any hard stems by folding leaves in half lengthwise and cutting or pulling the stem away from the leaves.
(1) Slice or tear leaves into one-inch pieces. Heat olive oil and sliced garlic in large skillet over medium heat. When the garlic turns golden brown, add the red-pepper flakes, kale, salt, and pepper, and cook for approximately 30 minutes. Add the vegetable stock or water and tomatoes with juice, and
(2) cook for approximately 15 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture is reduced. Toast the bread and rub each slice with the remaining clove of garlic.
(3) Place mixture on toast and serve as is or with a sunny-side up egg on top of each slice.

Black Kale