Doesn’t this curly kale look beautiful? If only we judged vegetables by their looks sometimes. Not that I would’ve been up for eating this a few years ago, no matter how pretty it is. But now I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the greens. Black kale (cavolo nero) has definitely been in my top five vegetables for a few years now. What, you don’t have a top five vegetables list? Oh well, maybe one day there will be more of us in the vegetable geek club. In the meantime, here are some of the recipes that made me change my mind about greens..
- Spinach fritters: This is the top recipe for any spinach-hater. I don’t normally like recipes that disguise the vegetables involved but you get to eat these with any dip you like and I heart dips. Mmmm condiments. (another sneaky way to use up spinach is in pesto – with a bit of basil, walnuts and Parmesan – delicious and healthy!)
- Swiss chard gratin: This recipe helped turn me from a Swiss chard-hater into a bit of a fan. The leaves just melt in your mouth and the breadcrumb topping adds just the right amount of texture. She uses vegan bechamel but a regular white sauce works fine too. Or try this kale and potato gratin if you’re not quite ready for a dish with only greens in it…
- Red lentils with cabbage or greens: Another simple but effective dish from the queen of curries, Madhur Jaffrey. Just substitute a bunch of greens for the suggested cabbage to make this yummy dhal. It is super easy and yet tastes so authentic and somehow quite comforting too… Or use spinach and other greens in sag aloo, sag paneer or just about any other curry dish.
- Sauteed kale: Cavolo nero (black kale) is my absolute favourite for this simple dish because it has such an amazing deep flavour (really I promise!), but any greens will work. Just saute in a bit of butter and oil with garlic, chilli flakes and rosemary until soft (you may need a bit of stock to soften the kale if using). As an America I might even add some raisins at the end but I know many Brits don’t enjoy that sweet-and-savoury combo – their loss! I also hear you can bake leaves of kale in the oven to make them crispy – still need to try this one but bet it’s yum. Crisps (aka chips) are awesome, kale is awesome, combine the two and it can only be extra-awesome, no?
- Greens with cream and cheese: As you may have gathered, greens go well with cream and cheese! You could use some in a macaroni cheese or a simple pasta sauce made with onions, garlic, white wine and cream (creme fraiche also works well here). Spinach and feta pie is another classic – either with filo pastry or regular shortcrust (I’ve made it with some grated halloumi added in too. Obviously amazing.) Or add some mushrooms to the mix and make a ‘white lasagne’ – recipe below!
White lasagne with kale and mushrooms
- One package dried lasagne sheets (green ones would be extra tasty here)
For the filling:
- One medium bunch of kale (or substitute spinach, chard, or other seasonal greens)
- 2-3 cups chopped mushrooms (ideally including some dried mushrooms that have been rehydrated, keep the soaking water for use in the sauce)
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- A splash of white wine or sherry (optional, you can also substitute a bit of stock)
- Zest of one lemon
- One tub (250g) of ricotta cheese (two would make it even creamier, but one works fine, up to you!)
- One bunch of parsley, finely chopped
For the sauce:
- 700ml milk (or 500ml milk and 200ml of liquid from soaking the dried mushrooms)
- 50g butter
- 2-3 tbsp flour
- Spices: 2 bay leaves, a dash of grated nutmeg and cayenne/chilli powder, fresh black pepper and sea salt
- 50g parmesan cheese, grated
- 100g gruyere cheese, grated (for the top of the lasagne)
- Preheat your oven to 190C / 375F degrees. Put your dried mushrooms in boiling water to soak if using.
- First saute the onion, garlic and fresh mushrooms in a bit of oil and butter over medium heat. If using Swiss chard, separate and chop the stems and add these too.
- Once the mushrooms have released their water and started to soften up, add the kale (or other leafy greens). Kale in particular softens up best with a bit of moisture so add a splash of wine or stock if you can – spinach and chard don’t need the extra liquid so much. You can also add your rehydrated mushrooms at this point if using but reserve the soaking water for the sauce.
- Once the greens have wilted, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and chopped parsley, then the ricotta. Season to taste and put aside.
- Meanwhile, make the white sauce by melting the butter in a medium pot and adding the flour. Stir for a minute or two to remove the floury taste and make a roux.
- Add your milk (and mushroom soaking liquid if using) and spices. Ideally the milk should be warm – I often microwave it for a minute or two with the spices infusing in it. But even if you add it cold it will work ok, it just takes longer. Heat through for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated parmesan.
- Assemble your lasagne – start with a layer of sauce, then add noodles, then a bit more sauce then some filling. Then more noodles, some sauce and some filling and another layer of noodles topped with sauce. Finish by covering with the grated Gruyere.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until nicely browned on top.
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