Punch, a drinks magazine, called the negroni “the kale of cocktails,” which means kale jumped the shark a long time ago. Other than its health halo, kale is great for how easy it is to prepare.
Five or so years ago, I wasn't so hip to this fact. I followed cookbooks like Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which, if memory serves me, has a recipe in which you deglaze the kale 3 times in stock to make sure it's really tender by the time you eat it. This is great, but not always necessary. Sometimes it tastes better when cooked quickly, IMO.
Hence this kale salad/side dish/light dinner option: After washing the leaves, I tear the stems out using my hands and discard them or dice them and cook them with garlic and shallots until soft. I tear the leaves into pieces. While they still have some of the water clinging to their ridges, I put the leaves in a pot with olive oil and garlic and close the lid.
Another thing that I have on hand for quick dinners is canned chickpeas. I roast them with olive oil in the oven to give them a crisp exterior, often followed with a pinch of cumin seeds or garam masala and a shake of chile flakes for spice. They’re great stirred into pasta this way, or added to salad. For the best texture, I put drained chickpeas in the oven–without any oil or spices–and then turn the oven on to preheat. This way, the surface of the chickpeas dries out a bit, allowing them to better absorb seasonings.
To serve more than two people, double or triple the quantity of kale; it cooks down significantly. If using a whole can of chickpeas, make sure the beans fit in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and add enough olive oil to ensure they don't stick.
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (approximately)
- 2 pinches dried chile flakes
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- Pinch of garam masala (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, split lengthwise
- 1 lemon, for juice and zest
Tear the stems out of the kale leaves and discard. (Or saute separately with a sliced shallot.) Tear the leaves into 2-inch or so pieces.
Put the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F. After 4 or 5 minutes (depending how fast your oven preheats), the chickpeas will have dried out some.
Drizzle the chickpeas with 2 tablespoons oil and season with a pinch of chile flakes, a pinch of salt, cumin seeds, and garam masala and give them a good stir, dislodging them from the bottom of the pan if they have started to stick. Roast until the outside begins to crisp up, 10 to 15 minutes depending on how fast the oven heats.
Meanwhile, cook the kale. In a large pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil (or more, if you like) over medium heat. Add the garlic and a pinch of chile flakes and let the garlic sweat in the oil for a moment. Add the kale and a pinch of salt, cover, lower the heat to low, and let the leaves steam and wilt, approximately 3 minutes.
Remove the lid and give the kale a stir. Let it cook, uncovered, until some of the leaves crisp up. If you'd like, you can fish out the garlic, mince it, and add it back into the pot.
To finish: stir the chickpeas into the kale. Grate some lemon zest over the surface. Slice a wedge out of the lemon and squeeze it over the top. Give everything another good stir and taste for seasoning, adding salt, lemon, or spice as desired.