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CSA Week 8: More Kale?

July 23, 2010

Let’s face it.  Kale is not the most glamorous vegetable.  I don’t see it on fancy menus very often.  But it is good for you, and, judging by its prolific presence in CSA shares, grows quickly.  Of all of the CSA challenges, I find kale the hardest.  Clearly, it is not to be tackled raw.  Evey sauteed, it remains tough.  I find that steaming it into submission is the only way to break it down enough (also saving a lot of its nutrients).  However, what do you do once you have a giant pile of steamed kale?  My solution was macaroni and cheese- perhaps the best vehicle to convince people to each a lot of vegetables.  And I really pack in a lot of vegetables!  I rationalized that this might not be the most amazing mac and cheese I’ve ever made, but it would likely be the best kale dish.

Remove the ribs from the kale, and then finely chop before steaming

I steamed 1 bunch of kale (maybe 15-20 leaves) as well as 5 small stems of broccoli (including the sliced stem).  I have also made this with 3 bunches of kale.  Whatever vegetables you have around will work.   Steam in batches based on the size of your pot/steamer.  I use a saucepan with a folding metal steamer (which I picked up at Goodwill- they show up there with some frequency).  As batches finish, place them in a colander to drain.

Keep those vegetables coming!

While things are steaming, start your cheese sauce and pasta.  I cooked 12 oz. of Trader Joe’s organic pasta as per package directions.  You could cook a full 16 oz. of pasta if you wanted the vegetables to be less dominant.  The sauce, which coats all of the veggies, is the key to successful veggie incorporation.  Start with 2 tbsp. of butter or olive oil (or a combination of both) over medium heat in a pan large enough to fix the sauce, vegetables and pasta, and add 2 diced onions.  When the onions are almost translucent, add the cheap white wine.  You can skip this if you don’t have any around.  Cook down until the alcohol has cooked off (a few minutes).  Add 3-4 tbsps. flour and quickly mix into a paste with a whisk.  Once all of the flour is saturated, slowly begin to add the milk to the mixture until you’ve got a smooth sauce.  From here, reduce the heat to low, and add the cheddar cheese and about half of the American cheese.

Cheese sauce, waiting to cover kale & friends!

Once the cheese is melted, it is mixing time!  Add the drained vegetables and mix to coat with the cheese sauce.  Add drained pasta and carefully mix (at the point my pan was almost overflowing).  Put the remaining cheese on top.

Assembled dish, awaiting the broiler...

You can top with breadcrumbs at this point also.  I often just pop some stale bread or bread I have stashed in the freezer in a food processor for a bit to make some breadcrumbs.  Pop in the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.  Allow to cool for a bit before digging in.

Mmmm...melted cheese...

Ingredient List:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 5 small stalks broccholi
  • 12-16 oz pasta
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1/2 white wine (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp. white flour
  • 1 1/2 c. low-fat milk
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. American cheese (I used low-fat)
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)
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