Sunday, June 10, 2012

Green Garlic Kale with Leeks

Green Garlic Kale on Plate with Fork
Greens and More Greens

Recipe by Robin

I have a love-hate relationship with green garlic. I love the novelty of the first green garlic in spring, its mellow flavor both green-ish and garlicky, and how we can slice up the whole thing without separating it into cloves. I love celebrating the green garlic season, before garlic dries into its more familiar form. My problem? Too much green garlic! During the season we get a bunch every week from our CSA, and as time goes by the bulbs get bigger, which means increasing weekly quantity.  After the usual Pasta a l’Olio, Red Pasta Sauces, and Stir Fries, I run out of green garlic ideas.

Bunch of Green Garlic of Different Sizes
Green Garlic Varies in Size
Enter young kale, lots of it, from our CSA at this time of year. Kale is the perfect foil for green garlic, strong enough in flavor and texture to stand up to the garlic, but not so strong that it overpowers. Young kale with young garlic is the quintessential springtime combination. Next month we won’t have them.

Since green garlic bunches come in all different sizes, I’ve measured it sliced. This was a medium size bunch of 5 stems, but your stem-count might be different. To use green garlic, chop off any yellow parts on the end of the stem, or peel the yellowed layer off the garlic. Cut off the roots and start slicing from that end. Use as much of the tender green parts as you like. As soon as the garlic stem gets hard to cut, peel off the outer layer and discard it. Continue to slice garlic again until it gets tough, peel and discard the outer layer, etc.

Kale, green Garlic, and Leeks in Saute Pan
Final Step: Combine the Parts
One key to cooking green garlic is not to overcook it. Unlike its mature counterpart, it tastes bitter and flat if even slightly browned--more like browning chives than yellow onions. Finessing this can be tricky, since this recipe calls for cooking the kale at roughly the same time as the garlic. Give the garlic a good stir and take it off the heat if you need to drain the kale, or get someone else to stir the garlic while you drain.

My recipe uses one bunch each of red Russian kale and Lacinato (AKA Tuscan or dinosaur) kale because I had both on hand. It’s a pleasing combination. You could substitute two bunches of either kind, or any other kale. Adjust cooking time accordingly: red Russian is tougher than dino, so needs to cook a few minutes more. If you’re not sure how long to cook your kale, taste it after boiling for 5 minutes, then every couple of minutes till its done to your liking.

Plate of Green Garlic Kale
Green Garlic Kale, Simple & Delish
Green Garlic Kale
serves 4

½ cup thinly sliced green garlic
1 cup thinly sliced leek
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tbsp. salt
1 bunch young Red Russian kale
1 bunch young Dino kale

Strip kale leaves from their stems by holding stem in one hand and zzzzzippping them off with the index finger and thumb of the other hand. You will have about 8 cups total of packed kale leaves.

Bring 3 – 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot. Add salt, which should be enough to make the water quite salty, which seasons the kale.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add leeks and stir frequently, sautéing about 3 minutes till they start to get limp. Lower heat to medium and add garlic, stirring around to prevent browning. Sauté another 4 minutes and remove from heat.

When water boils, add salt and Red Russian kale. Simmer for about 2 minutes, pushing kale under water if it floats to the top. Add the Lacinato kale. Simmer about 4 minutes, kale is tender but not mushy.

Drain kale and remove to cutting board, pressing out water with the back of a wooden spoon. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop into medium-large pieces. Drain off any excess water from cutting board.

Reheat garlic and leeks over medium high heat, stirring constantly about 2 minutes. Add drained, chopped kale. Stir olive oil, leeks, and garlic are evenly distributed throughout kale, and till heated through.

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