One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!
Pasta é Fagoli
adapted from My Favorite Things
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.
Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.
P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Recently my grandma told me that when she was my age the only type of salad you could get at a restaurant was a wedge of iceberg lettuce with some ranch dressing poured over it. Can you imagine? People didn’t know about any other kind of lettuce! Much less all of the delectable toppings: cheese, nuts, roasted vegetables, seasoned croutons…today the options for salads are endless! They didn’t even have different types of lettuce in the grocery store. No romaine, or green leaf, and definitely no kale.
Kale is sort of an in style vegetable. I love that foods can be in style. Like quinoa. I didn’t even know about quinoa until last year, and definitely didn’t know how to pronounce the word.
Besides it’s popularity, kale is really really healthy. Unless you’re like me and pile loads of salt, vinegar and cups full of parmesan on top, creating “kale chips”. Gosh those things are good.
This kale salad is light and packed full of flavor with the peanut dressing and some crunchy almonds on top. Makes for a delicious light lunch or as a side dish. And it wouldn’t hurt to pile on some avocado or grilled chicken, but today I’m keeping things simple.
Kale Salad with Peanut Dressing
Adapted from the Power Foods Cookbook
Serves 1 as a light lunch or 2 as side, easily multiplied
2 cups kale, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, sliced
a sprinkling of sliced almonds
2 tablespoons peanut butter-I used organic with no additives, but Jiffy is fine too
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup neutral tasting oil, such as canola
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Rinse your kale in cold water, pat dry and use a knife to chop up into bite size pieces, or just tear with your hands. Slice green onion and place in a bowl with the kale, cilantro, and sliced almonds.
Put peanut butter, soy sauce, minced garlic, canola oil, and lime juice in a small sauce pan and bring to medium heat. Stir and allow peanut butter to melt. Stir all ingredients together until smooth, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Once dressing is cool, pour over the kale salad. Place salad in the refridgerator and allow all of the flavors to meld together or if you are impatient, like me, eat immediately.
Side note: the peanut dressing will taste rather salty (although delicious) by itself, but once mixed with the kale salad, it should be perfect.