Who out there has gotten hit by the first surge of winter bugs? Cold, flu, fever, random thing that saps your brain cells of any cognitive capabilities? Well, you’re not alone. I’d been teetering on the brink for a few days and this morning I finally had to admit I’m sick.
I’m not good at being sick. It doesn’t happen often. I accredit my freakishly hardy stock to eating lots of powerhouse veggies and shocking my system every morning with a freezing cold bike ride. Apparently it’s not a fool proof system.
I won’t bore you with my childish whining. Instead I’ll put forth a recipe made up of the aforementioned powerhouse veggies in hopes that we’ll all get through this winter cold season relatively unscathed. And if not, at least we’ll eat well along the way.
Bring on the dark leafy green things! In this case, kale and collard greens, which are packed from stem to leaf tip with vitamins and minerals that wallop a punch. And as an added bonus, the spicy heat in this dish will clear your stuffy nose right out!
Still in season here in the mid-Atlantic region, hardy greens can be gotten fresh at the farmers market for another few weeks. When comparing bunches to buy, just remember that smaller leaves = younger = more tender. So as tempting as it is to let our “more is better so give me the biggest bunch” instinct take over, you’ll really get more value out of the smaller greens. They cook much faster and don’t have that bitterness which turns off many people. Kale and collards also have a decent “shelf life” — they’ll hold up for two weeks or more in the fridge.
In addition to the cornucopia of vitamins from the greens in this stick-to-your-ribs ragu, the cannellini beans supply a healthy dose of magnesium, which in turn loosens up your circulatory system so more oxygen and nutrients can get around your body to fight the good fight. It’s worth stocking up on these fresh greens while you can. Tuck away extra kale and bean ragu in the freezer so you’ll be ready to combat any winter bug. After all, what sick soul wants to cook? Not I.
A note about the photography for this post: I’m sorry to deprive you of color, but I wanted to challenge myself to find beauty in the forms of the veggies and not so much in their dark green splendor. In the shot of the final dish you didn’t miss much as it wasn’t all that pretty, unless you’re into that “rustic” look.
KALE AND BEAN RAGU
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large bunch of kale and/or collards (about 4 c. chopped)
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. water
2 bay leaves
1 small pablano, finely minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 scallion, chopped
2 15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 t. dried oregano
1 T./cube of frozen basil (or fresh if in season)*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
*This was a great opportunity to use my stash of frozen basil from earlier.
Prepare kale and/or collards by washing the leaves and trimming off stems. Stack and roll leaves into a cigar and chop into thin ribbons. Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and kale/collards. Stir and cook until onions are transparent and greens wilt and reduce.
Turn heat down to medium-low and add tomatoes and water. Stir and then add garlic, bay leaves, cumin, and scallion. Simmer the mixture until the greens are soft; this could take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour, depending on how young the greens were. Greens are done when stems are very tender.
Stir in the beans and simmer until beans are heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fish out the bay leaves and serve immediately. If desired, top with some grated cheese.