Monthly Archives: February 2012

Recipes from the Garden: Pasta with Kale Sauce

We planted kale in our garden with no clear culinary objectives.  It found its place in our garden primarily due to the fact that it seemed relatively easy to grow and could potentially withstand the winter.

This gorgeous plant, with its deeply veined, dark green leaves elegantly curving in some misshapen yet entirely perfect way, has proven itself as a staple in out winter kitchen again and again.  We have all fallen in love with kale and are thrilled to discover that there even exists a perennial variety of kale which will take root in our garden permanently, if all goes according to plan.

Kale has surprised us in many ways, but above all we have been amazed with its versatility.  We have tried kale in many ways, from baking it into crispy chips to sautéing it into limp nothingness, taking away all of its glorious raw form.  We have crunched on raw kale in salads and blended kale into green smoothies to mask its strong flavor from certain harder-to-please family members.  And recently, I have discovered the magic that is throwing kale into a blender and making a creamy bright sauce that is delicious over pasta.

As a mother in search of quick yet nutritious meals, this has quickly become my go-to way of preparing kale.  Kale sauce may not sound appetizing, but its depth of flavor, creaminess, and bright green color is enough to convince even the most steadfast doubters of the wonders of kale.

Making sauce out of kale, not unlike making a kale smoothie with various fruits, has given us an easy way to incorporate this green veggie that is loaded with nutrients, into our toddler’s diet.

That being said, he was full of surprises today… (aren’t they always?!) and enthusiastically displayed his new-found love for devouring kale…raw.   Perhaps I don’t need to spend all this time cooking, after all.

Pasta with Kale Sauce (Adapted from this recipe)

Kale Sauce
4 cloves of garlic
4 shallots
1 bunch of kale, stalks removed (I didn’t bother with removing the stalks)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup (2 oz)  goat cheese (feta or ricotta are delicious substitutes)
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
¼ cup sliced almonds (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb dried pasta (any smallish type of pasta works well)
¼ cup of pasta water, reserved

The original recipe suggests to blanch the shallots, garlic, and kale before making the sauce, but when I make a pureed sauce, I am a big proponent of throwing everything into the blender raw (this will work if you have a powerful enough blender or food processor).  I love the strong bite of raw garlic and prefer to preserve the nutritional value of all ingredients whenever possible.  If you choose to blanch the veggies, just boil and generously salt the water you will use to cook your pasta and drop them in for a minute or two before cooking the pasta (I love this method of blanching kale- so simple!).

Prepare your pasta according to the package directions, reserving some pasta water.  Combine the garlic, shallots, kale, cheese, olive oil, and almonds, if using,  in your blender or food processor and puree.  Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.  Add pasta water as needed to create the desired consistency.

Combine sauce with cooked pasta in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add pasta water in small amounts as needed to help the sauce become more ‘saucy’ and adhere to the pasta.  Serve topped with slivered almonds, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with goat or feta cheese.

A Homemade Learning Tower to Nurture the Senses

The kitchen for me has always been the most important room of every home in which I have resided.  The center of so many activities, it embodies warmth, love, nourishment, and now, for my son, a place for learning.

We stand together in the kitchen, side by side.  I carefully chop onions while he “chops” cloves of garlic with his wooden spoon and cutting board.   We assemble the dish together.   He pours the ingredients into the bowl.  He mixes.  He improvises.  He adds a little salt here and there, perhaps where salt didn’t really belong.  But that doesn’t matter.

He dances with joy when he sees what we have created.  I no longer feel the need to explain to him every step of what I’m doing, filling the silence with meaningless words as he tugs at my leg from below, desperately curious to understand the mystery that takes place above him at the kitchen counter.  Now we experience this magic together, in the silence, and our experience is shared.

This type of experience has become routine for my inquisitive toddler and me, and the one component that has made this possible is a simple, homemade structure that now stands in our kitchen.  This is what is known as a “learning tower,” very appropriately named.

Every parent becomes well aware during the early years of their children’s lives that young children learn a great deal through imitation.  As a parent, it is truly incredible to experience this phenomenon on a daily basis.

There is simply no better way for your curious toddler to learn than by observing you and helping you with your daily activities, especially when it comes to chores around the house and preparing food in the kitchen.

This wooden tower has created an environment that nurture his every sense.  He watches, tastes, listens, smells, touches, mimics, and explores.

A few minutes spent observing a child in this setting undoubtedly proves that this experience is so much more valuable than plopping a child in front of a lifeless TV screen while you prepare dinner.

Rather than finding another activity to keep your child busy, finding a way to involve your child in household chores is incredibly rewarding for both parent and child.  This is one of the most essential and powerful tools in a child’s development, and it is truly the easiest form of involvement and ‘education’ he can have at this stage in his life.

We are peacefully engaged in these activities together.   I do, he observes, he mimics, and we do together what must be done.

I will confess, preparing dinner takes a little longer this way.  But since he and I are engaged in dinner preparation together, I don’t consider it time wasted.  In fact, this is some of the most cherished and valuable time we have together each day.