Cup for cup, the dark leafy green vegetable kale is an ultra low-calorie food. A one-cup serving has just 33 calories. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with vitamin K, and great source of vitamins A and C. Kale has carotenoids and flavonoids, known antioxidants that research has shown to prevent certain diseases. Kale also helps prevent inflammation.
Varieties: At most grocery stores you’ll find curly or Tuscan kale. The latter might also be labeled as dinosaur, lacinato or black kale. Tuscan has beautiful long, dark green crinkly leaves and stems that aren’t so tough. Curly kale is lighter in color with broader firm leaves and tougher stems.
How to best prepare it: Rinse the leaves well by immersing in a sink of water, swishing them around and patting dry. Choose smaller leaves of any kale variety to eat raw in salads. With raw leaves, massage them first, rubbing the leaves, stem removed, together. This massaging makes the leaves softer and tames the bitterness. Kale is hearty and can be briefly sauteed or steamed or braised and used in stews. You can add raw kale to soups and casserole dishes.
FARRO AND MUSHROOM-STUFFED KALE
Serves 6 (generously). Preparation time, 45 minutes. Total time, 2 hours, 45 minutes (not all active time). Adapted from Food & Drink magazine, Autumn 2015.
1 cup semi-pearled farro
FOR THE SAUCE
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
FOR THE STUFFING
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled, chopped
1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, thinly sliced
Kosher salt to taste
3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
3 cups low-sodium beef stock
1/2 cup creme fraîche or sour cream
2 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola
Freshly ground pepper to taste
30 large lacinato kale leaves 5 to 6 inches across at widest point
Place the farro in a small bowl and cover with cool water; set aside.
Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a medium saucepan; simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
To prepare the stuffing, place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Rehydrate them, about 20 minutes, then drain (reserving the liquid) through a sieve set over a bowl; squeeze mushrooms to release excess liquid. Rinse mushrooms well under running water; coarsely chop. Set both mushrooms and liquid aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften and sweat. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook 8 to 10 minutes longer or until mushrooms are golden. Drain the farro, and add it, along with the reserved porcini, to the pot. Cook, stirring, until the farro is dry, about 2 minutes longer. Add the stock and reserved porcini soaking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes or until the farro is tender, stirring occasionally in the final 15 minutes — there should be some liquid remaining in the pot. Remove from heat; stir in creme fraîche and Gorgonzola. Season with black pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a pot of boiling water going to blanch the kale leaves.
Trim each kale leaf by removing or trimming most of the tough center rib. Use a knife to make a cut right next to, and parallel to the rib all the way to the bottom of the leaf. Repeat on other side of rib; remove and discard rib. Working in batches, blanch leaves in boiling water for 1 minute; drain.
Working with 1 leaf at a time, place a heaping tablespoon of the filling 2 inches from the widest end. Fold and roll kale around filling to form a roll. Repeat with remaining kale leaves and filling. Arrange the rolls in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over, cover and bake for 40 minutes. To serve, divide between plates and spoon a little sauce over each.