Winter Appetizer: Braised Kale and White Bean Bruschetta

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If you haven't tried kale yet it's a must. So incredibly flavorful, the bitter green becomes slightly sweet and nutty when quickly pan-braised and the fact it's just filled with vitamins and minerals and is so good for you, makes you love it even more. People often go for the milder tasting spinach -- nothing wrong with that -- but I encourage you to explore the other leafy greens at the market as well. Mustard greens, collard greens, kale, chards that come in an array of gorgeous colors are simply delicious and so good for you. And now with winter upon us, they're in season and tasting their best!

I combine bitter kale with garlic and olive oil, then braise it quickly right in the pan with some vegetable stock. At the end I add butter cannelloni beans, and top toasted baguette slices with the mixture. The final touch -- sharp grated pecorino-romano cheese, but parmesan works just as well.

This is a wonderfully easy and flavorful appetizer I make often in winter. It's perfect for holiday cocktail parties, a date night at home with glass of wine, or as an appetizer for a dinner party meal. It's very low maintenance and comes together literally in 20 minutes, start to finish, and can easily be adapted to serve more or less people.

Enjoy and here's looking forward to the first snow!

Braised Kale and Cannelloni Bean Bruschetta        serves 4-6 people
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for brushing bread slices
1/3 cup white onion, chopped very small
2 large cloves garlic, minced + 1 large clove to rub on toasted bread
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup or so of vegetable (or chicken) broth
1/2 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 french baguette, sliced into 1/2" thick slices on the bias
grated pecorino-romano cheese for garnish

Preheat broiler. Lay out the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Set aside.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan (one with a lid). Add the onion and cook on medium-low heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the kale all at once -- it will crackle and pop -- and season with salt and pepper. Gently coat the kale with the onion-garlic mixture to help it wilt down. Don't be offended at the amount of kale -- it will wilt down like spinach into nothing very soon. Cook kale about 3 minutes or until it softens, and then add the broth. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Stir and cook kale another 5 minutes with the cover off so the liquid can be absorbed. Add the beans and toss to combine. Taste and adjust with seasonings to taste. Turn off heat, cover with lid, and toast the bread.

Place the bread slices in the oven and toast until tops are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes depending on the strength of your broiler. Don't walk away -- they will toast up very quickly!

Remove the bread and quickly rub each slice with the garlic clove while still hot. Set out the slices on a platter and top each with the kale mixture. Then give a generous sprinkling of the cheese on each slice and serve. Can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature but hot or warm tastes the best.

Make Ahead Tip:
You can make the kale mixture up to a few hours in advance of a party. Simply reheat on low heat in a pan on the stove before ready to serve, and toast the bread right before you plan to serve it.

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