Looking for a side dish that uses kale? Or any other type of green, for that matter? We always are, although it seems as though every recipe we find for greens is, basically, sauté the greens with garlic and a bit of red pepper. Come on, it’s possible to do better than that when posting on the Internet! For us, there’s no point complaining if we can’t do better ourselves, and we think that we have.
This recipe is a 100% Scratchin’ It original, although we can’t be sure if we got the flavor combination from seeing something similar elsewhere (we look at thousands of recipes each year, selecting only what we think are the best for a trial in the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen). If you like it, let us know. (We now note that we’ve had at least two similar recipes before: Beet Greens and Raisins and Swiss Chard with Pickled Raisins and Pistachios; we guess it must be good, because we keep making it).
We used porcini mushrooms because we thought their strong flavor would stand up to the strong flavor of kale. If we were using a milder tasting green, we’d use a milder mushroom. For similar reasons, we selected pine nuts and used red wine instead of white. Strong flavored kale needs to be paired with other strong flavored ingredients.
Procedure in detail:
Soak mushrooms. If you’re using dried mushrooms, place them in a small heatproof bowl and cover with hot, or boiling, water. Or, do as we did: cover mushrooms with tap water and place in the microwave for 30 seconds. Let stand about 30 minutes, then strain the broth (we use a coffee filter to avoid grit), reserving for later, and rinse the mushrooms (also to remove grit). Set aside for now.
Toast pine nuts. We think all nuts taste better when toasted, so we almost always toast. With larger amounts, we use the oven, but, with this small amount, we use a skillet. Place the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly browned. Since pine nuts are so small, they burn easily, and, being so expensive, you don’t want that, so pay attention while you toast. Once toasted, remove from the skillet to a small bowl to cool. This will prevent them from toasting more as they sit in the hot skillet.
Sear mushrooms. Break out a large skillet and add the olive oil. Place over medium-high heat — we want the mushrooms to sear, not sweat. Once hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Let sear until nicely browned on one side, about 2 minutes, then stir, trying to flip most of the mushrooms over and let sear on the other side for about the same length of time. By then, some of the mushrooms will be sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add wine. Pour in the wine, lower the heat to medium, and stir, scraping up the bits of mushrooms. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the wine is nearly gone, about 5 minutes.
Cook kale. Add kale, raisins, pine nuts, and reserved liquid, and cook, stirring often, until the kale is wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. If the kale begins to stick, add a bit of water to the pan and stir.
Add vinegar and season. Stir in the vinegar, then taste the kale. If you feel like it, put on your chef’s hat, and add salt and pepper to taste. While you can hold this dish over low heat for a while, serve hot.
The raisins give a nice sweetness to the dish that helps to offset the bitterness of kale. Plus, it’s always interesting, flavor-wise, to incorporate a sweet flavors into a savory dish. You need to surprise your taste buds every once in a while so they don’t get lazy. However, we don’t think the porcini mushrooms really helped in this dish; they didn’t hurt, but they didn’t stand out, either. You really couldn’t tell that they were there. Perhaps next time, we’ll add more. Or, perhaps, we’ll leave them out altogether. Even with that, this is a nice change from the standard sautéed greens and it doesn’t really require much more effort. Four stars.