Garlicky Kale with White Beans and Sausage

Somehow when ordering my groceries last weekend,* I got confused and ordered two large bunches of kale. While the obvious solution was a kale chip extravaganza, I decided I wanted a little something heartier on a rainy spring evening.

Kale is actually a member of the Brassica family, along with my beloved Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. But in my head, it’s more akin to leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, which means it’s a natural for getting sauteed with a little onion, some crushed red pepper and a whole lotta garlic. When planning out my meals for the week, that was my idea: to top the garlicky greens with a fried egg and call it a night.

Then curiosity got the best of me. One “kale recipes” Google search led to another (“kale stew”), then “braised kale” then … 20 minutes later, I emerged from under a pile of links and websites and open browser tabs with the realization that if you’re not pairing kale with white beans, salty hard cheese and pork products, you’re really not cooking kale the way you should.

Even though I opted for turkey sausage instead of pork, the result was kind of awesome: spicy, salty, meaty, slightly sweet from the beans, the kale retaining a slight crunch. (That sentence makes no grammatical sense — that‘s how much I liked this stuff.) I’m not sure what to call it, as the end result is somewhere between a saute and a stew — similar to this chard, but since I didn’t add any liquid, it’s not really a braise … ? These are the things that keep me up at night. Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.

Whatever it should be called, this kale could be adapted a million different ways — tossed with pasta for a more complete meal, bacon or pancetta instead of sausage, topped with a fried egg if I’m feeling particularly sinful or toasted breadcrumbs for an added crunch.

All I know is, this is the second kale recipe in a row that I’ve loved. Could it be? Is there a Brassica that I love more than Brussels sprouts? I’m not sure I can wrap my head around the implications of that statement, so I’ll stop for now.

*I have a very weird relationship with Fresh Direct. The packaging is so wasteful, they always mess up my bananas (I’m very particular) and I kind of like to examine what I’ll be eating myself. BUT it’s super convenient for those weekends when I’m away and don’t have time to do groceries for the week, or you know, when it’s pouring out or I don’t want to carry a million heavy things. What’s a girl to do?

Garlicky Kale with White Beans and Sausage

– 1 bunch kale

– 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used turkey, but regular pork is fine too)

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 small onion, chopped

– 1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed

– 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

– salt and pepper, to taste

– 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)

1) Prep the kale: tear the leaves into small pieces, discarding the tough ribs and stems. Place the pieces into a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Let the kale sit for a minute (you can shake it gently), so that any dirt or grit on them can settle to the bottom of the bowl.

2) In a 12-inch skillet, heat a touch of olive oil. Add the sausage and break into crumbles with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat, until the sausage has browned slightly. Remove from the skillet and set aside on a plate.

3) Add a touch of oil if necessary (if you’re using pork sausage, you probably won’t need this). Add the garlic and onions, and saute for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

4) Add half of the kale to the skillet — avoid grabbing from the bottom (so that you don’t re-introduce the grit) and squeeze out some of the excess water before adding. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the kale has cooked down slightly. Add the rest of the kale, then re-cover and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until all of the leaves have wilted.

5) Add the beans and the sausage, and turn the heat up to high. Add the crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Let some of the water cook off, then turn off the heat and add the cheese, if desired. Serve warm.

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