Braised Kales with Garlic Scapes or Leeks

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 servings (about 4 cups)
Prep Time:  20 minutes Cook Time:  1 hour

Braised Kales with Garlic Scapes or Leeks

This dish features the mixture of two different types of kale and spring's gift of garlic scapes. If you can’t find garlic scapes, use the thinnest leeks you can find or fat spring scallions with big bottoms. The two types of kale commonly found—curly and lacinato (or dinosaur)—cook differently. The curly version stays more leathery, while the lacinato all but melts. The contrast in textures is interesting. If you don’t want to use kale, chose any tough green, like collards, and pair it with a delicate green like spinach and you will have similar textural results. This dish designed is to be played with, so base it upon what’s freshest near you this minute. Go haunt your (hopefully) now-opened farmers markets and get braising.

Not a cilantro fan? Try dill for a Mediterranean feel, and add a sprinkle of feta or freshly grated Romano cheese on top. A Mediterranean vegan version? Sure! Add roasted spiced chickpeas instead of cheese. Using tongs is easiest for the mixing here—take the cooked garlic scapes or leeks from the bottom and place them on top, allowing the raw greens to come in direct contact with the hot pan and cook quickly. The leftovers for this dish—if there are any—make a great base for a frittata, veggie and noodle bowl, or a quiche.

Ingredients

3 pounds curly or lacinato kale leaves only (or a combination of both, preferred), all stems discarded, separated by type of kale

2 tablespoons olive oil

20 garlic scapes, roots trimmed off, or 8 large leeks, washed well and soaked, white parts only, cut into 3- to 4-inch by ½-inch strips (see Kitchen Tips)

2 small bunches fresh cilantro, leaves and stems finely minced

8 cloves garlic, peeled, halved and any green centers discarded, grated

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup Roasted Vegetable Stock or low-sodium vegetable broth

Instructions

  1. Wash the kale, leaving a little bit of water remaining on the leaves, and remove the stems (see Kitchen Tips). Cut the leaves roughly into 1½- to 2-inch strips, widthwise, and set aside with the curly kale in one bowl and the lacinato kale in another, if using both.  
  2. Heat a wide and deep (4-quart) saucepan over high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic scapes or leeks and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent or very soft. Add the curly kale and cook, mixing with tongs, for 3 to 4 minutes more. If you are using lacinato kale, add it now and cook, mixing with tongs, for another 2 minutes. (If you are only using lacinato, cook for just 2 minutes total, and you are using only curly kale, cook it for 5 to 6 minutes total). Add the minced cilantro and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned at all.
  3. Season with the salt and pepper and mix to incorporate. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, add the stock, and cook, stirring often, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the toughest greens are tender and the delicate greens are falling apart.
  4. Lift the greens from the pot with a slotted spoon so that any excess moisture drains away. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

  1. If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things: they’re delicious, but they absorb an amazing amount of soil as they grow, so you’ll need to wash them extremely well. First, trim off the tough outer leaves. Then, place the leek on a work surface, hold it by the root end and, with a sharp knife, slice lengthwise, starting about an inch from the root and working your way down the leaves (keeping the root end intact for the moment). Roll the leek over about half a turn, and slice again, so that the once tightly wound leaves hang in big strands from the root end. Wash well under running water, making sure to get in between each strand. When you are satisfied that all the dirt is removed, you can cut off the root end, trim any remaining tough green leaves and soak, slice or chop as the recipe requires.

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