Buon giorno! Ciao tutti! Come state? Che bello rivedervi! I’m pulling out all the standard phrases here and — Ma come siete belli! — and that last one for good measure, because I’m so happy to be back. At least for this lazy Saturday afternoon. Cold weather is coming, and I wanted to share one of my favorite, what-can-we-make-for-lunch-today-that-is-easy-but-isn’t-the-usual recipes. We work at home, on our nasty old computers, and this is one of our favorite savory, heart-warming fall/winter throw-it-together dishes. But first. A little song and dance:
I provided that picture so you’d now exactly how to lift your legs, tilt your head and raise your apron. I’m sure you did it beautifully.
Cavolo nero is kale. The Italian version. And you can’t always find it. So when it’s in season, you grab it and you run with it and you unscrupulously and carelessly toss it into soups whenever possible. Or you juice it (though that seems almost disrespectful of the vegetable’s leafy loveliness). Or you make an exquisite risotto out of it (with salsiccia, of course, if you’re not feeling vegetarian that day). Or, you do this very simple, humble, utterly delicious little plate of bruschette, even though it’s not summer any more. The tomatoes you used all summer, are replaced here, with eloquent, self-respecting kale leaves.
Here’s how you do it. 1. Whip your cavolo nero or kale out of your crisper, or out of your shopping basket in the event that you have rushed straight home from shopping to make it, which often happens to me. 2. Wash it well, looking out for those little wormikins that like to make homes in leafy things that haven’t been assaulted with chemicals. (I always tell my girls that bugs in the veggies are probably a good sign and, if nothing else, an excellent source of protein.) 3. Chop it up. 4. Meanwhile, in a frying pan or skillet, sauté a couple cloves of garlic, a chopped red chile pepper (or flakes) and three anchovies (the preserved Italian kind…if you like anchovies, of course.) The anchovies will disintegrate almost completely in the hot oil permeating the dish with a rich, surprisingly unfishy saltiness. You’ll, of course, adjust your use of sea salt afterward accordingly.
AN INTERRUPTION ABOUT GARLIC
Many Italians take out the anima (literally, “soul”; figuratively, the fibrous beginnings of the sprout buried in the heart of each clove of garlic) because it is said to cause indigestion.
You can finely dice your garlic. Squash it, skin-on, under the blade of your knife, removing it from the pan after it’s infused the hot oil but before you add the kale. Or, you can simply squash it, flick off the skin, cut it roughly and leave it like that. This is what I tend do.
5. Toss in the kale with the water droplets from washing still clinging to the leaves. And cook, moving it about constantly, until it has reached your desired level of tenderness. I sometimes raise the heat and throw in a scant splash of white wine about now. Other times I let it go. Adjust flavor with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 6. While your kale is cooking, prepare 2 slices of hearty bread for everyone who will be sharing the table with you. I like to slice it off loaves from the bakery. Or use hearty farro (spelt) bread, for an extra peasanty experience. Grill the bread you’ve chosen and lay it on the plate to await its match made in heaven. 7. Place a heap of sautéed kale on each slice of bread, add two slices of the most excellent mozzarella or bufala you can get your hands on. (You could probably get creative with cheeses here, but this is the way I first had this dish.) Drizzle with the best olive oil you have at hand. And dive in with knife, fork and unfettered appetite. 8. Serve with wine and scintillating conversation woven artfully around sighs of contentment.
Forgive my photo. On the day I took it, I’d accidentally put the mozzarella under the kale. (Imbecile del giorno!) You will not make this silly mistake, and your bruschette will be much more glamorous than mine.