Kale with Cannellini and Polenta

With spring in the air in Charleston, I am offering you some serious winter fare, it is cold in most other places right now, isn’t it? This is a recipe from Valle D’Aosta in the Northwestern corner of Italy, in the Alps, bordering France and Switzerland. This dish is hearty and if you took away the bacon it would be a very healthy dish with kale, beans, polenta and cheese, sticking to your gut and creating good insulation for the Alpine weather.

I’ve brought the South into this dish and substituted grits for the polenta. Polenta is a much finer grind, and well, not as gritty, but grits can be so beautifully creamy that though they are very different, one can be sustituted for the other, especially when you are looking for a superior product in a place like Charleston. Good stone ground grits vs. instant polenta, I’ll go with the local stuff.

Polenta con Cavolo Nero

adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

for the beans

  • ½ lb dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

for the polenta

  • 5 cups cold water
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup yellow polenta, medium grind

for the greens

  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into ½-inch lardoons
  • 1½ lbs kale, touch stems removed, leaves cut into 2-inch shreds
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 8 ounces finely shredded fontina

To cook the beans: Drain the soaked beans and put them in the pot with fresh cold water covering them by an inch or so; add the bay leaves and olive oil. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to keep the liquid simmering steadily, and cook, partially covered, about 40 minutes or until the beans are just cooked through, but mot mushy. Turn off the heat, stir in ½ teaspoon salt, and let the beans cool for a while in the pot, absorbing some of the cooking liquid.

To cook the polenta: Pour the water and olive oil into the heavy pot, drop in the salt and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Pick up the polenta by handfuls and let it rain into the water through your fingers (lovely metaphor), whisking steadily with a sturdy whisk, until it is all incorporated. Return the polenta to a boil over medium heat, still whisking. When big bubbles start bursting, lower the heat to keep the polenta perking, and set the cover ajar on the pot. Stir frequently with the whisk or wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot as the cereal thickens. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the polenta is glossy and pulls away from the sides as you stir; for this dish it should be soft, not too firm. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the polenta hot.

To cook the kale: Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the the skillet, set it over medium hat, and scatter in the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, as the bacon sizzles and renders most of its fat, 4 or 5 minutes. Pile the shredded kale in the pan, sprinkle the salt over it, put on the cover, and cook, tossing the kale a couple of times, until the shreds have wilted, about 5 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, and stir in the cooked cannellini, along with about a cup (not all) of the bean cooking liquid and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or more, until the kale is tender. Stir in more bean liquid as needed to keep the greens and beans from drying.

When the kale and beans are ready, stir half of the shredded fontina into the hot polenta, Spoon portions of polenta into warm shallow bowls, then top each with kale and beans and a sprinkling of fontina. Serve right away, while very hot.

One Year Ago: Lentil Tomato Soup & Spaghetti alla Gricia

Two Years Ago: Asparagus and Spinach Risotto, Chicken Tikka with Pomegranate Couscous Salad, Pot Stickers & La Carbonara

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~ by italicious on February 20, 2011.

One Response to “Kale with Cannellini and Polenta”

  1. It turned cold again today, and this looks like just the ticket to keep us warm. 🙂

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