I have heard so much about kale, but prior to making this dish for dinner tonight, I had never had kale before. I don’t know much about how to prepare it, and I’m not too familiar with the different varieties of kale.

But as I was sifting through my Google Reader during my menu planning on Saturday morning, I decided that Memorial Day was going to be the day to try it. You know, the day when most people are gorging themselves on hot dogs and hamburgers at the thousands of barbecues planned for this day. Go figure.

And what do you know? I cannot say enough good things about this recipe. I went into it with hope and an open mind, but I was still very pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite.

Come to find out, I didn’t even use the right kind of kale. The recipe calls for black kale, which is also known as dino, Tuscan, or Lacinato kale. As far as I could tell, my grocery store only carries one variety of kale, and I couldn’t even find any kind of label on it that said anything but “kale.” So, I took a chance and figured I wouldn’t know the difference anyway. After doing a little Googling this afternoon to find out how to trim kale (I told you, I didn’t even know how to prepare it), I found that what I bought was actually curly kale.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it did not matter one bit. Supposedly, curly kale is more bitter than black kale, but I really didn’t notice. The dressing has so much flavor, and the lemon, garlic, and olive oil did a great job of masking any bitterness. Don’t get me wrong, there is still what I would call a “bite” to it–but I generally hate bitter greens and I did not mind this at all. Top it all off with a little bit of spice from the crushed red pepper and black pepper, and well, you’ve got a winner.

And psssst… it’s really good for you, too! I’m excited to try kale in other dishes, too.

I clearly wasn’t paying much attention when I initially looked at the recipe, because up until I was re-reading it today, I assumed that the kale was cooked. Well, it isn’t–and at first I thought that was going to be weird–but trust me and give it a chance. As is, this dish is wonderfully easy to pull together since the only cooking involved is boiling the pasta. This is especially great this time of year when it’s hot outside and the last thing you want to do is stand over a stove to cook dinner. However, if you wanted to make it a little more substantial, you could easily add some grilled or sauteed chicken breast pieces to the dish for some protein.

Kale Pasta with Lemon and Garlic
(Source: Spoon With Me, as seen on Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients:
– 1 large bunch dino kale (aka black, Tuscan, or Lacinato), rinsed and dried
– 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
– 1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano, plus additional for garnish
– 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
– freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons (plus extra, for garnish)
– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
– freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 (16 ounce) package whole wheat penne

Directions:
1. In a large saucepan, bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions.

2. In the meantime, chop the kale into 1/2 inch ribbons and put in a large bowl.

3. On a cutting board, mince the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and smash into a paste using a fork or the side of a chefs knife. transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, grated parmigiano, red pepper flakes, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Whisk together until combined.

4. Pour the dressing into the large bowl with the kale and toss well until the kale is thoroughly coated.

5. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, and set aside for a minute or so to cool slightly.

6. Then, add the pasta to the large bowl with the kale salad, tossing well to combine.

7. Garnish individual servings of pasta with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, a light sprinkling of kosher salt, and a few gratings of parmigiano reggiano. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

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