If my childhood self could see me now, he'd shake his head ruefully and wonder what happened to my taste buds (then he'd return to a bowl of Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and savor all the brown bits along the edges, ignoring the spinach on the side). But there's no denying the fact that my adult self loves healthy, vitamin-rich winter greens, especially kale. On the healthy-green scale, it's not as good as spinach. But when I cook kale with sliced garlic, fruity olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish, I'm in heaven. The flavor is bracingly simple and restorative.
Since winter greens paradoxically first become available in August, when the deep, warm, braised flavor isn't always what I'm after, I worked the kale into a lighter pasta. The technique is the same—a slow braise with olive oil and the moisture that clings to the leaves from washing—and I took a cue from a post on Orangette to add chickpeas for a bit of protein. Toasted pine nuts scattered on top, with a bit of grated Parmesan, and dinner was served.
Kale and Chickpea Pasta
- 1 1/2 pounds chard, kale, collard, or other winter greens
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 medium yellow or red onion, minced
- 1 can chickpeas (15-ounce), drained and rinsed
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 pound farfalle or other short pasta
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- Parmesan cheese to taste
Lay the greens flat on a cutting board and cut away the ribs from the leaves, then stack the leaves and slice crosswise into thin ribbons. Transfer to a colander and rinse well. Discard the ribs.
In a large skillet with a cover, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook gently until the onion is soft and beginning to turn golden. Add the chickpeas and cook for an additional minute, then add the greens, in batches if necessary as it wilts, stirring often. There should be ample moisture clinging to the leaves to allow them to steam slightly. Once all the greens are added, cover, turn the heat to very low, and allow to gently wilt into tenderness, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and stir in the lemon juice off the heat.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
Combine the greens and pasta and stir to combine, adding pasta water or olive oil and tossing as needed to keep the dish moist and saucy. Top with pine nuts and serve with Parmesan cheese.