Friday, October 15, 2010

Denise's Kale, Beans and Pasta

Sometimes the best recipes are the ones you learn in a friend's kitchen. Maybe they made the dish up, maybe it was torn from the pages of a magazine or perhaps it's from a famous cookbook, but in the end it doesn't really matter. Their taste and temperament has turned out a dish that almost seems an extension of themselves, and years later even after you've made the dish enough times that you could call it your own, that particular combination of ingredients still takes you back to their kitchen.

For me, there is nothing more relaxing than watching someone else cook, making note of measurements and seasoning, exchanging perhaps painful or wearying stories from the day that can now be laughed at, and feeling the kitchen windows get steamy as dinner time approaches.

The above dish is a simple meal I learned to make at my friend Denise's house. When I was in college, I'd babysit for her boys and look forward to her home cooked meals. She and her husband have a beautiful apartment right by metro north with a thin buffer of trees separating the kitchen window from the train tracks, so in the evenings as Denise cooks, the soft whoosh of commuter trains rumble by reminding you how nice it is to be cozy and at home.

This recipe is so easy and delicious anyone could make it. You could certainly take the more laborious route and soak and cook dried beans, chop fresh tomatoes and make your own pasta and stock, but if you're in a rush opening a few cans and bags is just as good, and what I do.

Sometimes when I find my own cooking situation immensely frustrating, especially at the end of a long day, it's the recipes from my mother and friends that bring a little of their kitchens into mine, and the rumbling subway or clanging garbage trucks outside my window could almost be mistaken for a speeding train on a cold fall night.

Denise's Kale, Beans and Pasta

1 yellow onion finely, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, stems removed, washed and chopped
1 14.5 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, drained
2 carrots, halved and sliced into quarter inch thick rounds
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
1 15 oz. can of navy beans
2 cups dried pasta like orchetta, bowties or fussile 
salt + pepper
olive oil

Heat a pot of salted water for the pasta and cook until al dente, drain and set aside (rinse with cool water to prevent it sticking together and to stop the cooking process). Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent, add the garlic and carrots, saute about five minutes more. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth, cover and cook about ten minutes. Then add the kale and beans and cook covered until the kale has wilted and the carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper. To serve spoon some pasta into a bowl and ladle the kale and beans on top. Grate some fresh parmesan on top.

it has been a while since I've watched Denise make this and she may have added about a one tbs. of tomato paste to the onions right before adding the garlic and carrots and if you have a bottle of wine on hand it couldn't hurt to add a splash. There may have been a bay leaf thrown in the mix or some chopped parsley at the end but the above recipe will make a very nice dish. After you've tried it, feel free to make it your own.

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