Spinach, most especially baby spinach, is an elegant and versatile ingredient that I use whenever possible. Whether eaten raw in a lovely salad, sauteed quickly in olive oil, chopped and mixed into fresh ricotta to be eaten by itself or as a component of a greater dish, or prepared in any of a thousand other ways, spinach is as delicious as it is (dare I say) nutritious. Spinach has always been my go-to green.
Kale is the rustic and homely country cousin of spinach, some might argue. Coarse, overgrown, clearly lacking in sophistication, I have overheard this general bias on more than one occasion. I suppose I might have been guilty of a touch of this bias myself at one point, because, as much as I like it, I always have relegated kale to soups and stews, where its heft and heartiness withstand assault far better than my cherished spinach. Other than those dishes, I haven’t done much else with it.
The other day, I found myself faced with a bunch of kale that needed to be cooked. I didn’t have time to make a soup or stew, and wasn’t sure what else to do with it, so I decided to saute it to see what might happen. Paulo picked up one of the raw slices from the cutting board, tasted it, and said, “mmm, yard clippings.” He was, of course, correct in spirit, if not in precise fact. Not an auspicious start to my sauteed kale adventure.
As soon as olive oil heated in a pan, I threw in the kale and began to toss and stir. Almost immediately, the kale transformed from a dull green to a brilliant emerald. My spirits lifted. Something that pretty surely would taste good. As the kale softened and became more tender, I threw in a handful of sliced Kalamata olives, some chopped pecans, and a few heaping spoonfuls of raisins, those being some of my favorite ingredients to use in sauteed spinach. All done. We sat down to eat, and to our amazement this homely vegetable tasted divine! Paulo especially liked the contrast of the the herbal kale and the briny olives. We ate the entire pan, and made plans to cook another.
This recipe can be altered to suit your tastes. Any variety of kale will work well. Use another type of nut, if you wish, or dried cranberries instead of the raisins. But do use a briny olive, as its contrast with the kale is important. The dish tastes wonderful when freshly made, but it keeps very well, and is just as good at room temperature the next day.
Kale with Olives, Pecans, and Raisins
1 medium bunch kale
2T olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
Remove the tough stems from the kale. Halve the kale leaves lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips. Heat the oil in a large saute pan or wok. Add the kale and saute until the leaves are bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the olives, pecans, and raisins, and continuing stirring until the ingredients are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve immediately.