Saturday, 14 March 2015

Kale & Hearty!

Sformato di Cavolo Nero, Polenta, Carote, Zenzero & Ricotta Salata
Tuscan Kale, Polenta, Carrot, Ginger & Salted Ricotta Bake


It has suddenly turned incredibly cold again! No sooner had it seemed that Spring had finally arrived, Winter came back for a visit this weekend- brrr!

So when I got to the market hall today and saw the lovely Tuscan kale, I decided I had better not even try to resist temptation and picked it up to turn it into a yummy Tuscan soup one of the nights this week.

But it was also a little too much for lil' ol' me to use up all on my own- not in one single meal in any case. So I decided to use some of it already this evening and to turn it into something else entirely...

To be honest, I did not know exactly what this creation was going to turn into! I absolutely knew which flavors and ingredients I wanted to combine, I had a vague idea of roughly what it could have ended up being- and yet, I did not want to add any of the usual ingredients that would go into preparing a dish like this- meaning eggs or cheese or any other binding agents like that. I also wanted to use coarse-grained polenta, so that the result would not be a dense slab as is normally the case. Now don't get me wrong- I adore polenta made that way... but it would not be anything new to me.

This was an experiment, it was new... and it turned out to be really delicious!

As well, of course, as being so much lighter and healthier at the same time- which is almost always the top priority for me- and especially so if the results turn out to be delicious!


To make my little 2-potion bake this evening I needed 9-10 leaves of Tuscan kale, 2 carrots, 1 small onion, about 2" of ginger, 1 cupful of coarse polenta meal, salt, pepper, olive oil, nutmeg and a little salted Ricotta.

The result was a light and "fluffy" bake, with the bitterness of the kale balanced by the sweetness of the carrot, spiced-up by the ginger and "bulked-up" with a little mild and neutral flavored polenta. With salted Ricotta and a little nutmeg to add seasoning, this was really nice vegetarian dish indeed!


First things first- of course, the oven needed to be turned on to be nice and hot in advance and the kale needed to be thoroughly washed. I then plucked the leaves from the tough stalks- which is very easy to do if you grip the stalk in one hand and the leaves between the forefinger and thumb of the other, then pull in opposite directions... it is actually quite fun to do!


I coarsely grated the carrots, finely grated the ginger, sliced the onion thinly and chopped-up the kale strips "across the grain" into thin strips, basically about the same size and structure as the grated carrot.


And so the cooking began! First of all, with the carrot, ginger and onion, along with a good pinch of salt and pepper.


After around 3-4 minutes, once the onion had become translucent and the carrot had turned a shade lighter, I added the chopped kale, stirred it through and popped on the lid.

And 3-4 minutes after that, I added the polenta. I gave it a good stir-though as well, popped on the lid and let it soak up the flavor and juices from the carrots, ginger and kale.

I then added a nice dusting of nutmeg and 2 cups of water, popped the lid back on and let it steam for 5 minutes longer.


The last touch was a tablespoonful of grated salted Ricotta- it will be more than enough as it really IS salty- and there will be a little more coming as a topping, right at the end... don't add more than this or you'll be sorry!


I then spooned the mixture into an oiled baking dish and patted it down nice and firmly.

And there you go- another tablespoons-worth of salted ricotta on top before baking in a hot oven, 180°C, for 20 minutes.


20 minutes later, the top was crispy and down below, everything was soft and juicy and steaming and delicious!

And yes, of course I could have added eggs or milk... maybe even bread crumbs or flour... and that would have been lovely too!

But take a look here and you will see how moist, fluffy and light this is... and you can make up your own mind what you think that you would prefer more. I suggest you give it a try!

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