Tuscan… Cavolo Nero… Dinosaur… Laciniato. These all are names I’ve seen — in grocery stores, farmers markets and cookbooks — for the blackish-green, rough, wrinkly kale.
It’s easy to see why it’s called Dinosaur, since the leaves are roughly textured, but this kale defies it’s rugged appearance. It is actually quite tender. Not as tender as Swiss chard or spinach, but it is more tender than say, mustard greens. And, it doesn’t have the grassy taste of some greens.
Because it’s tender — and doesn’t taste like grass — it’s a great green to eat raw, even though you can cook with it. In the past year, I’ve seen chopped kale salads appear on several restaurant menus, including Phoenix’s Gallo Blanco, as ensalada cortada. Gallo Blanco mixes chopped kale with other shredded cabbages, Manchego cheese, avocado and crunchy corn nuts and dehydrated peas.
Like all greens, Tuscan kale should be thoroughly washed and dried. Cut the tough stems out. Roll the leaves into a long cigar shape and slice crosswise into ribbons (you might remember this is the chiffonade technique). Now your kale is ready for whatever you chose to make.
For chopped salads, cut the ribbons into smaller pieces. For adding to stews or pastas, you can just use the ribbons without further cutting.
Tuscan kale is a blank canvas. You can put any flavor spin on it you want: Mexican, Asian or Italian. Traditionally, since it is an Italian green, it’s paired with Italian flavors, like white beans, pancetta, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar.
Later this week, I’ll have a recipe for you: a Christmas Kale Chopped Salad, using some of the season’s best ingredients.
In the meantime, here are a couple of recipes for cooking with Tuscan Kale:
Got a Tuscan kale recipe, too? Leave a link in the comments.