Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School and Cool

While the warmth of the summer tends to linger well into September, there are pretty clear signs that autumn with its cooler weather is sneaking in. There’s heavy fog in the morning (perhaps not exactly a “clear” sign) and the foliage on a few of the smaller maple trees is starting to turn. The cool-weather crops are beginning to sneak into our CSA* share as well, such as the first acorn squash of the year, a hefty fellow that conspired with the melons to break my back (luckily, the only actual casualty was a crumpled toenail.) Gone is the sweet corn and cucumbers, but in their place are broccoli, cabbage, and kale.

This is also the time when everyone is back to school. Since I’m married to an astronomy professor (and astro-blogger), back to school means scurrying to get a meal on the table in time to be eaten before night classes two days a week. That meal often ends up being some kind of leftovers or a quick pasta dish like Italian Chickpeas, Farfalle with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Basil, or a vegetable sauté with noodles, like the one I made this week with kale and what is probably the tail-end of the season’s yellow summer squash. I also like to put in olives and feta cheese, both of which always seem to make savory dishes extra delicious.

There are several varieties of kale. The one I had had medium-dark green, curly leaves with pretty purple stems and veins. Sadly, the purple color doesn’t have much to do with this dish, since I mercilessly strip the leaves from the tough stems and chop them up. I will use the stems of beet greens or chard, but I don’t know that the kale stems are tender enough to be salvageable.

There must have been another time when I had dark greens and summer squash at the same time, because I’d made a similar pasta dish before. I often use Swiss chard or beet greens, and I think spinach would be good as well, but this week, I happened to have the kale. (I also was prodded a bit by a recipe for braised kale with spaghetti in the Cooking Life column by Molly Wizenberg in the October 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.) If I use other greens that are more tender, I skip the covered, moist-heat cooking step and just sauté them until they are well-wilted.

For a little fancy twist, I shaved the yellow squash with a vegetable peeler. It makes the texture more consistent with that of the kale. You could also chop the squash and sauté it with the onions until tender, or just leave it out if you don’t have any and are just hungry for some dark greens with pasta, briny-bitter olives, and sharp, salty feta. Mmmmm….I’m glad there are leftovers!

Pasta with Kale, Summer Squash, Olives and Feta Cheese
You could substitute the white wine with broth or water.

8 ounces fettuccine
salt (for the pasta cooking water)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
about 6 cups chopped kale
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ cup dry white wine
2 small summer squash (such as yellow squash or zucchini), shaved into thin strips with a vegetable peeler or mandolin.
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives

1. Cook fettuccine in boiling salted water until done the way you like it. I like it cooked through but still a little firm.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another 30 seconds.

3. Add the kale and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir until the kale is well coated with the oil and beginning to wilt. Add the white wine. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer about 8 minutes or until the kale is tender. If the pan becomes dry before the kale is tender, add a little more water.

4. Add the squash and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to the kale, increase heat to medium, and cook about 3 minutes or until the squash is tender.

5. Add the hot cooked fettuccine, kalamata olives and feta cheese. Toss together until well mixed.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Ours is here.

1 comment:

  1. I considered adding salami to this dish (but decided to keep it for sandwiches). What do you think? Or how about a nice spicy Italian sausage?