Kale & Apple Slaw

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We’re all trying to eat a little healthier in January, but you know what, it’s hard! It’s freezing in East Hampton and after a long day, all I want is a big glass of red wine and a bowl of pasta. Or maybe some kind of braised meat. Or maybe pasta with a braised meat sauce? See what I mean? 

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But vegetables don’t have to be a punishment. This Kale and Apple Slaw is one of my favorite winter salads because while it’s full of produce and relatively healthy (Parmesan is healthy, right?? ), it’s also totally satisfying. The slaw has lots of different textures and flavors that make it much more interesting and delicious than your average bowl of kale. With the crunchy, sweet apple,  sharp onion, toasted pecans and salty Parmesan, each bite is like a little meal in itself.

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If you’re looking for diet food, you might want to keep looking. But if you’re looking for a tasty salad that won’t leave you feeling hungry and a little sadder than you were before you ate it, you’ve come to the right place.

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This slaw is great either on its own for lunch or as a side to hearty winter main courses. I especially love it with roast chicken or turkey chili. The recipe makes a LOT of salad, but leftovers keep well if you aren’t feeding a crowd. (The pecans and apples will get a little bit soggy if the salad sits overnight, but not enough to keep me from eating this salad straight from the tupperware for lunch the next day.)

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Kale and Apple Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 bunch curly kale (12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup very thinly sliced red onion (about ¼ onion)
  • 1 crisp, sweet apple, such as Fuji, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, see note (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and roast for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, then roughly chop the pecans and set aside.

Wash the kale leaves and pat them dry with a paper towel. Lay the leaves flat on a cutting board and cut down both sides of the center rib, discarding the rib. Using a sharp knife, cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips, as you would for coleslaw.

In a small, glass measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Whisk until smooth. Pour the dressing over the kale, and using tongs or two serving spoons, toss the kale for a full thirty seconds. Set aside to let the kale marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to several hours in the fridge, covered, before serving.

Meanwhile, place the onions in a mesh strainer or colander and rinse under warm tap water for thirty seconds to remove some of their “bite.” Drain and set aside.

When ready to serve, add the pecans, onions, and apple to the kale and toss well to combine. Add the Parmesan, toss gently, and serve.

Note: I use a vegetable peeler to make big shavings of Parmesan.


Sweet Italian Sausages with Braised White Beans and Kale

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Last month, Joe and I spent a week in Puglia, Italy, the region on the heel of Italy’s “boot.” We ate countless bowls of seafood pasta, almost a whole wheel of the local, firm ricotta, and tried so many varieties of pasticiotto, Puglia’s famous cream-filled cakes, that I went through serious withdrawal when we got home. But for me, one of the most memorable things we ate on the trip was actually in Rome, where we spent a weekend before flying home.

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At Armando Al Pantheon, a restaurant a stone’s throw from the Pantheon that serves traditional Roman cuisine, we ordered the special of the day: braised white beans with sausages. (Along with lots of other things, as it was our last weekend in Italy). Even after all the burrata and cacio e pepe we ate, there was something about this dish in particular I found so satisfying and comforting.

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It was incredibly simple- white beans braised with tomatoes and herbs and served with roasted sausages- but it had so much flavor. It was the kind of thing I could see myself eating fall and winter long, with a big glass of wine and some crusty bread to mop it all up. I couldn’t wait to play around with this idea at home to see if I could come up with my own version.

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One thing I knew from the start is that I wanted to try using canned beans. Cooking the beans from scratch would be more authentic, but there’s no way I am ever going to remember to soak beans overnight. It’s just not happening. I also wanted the dish to be quick, easy, and able to be made last-minute on a weeknight.

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This recipe calls for browning the sausages in a Dutch oven, and then finishing them in the oven. I use the some of fat from the sausage to cook the onions and garlic, which I braise along with the beans, Tuscan kale (my own sneaky addition of something fresh and green), tomatoes, chicken stock, white wine and a big sprig of rosemary. If you want to go lighter, you can make this with chicken or turkey sausage. Just be sure if you’re using chicken sausage that you find a butcher that sells them uncooked. You don’t want the precooked, flavored chicken sausages for this recipe.

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This is the dinner to make when you feel like winding down and stirring something simple and comforting after a long day. The recipe calls for a half cup of white wine, so you might as well just finish the bottle, right?

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Sweet Italian Sausage with Braised White Beans and Kale


Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 Vidalia onion, cut in half through the stem and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 small garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 (15.5-ounce cans) cannellini beans, such as Goya, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chopped Tuscan kale, lightly packed (about 1 small bunch), see note
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock, such as College Inn
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • rustic country bread, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown them evenly. Transfer to a sheet pan and roast for 10-15 minutes, depending of the size of the sausages, until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Set aside.

Meanwhile, drain any excess fat from the pot, leaving only a thin coating of oil on the bottom. (Or, if the pot looks dry, add a splash of olive oil.) Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are browned and translucent. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the beans, kale, tomatoes, chicken stock, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook at a full simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Discard the rosemary sprig and any large pieces of garlic. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press of some of the beans against the side of the pot to lightly mash them. Do this about 4 or 5 times until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, stir to combine, and then place the cooked sausages on top of the beans. Simmer for 3 more minutes, until the sausages are warmed through.

To serve, spoon some of the beans into the bottom of a shallow bowl or deep plate. Top with a sausage and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with bread on the side.

Note: To remove kale leaves from the stems, lay the leaves flat on a cutting board and cut down both sides of the center rib, discarding the rib.