Our guest at our table today is Debra who writes inspiring and magical posts as My Italian Garden on her personal Facebook page. Deb and I first met at a local watering hole and it wasn’t until the last 5 minutes of our conversation that she mentioned she writes posts as ‘My Italian Garden’ on FB. A friendship made in heaven – My Italian Garden meets Our Italian Table! Enjoy this wonderful recipe and post from our inspiring new friend.
Wilted Kale and White Beans
When asked to write of a recipe of the Tuscan region of Italy, I struggled with what recipe to choose. You see our mother growing up was raised by a German mother and Italian father who came from Naples and Calabria. This greatly influenced the cooking in our family. But the true flavor of Italian cooking came through, as my grandmother combined her love of German food with that of Italy, a marriage not only in recipes, but a marriage of love.
The Tuscan region of Italy’s cooking is as diverse as its weather, from the mild breezes of its shoreline to the rainy, hot nights of its inland retreats. Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine, having fresh ingredients at hand to create traditional staples that have been passed down generation to generation and as such, several were passed along to my sister and I by the loving hands of our mother Evelyn Theresa.
Our family hails from just north of the Tuscan region, Genovese on our father side and just south on our mothers side, Napolitano and Calabrese. Somewhere in between we meet with the great zest for life and a passion for cooking.
I was reintroduced to a side dish my mom always made while visiting Lucca with my children a few years ago. We sampled wilted kale and whitebeans, so close to my mom’s I could feel her hands on my shoulders saying “remember”! Kale, hearty, robust and a bit on the bitter side sautéed in olive oil, then married with white beans for substance and texture.
Taking me back to when we were little, my sister and I would help prepare meals. A widow at a young age, our mom always made sure our meals were healthy, filling and flavorful. Our garden sat close to the kitchen door and we would go out and cut the kale, making sure we had plenty. This dish can accompany anything from fish, adding chicken stock for soup, to tossing in with pasta or freezing for winter meals.
I remember one evening a knock came to the door, it was our grandparents coming to visit, mom would grab the stock pot, put on water to boil for pasta, set extra plates on the table and cutting a loaf of Italian bread, warmed and spread with roasted garlic and a bottle of Chianti. The kale and beans became part of the main dish and we sat together, all of us…laughing, drinking and eating the bounty of the earth. Such memories as a child are tucked away in my heart. The trip to Italy awakened them, the love of family. Mangia!!!
Wilted Kale and White Beans
Kale/baby spinach (2-3 large bunches)
1 large can cannellini beans, drained (reserve some liquid)
½ cup pure olive oil
1 whole garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp hot pepper flakes, or to taste
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt/pepper to taste
1. Clean kale well, cutting off tough ends and cut into long strips.
2. In a large iron skillet heat olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and lemon juice.
3. Add kale slowly, turning gently to wilt so that the olive oil covers the kale.
4. Add beans, drained and washed……if needed add some of the liquid to moisten the kale if adding to pasta, heat through.
5. Add the Pecorino Romano cheese and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve!