I am not a kale fan. I grew up seeing this curly leaf brassica as filler on the salad bar at the pizza restaurant I worked at. I didn’t know humans could eat it until a college roommate one night added it to her vegetarian stir fry.
“Wait,” I hollered at her, sometimes she was on the ditzy side, so I thought this ingredient addition was just another fluke. I mean she once burned one of my pots boiling water, really!?
However, she began to teach me about kale’s amazing vitamins and dietary benefits. I tried it, hated it because of its bitterness, and vowed never to trust her stir-fries again.
Fast forward 8 years, Kris and I are walking on a beautiful November day at our local farmer’s market, and I see a brilliant, beautiful purple leafy vegetable lounging on the table, next to kale and other salad greens. Curious, entranced by its stunning purple color, I ask the stand worker what this jewel of a vegetable is.
“Kale,” he says, smiling. He must have been amused by my look of disbelief since he added an explanation of the 3 types of kale he had. “Dinosaur kale, curly kale,” and noticing my affinity for the colorful purple one, “Russian kale.” Without hesitation, so hypnotized by its color, we buy two bunches. I am convinced that nothing this beautiful in hue could be bitter, and so far, the two recipes I’ve made with it, have confirmed my color/lack of bitterness hypothesis.
This recipe is to use up all those Winter vegetables. Two words best describe it: nutty and gorgeous. It’s a combination of whole wheat tortillas, the manchego cheese, sweet potatoes, and hint of ground cumin. The blast of orange from the sweet potato and the contrasting purple of the Russian kale make this easy dinner an aesthetic and gustatory pleasure.
Manchego Quesadillas with Sweet Potato and Kale (2 servings)
-whole wheat tortillas
-roughly chopped Purple/Russian kale, 2 springs per serving
-2 small sweet potatoes
-2 cloves garlic
-2/3 cup shredded Manchego cheese (Fontina would be good too, or smoked gouda)
1. In a small saute pan, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Heat over a medium low setting. Mince garlic with a press over the pan, and cook garlic for 1 minute, being careful not to burn it. Add in roughly chopped kale. Saute for about 4 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes, and chop into 1/4 inch disks. Place in a small sauce pan, add a touch of water to coat the bottom, then cover and cook over high heat until soft, about 6-7 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces you cut.
3. When sweet potatoes look cooked through, they turn bright orange, drain excess water, and mash up the potatoes in the pot with a touch of butter for flavor (optional).
4. When kale is cooked, set aside in a bowl, then clean out your pan with a paper towel. This way you have less dishes to clean. You want to get any leftover bits of garlic so they don’t burn with further cooking.
5. Grab a tortilla, place in the pan, then add about 1/3 cup Manchego cheese. Also add a pinch of ground cumin on top of the cheese for extra flavor. If you’ve never had Manchego cheese, you will die and go to heaven the second you do; it is that awe-inspiring.
6. Top cheese with half the potato mash and half the sauteed garlic kale. When the tortilla is warm, fold the other half over. After a couple minutes, when the bottom side is lightly golden brown, flip quesadilla to the other side, and cook until golden delicious brown on that side too.