For Dinner Tonight this week, we are going full on kale-centric -- not because it's so buzzy in fairly recent history, but because it is essential to a killer pasta/salad combination. No excuses on this one people, the whole meal will come together in the time it takes to decide what to order in for take-out. To cut down on your grocery bill, we propose substituting kale for chard in the pasta -- or, if you're feeling subversive, you could always say poo poo to kale altogether and go with chard. So on your way home, buy a big bunch of kale (or don't) -- throw it in your pasta and make a salad with the leftovers.
9 cups lacinato (dinosaur) kale, ribs removed, and torn into smallish pieces
2 handfuls dried spaghetti noodles
2 strips bacon
1/2 large shallot, minced
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan
1 Meyer (or regular) lemon
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
We know you have a well-stocked pantry so you'll have olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes on hand.
1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil.
2. For the salad dressing, mash the garlic and anchovy with a pinch of salt to a paste in a mortar and pestle. Blend in the juice from half a Meyer lemon. Then beat in the olive oil. It should semi-emulsify; don't worry if it doesn't.
3. Transfer dressing to a small bowl, add in onion and thyme leaves with a pinch of salt. Rub the salt into the onions with your hands. Let sit for 10 minutes.
4. Prep the kale by washing and removing the stems. Two-thirds of it will go towards the salad and one-third into the pasta.
5. Put 2/3 of the kale in a large bowl. Add the onion and thyme. Pour in half the dressing and using your hands, mix the greens -- massage the remainder of dressing into the kale. Let the salad sit for 15-20 minutes.
6. Take 1/3 of the kale and blanch for 5 minutes. Scoop it out and drain well, squeezing out as much of the water as possible.
7. Keep the pot of water boiling, and add the spaghetti noodles. Cook spaghetti. Drain and set aside, save about 1 cup of the pasta water.
8. If you are using bacon, fry until crispy. Add the shallot and saute until soft, using a touch of olive oil if needed. Add in the blanched kale.
9. Combine the ricotta and parmesan cheeses in a small bowl -- add the lemon zest, salt, and red pepper flakes. Throw into the saute pan with the bacon and kale. Toss well.
10. Add cooked spaghetti, and some of the pasta water if needed.
11. Eat pasta with a side of salad or salad with a side of pasta, depending on what kind of day it's been.
Photos by James Ransom