Kale…again

Each week, I consider it a challenge to come up with a recipe for that-vegetable-everyone-else-puts-in-the-trade-bin at the CSA pick-up.  I can usually predict what it will be:  kohlrabi, beets, and the never popular kale.

The reality is that kale is a green leafy vegetable and I know that I, along with most Americans, do not eat enough of of those.  Kale isn’t easy to love.  You have to cook it to death to get it tender enough to be palatable and season it enough to cut the bitterness and give it flavor.

This is a great lasagna for summer in that it deviates from the heavier tomato sauce and cheese laden variety (delicious in its own right).  The emphasis is on the vegetables and letting their flavors shine through.  Our son-in-law had dinner with us the night I made this and he had three helpings.  He is a former vegetarian who never really ate vegetables in the first place, so I took that as a huge compliment!  I was hoping to snap a post-baking photo while it was all golden and bubbly, but we were too hungry to wait!

I used bulk Italian sausage from a local farm, but you can use store-bought sausage removed from the casings (please make every effort to purchase humane meats and seafood)  This recipe could be tweaked to include other vegetables such as eggplant, spinach, or summer squash.  My tomatoes are just beginning to ripen and I can imagine using those in lieu of grape or cherry tomatoes.  You can always serve a little marinara on the side for those traditionalists at your table.  If you try variations, please report back!

Lasagna with Sausage and Kale

12 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled

3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced

1 to 2 bunches kale (1 1/2 pounds), thick stems removed

4 garlic cloves, minced

coarse sea salt and ground pepper

8 ounces lasagna noodles (about 9 noodles), broken crosswise into 3 or 4 pieces

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

3 cups part-skim or fat-free ricotta cheese

1 cup organic marinara, prepared or homemade (add another 1/4 cup if using non-fat ricotta to add more moisture)

1 cups fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 5-quart pot, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in onions, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Uncover; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  Add garlic to pan and cook 2 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Add kale and 1/2 cup water to pot; season with salt and pepper.  Cover.  Cook over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain; coarsely chop.  Transfer to bowl with sausage and onions.

Meanwhile, cook noodles 2 minutes less than package instructions.  Drain; rinse under cold water.  Add noodles, tomatoes, ricotta, marinara and basil leaves to the bowl.  Season with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Toss well.  Pour into a 9-by-13 inch baking dish and smooth top with a spatula.  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

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