Over the years, I have always relied on what nutritionists have touted as the wonder veggies. If I found a way to get some broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage into me, I felt virtuous. Don’t get me wrong. I am not about to say anything bad about these veggies. They are high in nutrition. As a matter of fact, I feel that any food that grows on a plant has to be good for me. A few years back, I started eating swiss chard and kale. They compliment each other well. They are wonderful in pasta or as a side dish. At this time of the year, they are readily available and at their peak of flavor. One day, I decided to find out how nutritious they are. Holy cow!! You eat these two veggies and you’ll be set for the day on vitamins A and K. Together, they will just about give you all of the vitamin C you need. You’ll get omega three fatty acids and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. Check out these links to see some charts on what you get by eating kale and chard. Amazing.
After learning how good for me these leafy greens are, I started to try to add them to my diet as much as I could. One dish we really love is a pasta dish with sausage, roasted red peppers and the greens. You make a lovely wine enhanced tomato and sausage sauce and then you melt the greens into it, cooking them until they are just sweet and tender. Yum!
Here is a note about the ingredients for this dish: Since we typically crave this dish in the winter, I usually purchase canned roasted red peppers. I get these at Trader Joes who imports them from Spain. I have never been to Spain so I think it is unfair that my red peppers get to come to the U.S. from Spain. Since I can still find red peppers at the Farmers Market (they may be the last, it is starting to get cold now). I roasted them myself this time. If you have a rotten, stupid electric stove and oven like I do, broil the red peppers on a heavy-duty pan. Broil them on all sides until the skin is blistered and charred. Place the peppers in a covered dish to steam for 10 minutes or so. Let them cool enough to handle and then peel and seed them. You can use any kind of sausage for this recipe that would work with a tomato based sauce but we prefer chicken basil sausage. Italian sausage is good too, but the chicken is mild tasting and the basil helps give the sauce a little bit of a kick. Make sure the kale and chard is extremely clean. Like spinach, it can be sandy. The sand tends to stick in the bumpy textured leaves. I usually chop the leaves and then use the bowl and colander of a salad spinner to wash the leaves. I fill the bowl full of water and then swish the leaves around and then drain. I repeat this until I see no sand in the bottom of the salad spinner. It is usually a triple wash process. This dish can be made with any tube pasta but penne is especially good.
Penne with Sausage, Roasted Peppers and Greens
3 chicken and basil sausages
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb penne
15 oz can of tomato sauce
½ cup (or more) dry red wine
7.25 oz jar roasted red peppers drained and torn into strips or 3 medium homemade roasted red peppers and any juice that accumulates after you peel them, torn into strips
1 bunch each of kale and chard, chopped and washed very well
¼ cup Parmesan plus more for serving
Boil the water for the pasta. While the water heats, brown the sausage with garlic and onion over medium heat in a large deep skillet for about 10 minutes. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook per directions on the bag (probably 8 minutes) until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, add tomato sauce, wine and peppers to the sausage mixture. Bring to a boil and then add the cheese and greens. You may have to add the greens in handfuls, stirring and adding more to the pan as they wilt and make room. If the mixture starts to look dry add a splash of wine. Cook until the greens are wilted and tender, lowering the heat to medium if necessary. Drain pasta and add sauce to the pasta mixing everything to combine well. Serve with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.