Kale, the nutritional gem for Risotto Paired with Wine

| February 7, 2014 | 0 Comments


I like to cook with the baby plan-leaved variety.  It is tender and less bitter, resembling baby spinach. It’s a wonderful ingredient to add to salads, side-dishes and entrees.  Because of its pleasant bitterness, Kale adds that additional taste sensation to offset tanginess, saltiness and sweetness and therefore round out the flavours of a dish.

A variety of kale exists, such as the curly-leaved, plain-leaved, rape kale, leaf and spear and Tuscan variety.

Around the world Kale is enjoyed in a variety of ways.  In the Netherlands it is combined with potatoes and bacon in a dish called ‘stamppot boerenkol’.  In Ireland it is added to mashed potatoes in colcannon.  The Asians add Kale to stir-fries, while the Portuguese add it to soups or side dishes like feijoada.

I added to a variety of dishes when possible because Kale is loaded with beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and is rich in calcium and indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts and repairs our DNA cells.

Kale has a pleasant bitter after taste, making it an ingredient that harmonizes well with red wine.  It does depend on the dish in which it is incorporated as well. I like to add Kale to spaghetti sauce and risotto to boost the dish’s nutritional value.

Chardonnay offers lovely pleasant bitterness on the finish, especially if it has undergone barrel contact.   Chardonnay and Kale are companions.

Here is creamy risotto celebrating Kale to harmonize with a big, fatty white wine.  Choose a Chardonnay with higher alcohol for viscosity.  Make sure the wine has enough weight to match the density of this dish.  A Chardonnay with some barrel fermentation and aging and/or sur-lie aging would work well with this dish.

Creamy and Cheesy Risotto with Baby Kale and Peas

Serves 4

This recipe will serve 4 side-dishes or 2 entrees.

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

2/3 cups dry white wine

2 cans (370 mL) condensed fat free milk

1 cup baby fresh kale

1 cup baby frozen peas

Kosher salt as needed

Freshly ground black pepper as needed

Chicken broth (if needed)

2/3 cup finely graded Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil with 1 tbsp. butter until melted. Sauté onion, stirring, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until garlic is aromatic. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 can of warmed milk into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding more milk, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. You’ll add both cans of milk.  Fold in fresh kale and warmed peas.  Let kale wilt completely.  Thin mixture with some of broth if necessary. Remove from heat. Fold in cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add remaining butter.   Transfer risotto to plates. Garnish with more graded cheese.

Suggested Wines:  Barrel fermented and/or aged Chardonnay. Look for a Chardonnay with at least 14 percent alcohol.  Alcohol adds viscosity to wine and this is needed to stand up to the cheesy flavour of this rich dish.

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About the Author ()

Shari Darling is an award-winning and best-selling author and columnist, educator and speaker specializing in wine, food and the partnership between them.

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