How to Defibrillate Dying Kale

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic 1

It’s not a pretty picture, so you’re not going to see it. But open your own refrigerator, and chances are good you could find the same thing: a few little kale saplings, melting into the produce drawer’s back corner, so long ago forgotten that they must now pretend they don’t exist.

Our refrigerator is only 5 days old. But I bought the kale well before its predecessor was wheeled off to the morgue, and unfortunately, a new refrigerator cannot act as a defibrillator for oldish produce.

Truth: Buying a new appliance is much easier than cleaning out an old one. But I didn’t have the heart to leave the kale behind. It always strikes me as The Thing That Can Be Saved.

Kale, in its market prime, is physically spunky, and stubborn enough that it often refuses to be tucked into whatever space I assign it. Two weeks past its peak, it’s a little less sexy. It sags. But really, I promise you: You don’t need to throw it away.

sauteing kale and garlic for pasta

First, it might be worth mentioning that I’m on a pasta binge. Perhaps it started when I was working on a story about healthy pasta alternatives—quinoa, spelt, whole grain rice, and soba noodles sure do make a gal crave the old fashioned kind—or maybe it’s just this winter thing. In any event, I could eat plain white pasta three meals a day right now. Paired with the insanely peppery olive oil Jim’s aunt schlepped back from Italy for us, and maybe a little Parmesan cheese, spaghetti fits my current definition of the lip-smacking perfect food. (I tell you this with corroboration from my 9-month-old, who keeps imitating me chewing when I eat it.)

So you’ll pardon me, I hope, when I tell you that this kale saver actually seems like the complicated version. But there’s not much to it. You sauté very finely chopped kale in great olive oil, with a little spice, until it’s threatening to crisp up on you. Stir in some garlic, then some cooked spaghetti, Parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon, and sit down.

It’s important, though, that you take a seat away from your computer, and away from any reading materials. You’ll need your full mental capacity (at least, I needed mine) to focus on the little bite-by-bite cross section of spicy, sour, and earthy. And then you’ll need some more kale. And time, perhaps, although I’d be willing to wager this would work with a brand-new bunch.

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic  3

Simple Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon and Garlic (PDF)

Made with a few sprigs of leftover kale, great olive oil, and a touch of spice, this simple lunch for one is quick and reasonably healthy. Double or quadruple the recipe as needed, piling the extra kale on top at the end.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 1 lunch

Spaghetti for one (a bundle about the diameter of a dime)
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs lacinato kale (droopy kale is fine), very finely chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon wedge
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.

When the pasta is almost done, heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the kale, red pepper flakes to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes, until the kale starts to get a bit crisp. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add drained pasta, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic  (gone)


Filed under Lunch, Pasta, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

41 responses to “How to Defibrillate Dying Kale

  1. this is great! i pretty much ALWAYS have dying, sad, droopy kale somewhere in my fridge. thanks for sharing!

  2. I REALLY want this for my dinner tonight.

  3. Mary

    I have been patiently waiting for the perfect occasion to dip into a gorgeous bottle I have from Spain….and now I have it! Oh gosh…”Jim’s Aunt” makes me feel ancient. Maybe I should spread my cheap olive oil directly on my skin to smooth the wrinkles….

  4. Kim

    Funny thing we had roasted Kale last night with Pasta Mama(Pasta ,Eggs, Garlic & Cheese) . Bill turned up his nose, till he tasted it. I’ll use the rest of the kale as you suggested. Thanks for hint sounds great.

  5. Kale-lover

    I love this type of dish. I often throw in some white beans or kalamata olives to the pasta and greens or stick it under the broiler with bread crumbs and olive oil . You’ve inspired me to revisit the currently-sad-looking kale in my garden.

  6. tonya

    fantastic! who does not love this pasta! having this lacinato kale in my garden last year, made it my absolute favorite! Just finished my last sugar pumpkins harvested from the garden- a bit sad. But the kale still stands.

  7. I feel like I should have this cross-stitched on a wall somewhere: “a new refrigerator cannot act as a defibrillator for oldish produce” Brilliant. And delicious sounding – I tend to roast my kale to revive it, so a crispy saute sounds equally appealing. Fabulous as always!

  8. Tried this with chard as I didn’t have kale (my poor chard, so wilted, did great once sauteed up) and it was delicious. Thank you.

  9. This looks too pretty to eat lol! Really though – healthy and yummy I bet. I bet this would be awesome with Kamut khorasan wheat pasta!! Thank you for sharing this recipe 🙂

  10. katy

    Yummy. I started off with your recipe, then veered off somewhere and ended up with farro instead of noodles, and added some fridge beans left over from last night’s “make a dent in the csa” salad.

    Hello kale, it’s so nice getting to know you.

    Thank you Jess!

  11. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this and so many amazing recipes with us. I hope that you can get some free time to reply my message. I work as a personal assistant and my boss is a big fan of baked chicken cutlets. He always complain that I make the cutlets too dry and overcooked…. What is the right oven setting and what should I do to make them juicy and not get them sticky and burned on one side? I would appreciate your comments. Your big fan, Carlos

  12. I am making something very similar to this right now. I can’t wait to dig in! Thanks for sharing.

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  18. I made this recipe this fall and it was delightful. I’ve included you in a round up of the 25 tastiest kale recipes I could find on the interwebs. It lives here:

    Thanks again for the great recipe!

  19. Just made this for dinner and it was amazing…a new favorite dish! Thanks for the recipe!

  20. Nancy

    Made this last night and it was a hit!

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  22. Heather

    I tried this the other night for a quick dinner and it was delicious! 🙂

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  28. JenLara

    I’ve recently discovered kale, and wanted a recipe of spaghetti without a red or white sauce some thing simple and quick. This sounds fantastic, fits the bill perfectly, thanks for sharing!

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  32. ooooh, definitely making this! Have some gorgeous olive oil from Pakistan right now, a Christmas gift.

    Did you know you can rescue wilted kale by soaking it in icy cold water for up to an hour? It rehydrates beautifully. You dry it off, stick it back in the bag, and try not to forget it again in the fridge 🙂

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  34. Wow that was odd. I jus wrote an incredibly long comment but
    after I clicked submit myy comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just
    wanted to saay wonderful blog!

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