A group of foodie friends I met online at a cooking site used to get together to participate in a monthly challenge. Sometimes it would be a chosen cuisine, other times a specific dish, maybe whatever was in season in each person's particular region, etc. We've gotten kinda lax about the whole thing, but in an effort to bring us back together, Danielle at Cooking for my Peace of Mind corralled us back together this month. Everyone threw in an ingredient (well, the first six who showed up anyhow). We settled on coming up with a dish that included:
- White wine
I actually forgot about it until yesterday, and since today is the last day of the month, and we were already having a group over for Shish Kebab (steak tips really, no lamb today), I figured I had better come up with some sort of app since dinner wasn't an option.
Thinking about appetizers and pasta made me think about when I sometimes fry up a batch of Farfalle (bowtie pasta) for us to dunk in a red sauce or spinach/artichoke dip. I didn't want to use the other ingredients as a sauce, so I ran through other pastas in my head and decided to cut up lasagna noodles and make little "planks" out of them to top with the other items.
4-5 lasagna noodles cooked and cut into squares
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 bunch kale
white wine (I used Pino Grigio)
aged balsamic vinegar (I used white)
crushed red pepper flakes
oil for frying (I used canola)
dry bread crumbs
Start by washing your kale and leek very well. Leeks are notorious for being very gritty, so you might need to open it up. Cut the stems off the kale and cut into small pieces.
Cook, drain, and set aside your lasagna noodles.
I was originally planning on cooking the bacon on the stove and using a little of the grease to saute the leek/kale, but the bacon got funky on me for some reason (I'm guessing there was some residual pasta starch on the bottom from my having just cooked the noodles in the same pot and quickly washed it out), so I switched gears and nuked the bacon instead. Set aside.
If not the bacon grease, I would normally have sauted the leek/kale in olive oil and thrown some garlic in with it, but I remembered I still had some roasted garlic butter in the fridge that I made on Easter, so I used that instead. Start with the leek, and when that starts to soften, pile in the kale, stirring to coat.
When the kale starts to cook down, pour in some white wine and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, then season with salt and pepper and a little crushed red pepper flakes.
When the kale starts to get dark, take a bite. If it's not tender yet, pour over some more wine, lower the heat and pop the cover on to steam it for a few minutes. When it's just about tender, stir in some freshly grated Parmesan (I probably used about a half cup), crumble and add some of the bacon (reserving a little for garnish), and squeeze in some lemon juice. Put the cover back on to keep it warm while you fry your pasta squares.
In a small bowl, scoop some ricotta cheese and season it with a little salt and pepper.
Beat your eggs in one bowl, and in another, pour some bread crumbs and a little Parmesan if you want. For this type of thing, I find that the shaker bottles of Parmesan work better than freshly grated. I normally use seasoned bread crumbs, but we apparently forgot to add them to our last shopping list, so I used some Panko crumbs instead.
Dunk the pasta squares in the egg, then coat with the crumb mixture and fry until golden, setting on a paper towel (or paper bag) lined plate to drain.
Arrange your squares on a serving platter, spread some of the ricotta on each, then top with some of the kale mixture and sprinkle a little Parmesan and the reserved bacon over the top.
The verdict? Truth be told, as much as I love fried pasta, and as much as I love kale, I was kinda ehh about eating the two together in this way. I will definitely make the pasta again with a different topping, and I will definitely make this topping again (maybe as part of a regular pasta dish, maybe with eggs in the morning with some added potatoes, or maybe with some added northern beans), but I will also definitely be keeping the pasta "planks" and this particular kale mixture separate.
One person loved it, three liked it, four were neutral and I think two were afraid to even try it. ;)
I'll be curious to hear back if anyone tries this one, or if it sparks a new idea.