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Garlicky Sauteed Kale and Chickpeas with Polenta

August 6, 2009

Kale and Chickpea Saute

I am not very good at summertime cooking. When most normal people are throwing their fresh tomatoes and mountains of zucchini into cool and refreshing salads, I insist on standing in front of a hot stove before dinner. I will heat the oven to 550 degrees, and keep it on for over an hour, in the middle of August. I will labor over risotto, trying not to sweat into the stock. I don’t know what it is, but I just have to have a hot meal at the end of the day. It’s a strange compulsion, but there it is.

I am getting a little better at reducing the amount of heat I produce in the kitchen when it’s over 100 degrees outside of it. Last week roasted red pepper tacos turned into sauteed pepper tacos, and this week another recipe I’ve had in my to-be-tried pile was similarly reinvented to avoid using the oven. Garlic roasted garbanzos, you say? I say nay, but the stovetop might work just fine.

Of course, I am still not entirely adjusted to my electric stovetop, but despite my mid-cooking misgivings, this turned out just fine. Sure, I nearly botched the polenta completely by adding less than half the amount of water I should have, but I seem to have caught it in time, and really, adding copious amounts of butter and parmesan cheese can rescue anything.

And wow, for something pretty simple this was a dinner I instantly wanted to make again. It’s one of those meals that makes me think being a vegetarian really wouldn’t be that hard. Then of course I think, “ooh, wouldn’t it be even better with some pancetta?” and it’s all over for me.


Garlicky Sauteed Kale and Chickpeas with Polenta
Adapted from Eggs on Sunday


  • 2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. coarse cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
  • more salt to taste, and pepper, if you like that kind of thing

Kale and Chickpeas

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 mild white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 5 or 6 c. chopped kale (or chard or spinach)
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. vegetable broth or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. whole grain mustard

Start the polenta first. Don’t let anyone tell you polenta is hard to make; it’s not. I mean, really, I accidentally started making this with half a cup of water, instead of two cups, and it still turned out fine. Just put the salted water on to boil, and once it’s boiling, slowing pour in the cornmeal, whisking all the while. Then lower the heat and let it simmer away for about 20 minutes, stirring vigorously every few minutes. I usually use a whisk for the stirring as it seems to make it smoother. Then, when it’s reached a nice porridge-like consistency, stir in the butter and cheese, and a bit more salt (it’s kind of bland). And you are good to go.

While the polenta is simmering away, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onions and saute for a few minutes, until they are soft and golden. Then stir in the garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds before adding the red pepper flakes and tarragon. Then start stirring in the kale in handfuls, sauteeing between additions so it can cook down and make room in the skillet for more stuff.

Once the kale (or other leafy green of your choice) has cooked down a bit, stir in the chickpeas. Then add the broth or stock, and the mustard. Stir well and cover the pan to let it all cook together for about 5 to 8 minutes. You want the kale to become soft and kind of silky. Then uncover the pan and let it cook just long enough so it’s not quite as liquidy, and it is ready to be eaten.

Kale and Chickpea Saute

I suppose my penchant for hot meals at night won’t be quite so awful now that the heat wave out here has broken. Today was the first day since I moved here that the temperature has been under 95, and it is glorious. It’s actually raining right now, though the rain out here is much different from the rain in New England. It is nice, gentle, polite rain. And I think my tomato plants are loving it.

They are doing quite well, I might add: I had the first two ripe tomatoes in a salad for lunch the other day, and they were lovely. About six or seven more have ripened today. I hope all of my gardening endeavors prove this easy…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Katharina permalink
    August 9, 2009 9:31 am

    The ingredients all sound like they’re a marriage made in heaven. When I get back home, I have to try this! Yes, yes I do!

  2. Maggie permalink
    August 9, 2009 11:05 am

    Thanks for posting this. The pictures looked so good on Flickr I was tempted to fake it, now I don’t have to :)

  3. vintagejenta permalink
    August 12, 2009 3:52 pm

    I, too, must always have a hot meal at the end of the day (or sometimes, in the middle, depending) and actually, stovetop cooking has been my savior recently, especially since my old gas oven door doesn’t ever seem to close all the way and leaks horrid amounts of heat into the room.

    I’ve found myself making lots of soup/stew-like concoctions, with lots of veg and beans usually, instead of oodles of meat. However, I have recently found myself craving macaroni and cheese. From a box with stuff added in (like extra cheese, real butter, tomatoes or broccoli, etc.), since I’ve never made it from scratch. Maybe I should work on that…

    P.S. I assume you used fresh kale in this recipe?

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