Have I ever told you my mum has a twin sister? Aunt Silvana, they are like two peas in a pod. In the family, we are totally aware of all the differences: they have different voices, different hair cuts, different attitudes, not to mention accents. When she got married, Aunt Silvana moved to Florence, so now she speaks with a nice Florentine accent, so different from my mother’s way of speaking.
Should you meet my mum at the Florence train station and receive a cold shoulder, don’t worry. She hasn’t lost her cheerful attitude, it is just that my aunt didn’t know you.
But there is also another important difference.
My mum has always cooked because she had to – she is good, now, but she doesn’t love it. Aunt Silvana, on the other hand, really loves spending time in the kitchen, trying new recipes, and cooking for a crowd.
When it comes to cooking vegetables, there is no one like zia Silvana. Her stewed carrots are legendary, just like her roast beef with onions, or her tomato sauce. So, when the time came to taste the new olive oil, pouring it over crostoni made with Tuscan kale, the first thing I did was to phone Aunt Silvana to ask her for the recipe. The telephone rang twice, then her jolly and loving voice welcomed me: “Amore, tell me everything!”.
Crostoni with Tuscan kale
Aunt Silvana told me about Camillo, an old man who gave her this recipe to enjoy the just pressed extra virgin olive oil at its best. Cook the cavolo nero for longer than you would expect, to soften its fibrous leathery leaves, until it surrenders in a buttery mess. Don’t drain it completely, as its flavourful cooking water will soften the toasted bread rubbed with garlic. Top each slice of bread cavolo nero and a generous spoonful of cooked cannellini beans, then season with salt and chilli pepper, and drizzle with olio nuovo.
A Tuscan winter treat, these crostoni topped with boiled Tuscan kale and cannellini beans are the best way to enjoy the new olive oil.
Crostoni with Tuscan kale and cannellini beans
- A big bunch of Tuscan kale, about 500 grams/1lb
- ½ tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 4 slices Tuscan bread
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup cooked cannellini beans
- Sea salt flakes
- Chili pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil, or olio nuovo
- Strip the leaves off of the cavolo nero and remove the fibrous stalks. Rinse the leaves under running water and gather them in a large bowl.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and the cavolo nero. Submerge all the leaves with a wooden spoon. Cook the cavolo nero on a medium flame for about one hour.
- Slice the Tuscan bread, toast the slices on a grill over a charcoal fire or on a griddle pan on a high flame until nicely charred, then rub them with a clove of garlic.
- Drain the kale, leaving it quite watery. Chop it roughly and spoon it over the grilled slices of bread, then top the kale with the beans.
- Season the crostoni with flaky sea salt, chili pepper, and a good drizzle of olio nuovo, freshly pressed and still peppery and biting. Let the crostoni sit for about 10 minutes, so that the bread can soak up the kale juices mixed with the olive oil, then serve.
More recipes with Tuscan kale from the blog archive
- Tuscan kale salad with nuts and honey. The orange and the chestnut honey, which is not overly sweet, tame the bitterness of cavolo nero, while the walnuts provide a nice crunch and a nutty flavour. Even my mum, who is usually quite a sceptic about new recipes, is now making this salad on repeat.
- Tuscan kale pesto. Sturdy cavolo nero stands in for summer-y basil leaves, while a handful of almonds is a good replacement for more expensive pine nuts. The result is a dark green, nutty, and slightly bitter pesto that you can toss into a bowl of spaghetti or tagliatelle for a quick weeknight meal. Use it as it is, or top it with toasted almond slivers, crunchy pancetta bits, or crumbled fresh goat cheese.