I have a goal to try 3 new vegetables, 3 different ways this year, and one of my choices is kale. In my first kale attempt, I successfully made a kale and beet salad. Recently I came across a recipe with kale that sounded both interesting and delicious, so I decided it was time to give kale another go.
This awesome blog called Cooking with a Wallflower recently posted a recipe for Pumpkin Kale Mac and Cheese which sounded absolutely incredible! I admit I was a bit skeptical because why mess with a perfectly good cheesy pasta dish? But then I remembered the pile of spaghetti squash we’ve got kicking around here, and my goal to try out kale two more times still, and thought this might make a good comfort meal to combat the freezing weather we’ve been having.
I didn’t use pumpkin, as you’ve probably already realized. I didn’t feel the need to go find a can of pumpkin puree when I’ve got 2 and a half dozen spaghetti squash just waiting for their time to shine, so I decided to make use of them.
I had to make my own puree, so I took the easiest route possible: I split the sucker in half and roasted it for about an hour. Then I pulled all the innards out with a fork and blended it with my immersion blender – I love that kitchen gadget!
Once I had the squash puree, I proceeded with the rest of the recipe. I doubled it, because having extra mac & cheese always seems like a good idea. I like a lot of flavour in my mac & cheese, so I added both onion powder and ground mustard to the dish. I also decided to use some frozen tortellini I had on hand instead of regular pasta, since they were filled with butternut squash and I thought it would pair nicely.
I ran into a couple of issues, the first of which the author of the original recipe noted as well – the squash makes the sauce a little grainy. I didn’t mind it, but the graininess doesn’t make it look incredibly appetizing. I wonder if I’d have created a better consistency if I’d have used the blender to mix the squash into the sauce rather than just stirring it in. In any case, the hint of squash flavour in the cheese sauce provided a delightful taste! Mmm, cheese…
What was I saying? Oh yeah. The other issue also had to do with the sauce’s texture – the amount of cornstarch called for (times two) was not nearly enough to make the sauce thicken to the consistency I would have expected for mac & cheese. And adding the kale seemed to make the situation worse, which I supposed was as a result of the moisture being cooked out of the leaves. The dish ended up being a bit soupy. The good news is that the sauce became nice and thick as the leftovers cooled in the fridge, so I eventually achieved the results I wanted after all.
One thing I really like about kale is the smell as it cooks; it reminds me of broccoli, which is one of my favourite veggies. Another thing I like is the distinct flavour; it’s not at all bitter like a lot of blogs claim. In this dish though, it kind of acted like spinach – it was just hanging out in the sauce but didn’t add a whole lot of kale flavour, which I missed. Maybe I overcooked it.
In any case, it made a usually decadent dish just a bit healthier, and that’s awesome in my books!