First off, there's no need for bacon. Olive oil and lots of fresh garlic lend the kale and beans a flavor that's just as rich and interesting. Soak and cook your white beans ahead of time with some salt and bay leaves if you like, or retain the weeknight gourmet aspect of this meal by using canned beans. Lidia uses black kale, also known as Lacinato and dinosaur kale, but regular old curly kale is fine. Fiddleheads, if you can find them, would be outstanding in this rich, garlicky dish. A drizzle of really good, peppery olive oil is the perfect finishing touch.
Polenta with Kale and White Beans
(adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
⅔ cup yellow polenta 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 packed cups kale, roughly chopped
½ cup low salt vegetable broth or water
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
½ teaspoon salt (reduce if broth is salty)
high quality extra-virgin olive oil (to drizzle)
In a medium saucepan, boil water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and bay leaves. Pour in polenta, whisking to ensure no lumps form. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cover. Stir frequently.
While polenta cooks, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds, just enough for the garlic to become fragrant but not begin to brown. Add kale and toss with garlic (this is easiest with tongs). After 2 minutes, when kale has begun to cook down, add broth, beans, and salt. Sauté another 5-6 minutes, uncovered, until most of the liquid has boiled off.
After 20 minutes, the polenta should be thick and creamy. Remove bay leaves and scoop into shallow bowls. Top with kale and beans. Drizzle additional olive oil over kale if desired.