Cavolo Nero, Kale’s Heartier Cousin

February 13, 2015 5:47 PM

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Cavolo Nero, Kale’s Heartier Cousin

WHEN RUTH ROGERS and Rose Gray introduced cavolo nero to their diners in the late 1980s, growing it in pots at London’s River Café, it wasn’t because it was a so-called superfood. It was because this member of the cabbage family was so, culinarily speaking, sexy. In fact, according to Paulo Arrigo of Seeds of Italy, where we buy the seed for our Oxfordshire vegetable garden, the Victorians first imported it to Britain as an ornamental plant, for the aesthetic appearance of its crinkly, dark leaves.

The River Café is big on authenticity, and cavolo nero is essential to the genuine recipe for ribollita, a “reboiled” winter vegetable stew. The charm of this Tuscan peasant dish for 21st-century foodies is both its simple heartiness and its one elusive, emphatically regional, ingredient. Italy may ...

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