Jan
2007

Cavolo Nero

Because of its considerable cultural significance, Tuscany is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Familiar to even the most casual student of history, Florence, the regional capital city of Tuscany, is known as the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance. Accordingly, great luminaries of art and science, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Leonardo da Vinci, at one time or another, have made their home within Tuscany.


Tuscany is centrally located on the western Italian coast. It can primarily be characterized by its scenic, hilly landscapes, which allow for the production of fine wines, particularly Chianti. However, the highly fertile area situated within the Arno River Valley is what has continued, even today, to give credence to Tuscany’s reputation as the breadbasket of the ancient Roman Empire.


Tuscan cuisine tends to be very straightforward and unpretentious, with an underlying simplicity that beautifully highlights the flavor of available seasonal foods. Exemplifying this seasonal focus,cavolo nero, is an ingredient typically harvested in Tuscany from the winter through the early spring months. Also called dinosaur kale,cavolo nero, is a type of cabbage whose long, ribbed, greenish-black leaves have a distinctive blistered appearance and a somewhat bitter taste. The most flavorfulcavolo nerowill have leaves no more than about 12-18 inches in length that are relatively uniform in color.

When in season,cavolo nerois considered a menu staple at most local eateries.Ribollita, a bean stew traditionally served over a hunk of crusty, fresh bread and topped with a generous shaving of parmesan, is one such quintessential Tuscan dish prominently featuringcavolo nero. Quite often, theribollitais prepared a day in advance and allowed to sit overnight, which facilitates the intermarriage of flavors. A more basic preparation, in which thecavolo nerois lightly sauteed with olive oil and garlic, will make a quick, delicious, and healthy side dish that can be easily made at home. Just pour yourself a glass of wine, preferably a Tuscan Chianti, and enjoy!