Garlic. Not only is it one of the most important base flavors to many of the dishes we cook, it’s also a nutritious superhero. But did you know that chopping garlic and immediately throwing it in the pan can obliterate it’s nutritional benefits? Neither did I!
My wonderful godparents sent the Man and me Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side for Christmas, and my kitchen has become at least ten times as nutritious as a result. Robinson is a health writer and food activist who’s work can be found in Time, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Men’s Health and on NPR, to name a few. She is a wealth of information when it comes to our food, and how our treatment of it can increase or decrease its nutritive properties.
For example, I had no idea that cooked carrots are more nutritious than raw carrots. The cooking breaks down the outer walls of the cells, making the nutrients more available to our bodies. Not only that, but cooking carrots whole and slicing them afterward preserves more nutrients than if you slice first, and cook second. Who knew? And such a simple change can have a huge nutritional impact. (Okay, carrots have nothing to do with garlic or this recipe, but it’s a pretty great tip right?)
But let’s get back to the garlic. The stuff has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, andhas shown to be one of the best natural remedies against cancer. How? Allicin—garlic’s active ingredient. But a clove of raw garlic only contains the ingredients to make allicin, not allicin itself. And the way to combine them and make allicin is by chopping or crushing the cloves.
But here’s the catch. One of the ingredients, alliinase, is heat sensitive, and needs time to combine with the other ingredient, alliin, for the allicin to be created. In other words, if you chop your garlic and immediately cook it, allicin is never created, and you can say so long and farewell to the cancer fighting properties of garlic. The fix? Let the garlic sit for ten minutes after chopping. The allicin is created, and the heat sensitive alliinase is no longer needed. Into the pan it goes, and your taste buds and body are happy and healthy.
So from now on, the first step in all of my recipes that contain cooked garlic is going to be “chop your garlic and let it sit!” Including this one. I love this simple pasta. With whole grains from the brown rice penne, leafy greens, protein-packed beans and cheese, and cancer fighting onions and garlic, its definitely nutritious. And it’s also craveable. Plus it’s easy to make after a long day.
PENNE WITH WHITE BEANS AND KALE
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 large bunches lacinato kale
- 1 15 ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 16 ounces brown rice penne
- grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish
Mince the garlic and set it aside. Peel and quarter your onion, and slice thinly. Add a big splash of olive oil (about 1/4 cup) to a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until beginning to soften.
Meanwhile, rinse your kale, remove the ribs, and slice crosswise into thin ribbons. Set aside.
Push the onion to the edges of your pan, and add a splash of olive oil and the garlic to the center. Cook for a minute or so, until the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir the onions and garlic together.
Add the kale ribbons. Turn the heat down slightly. Season with a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then add 1/2 cup water and cook the kale, stirring periodically, until softened. If the pan becomes too dry, add another splash of water and stir—the water will evaporate.
Meanwhile, set a pot of salted water to boil. Add your penne and a splash of olive oil to the water and cook according to package directions (10-13 minutes for brown rice pasta). When you add your pasta to the water, add your beans to the kale mixture and stir.
Drain your penne and add the noodles to the kale mixture. Stir to combine, and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with grated Pecorino cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.