Cooking Off The Cuff: Turning Over An Old Leaf

01/04/2017 07:58 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2017

In last week’s Cooking Off the Cuff I suggested that the last few spoonsful of your applesauce could be used as a filling for little turnovers. They’re delicious and fun to eat, and I was about to make another batch when I was confronted with a handful of leftover Tuscan kale (cavolo nero – the dark, dark green leaves that are at their best along about now, when they’ve been exposed to freezing temperatures before harvest). I was also confronted with the need for a snack to serve with pre-dinner drinks. With apple turnovers in mind, I’d already made a mini-batch of pastry dough using 6 oz (170 g) flour, 4 oz (115 g) butter cut into thin slices, salt and just enough cold water to hold everything together in a ragged mess, and folding this in thirds and rolling it out five or six times, with a few minutes’ rest after every two roll-and-fold operations, by which time the ragged mess had become a smooth, easily rollable dough that when baked would be flaky but would not rise quite as much as puff pastry.

It took but little brain to figure out that the same dough could be wrapped around a mouthful of chopped Tuscan kale for our snack. I’d cooked the kale in one of the usual ways: I’d stripped the leaves off the tough stems/ribs, washed them thoroughly, shaken off excess water and cut them into half-inch (13 mm) strips. I’d lightly browned a big clove of garlic, sliced, in plenty of olive oil, then added the kale, salt and a generous half cup (125 ml) of a simple tomato sauce (good canned tomatoes crushed by hand and simmered for 25 minutes with salt, a whole peeled clove of garlic, olive oil and a couple of sage leaves).

I simmered the kale, first covered then uncovered, until tender but not without texture. In this state, it will keep in the fridge for a few days, though it soon becomes less interesting (how much of that deterioration is the Psychology of Leftovers I do not know).

The handful that was left after a chicken dinner became the filling for our turnovers. I pressed it hard in a fine-mesh strainer to remove much of its moisture, then chopped it and added a heaping tablespoon each of grated parmesan and lightly toasted pine nuts (whole); a minced anchovy fillet or few chopped raisins would have been nice too, but entirely unnecessary.

I rolled the dough thin – maybe 1/8 inch (3 mm) – and used an 8-cm (3-in) cookie cutter to make a dozen circles, which did not use all the dough: I rerolled the trimmings and froze them for future reference. Each circle I elongated using a small rolling pin (a large one would work well too if you’re careful), then placed a heaping teaspoonful of filling on each, folded the lightly moistened dough over the filling and crimped it shut using a fork. I brushed each with a little cream (egg would be even better, but it seemed profligate to open an egg when only a quarter of it would be used) and sprinkled sparsely with crunchy salt. I baked them for 20 minutes at 400º F (205º C); at this point they were golden but needed more cooking, so I lowered the heat a bit and left them in for a further 10 minutes, when they were a deeper golden brown.

I let the turnovers cool on a wire rack, then when guests arrived reheated them in the oven for six minutes.

As it should be, the delicious, airy, buttery pastry was an equal partner with the filling, in part because I didn’t make the mistake of over-stuffing the turnovers (which would in any case have risked leakage). And with the remaining dough, Jackie and I will still get our apple turnovers soon.

A little leftover cooked Tuscan kale (cavolo nero)
Edward Schneider
A little leftover cooked Tuscan kale (cavolo nero)
Squeezing out excess moisture
Edward Schneider
Squeezing out excess moisture
After draining, the kale was finely chopped
Edward Schneider
After draining, the kale was finely chopped
Parmesan and toasted pine nuts were added
Edward Schneider
Parmesan and toasted pine nuts were added
8-cm (3-in) circles of dough were elongated with a little rolling pin
Edward Schneider
8-cm (3-in) circles of dough were elongated with a little rolling pin
Not too much filling
Edward Schneider
Not too much filling
Crimping for safety’s sake
Edward Schneider
Crimping for safety’s sake
Done
Edward Schneider
Done
These are applesauce-filled, but the idea is the same
Edward Schneider
These are applesauce-filled, but the idea is the same
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