Friday, 8 June 2012 | 20 comments

Cavolo nero breakfast skillet

I’ve decided I’m going to start calling Tuscan kale by its Italian name, “cavolo nero.” Despite the fact that I eat it quite a bit, somehow whenever I talk about kale I end up swallowing my words. What can you say about kale? The brassica once unknown to this country is now the epitome of “health food”; liquefied into green juices and chopped into raw salads. Also: kale chips. I am tired of hearing about your kale chips, no offense, guys. On top of everything, I feel a little sad for all the other equally wonderful leafy greens, talking about collards more than a person has a right to do. Cavolo nero sounds like Machiavelli’s cousin or perhaps a dark, handsome, misunderstood villain. Cavolo nero, in short, sounds a little cooler (unless, of course, you translate it from Italian, in which case “kale” is much better than “black cabbage”). And indeed, kale has a much more beautiful, deeply-rooted history than just as a health-food fetish, dating back all the way to ancient Rome. Kale was so important as a cold weather crop in old Europe that Anglo-Saxons actually called February “Kale-monath”. Now, its peasant-food roots are probably best known in the Tuscan day-old bread soup, ribollita. We had gorgeous cavolo nero growing up until about a week ago. The slugs appear to have followed me from DC, though, and called their buddies the cabbage worms. As soon as the kale gets anywhere near ready to pick, it’s essentially decimated. Sigh. So I’ve been relying on other nearby kale-growers for my cavolo nero supply.Right now, any cavolo nero that you get will likely be big, since (at least in the mid-Atlantic U.S.) we’re nearing the end of kale season until the autumn. This dish, that I like to make for myself when I work from home, is perfect for some of those overblown and possibly a bit tough Tuscan kale leaves. Braised in a little garlicky oil and broth, the kale gets meltingly tender. After nestling a few eggs in and baking it, the pierced yolk makes a velvety sauce for the dish. In other words, this kale is sexy enough to be worthy of the images cavolo nero evokes.

Cavolo nero breakfast skillet

This recipe serves 2-3. I use an 8-inch cast iron skillet for it. To serve more—this is a great weekend brunch dish—use a larger skillet, 10-inch or 12-inch, and up the amount of everything accordingly.

You will need

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife, peeled, and roughly chopped
    Pinch red pepper flakes
    3 cups cavolo nero (tuscan kale, dino kale, lacinato kale, whatever you want to call it!), washed and roughly torn into 1-inch pieces
    1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or other light broth
    3-4 eggs
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground pepper
    Fresh oregano


    In an oven-safe skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just a minute or so, until the garlic is aromatic. Don’t allow the garlic to brown. Add the red pepper flakes.

    Add the kale in handfuls, tossing it in the oil, and allowing it to wilt down a bit before adding more. When all the kale has been tossed in the oil, allow it to cook a minute or so more.

    Add the broth to the skillet and stir. Simmer the kale mixture for 5-10 minutes, letting the kale deepen in color and become very tender. If you think you need more broth, add it. At the end of its simmering, much of the liquid should be thickened or cooked off, though. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Turn your broiler on high. Using the back of a wooden spoon, make small wells in the kale mixture. Carefully crack eggs into each of the wells. Let the eggs cook for a bit, undisturbed, in the stovetop, until the whites begin to become opaque and set up.

    Then, transfer the skillet to the oven. Broil, until the whites are completely cooked but the yolks are still soft (or to desired doneness), another 5-10 minutes.

    Scatter fresh oregano leaves across the top of the kale and eggs. To serve, use a wide, flatter spoon to scoop up the cooked egg and the kale mixture around it. Serve with crusty bread.

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§ 20 responses to Cavolo nero breakfast skillet

  • I’m not a big kale fan, but if I get to call it cavolo nero and eat it with eggs, I’m in! Looks delicious.

  • This looks like the best breakfast ever. Stellar photography, as always. Thank you!

  • This is, first off by far my favorite type of kale; and second, it’s my most favorite way to EAT kale. Runny with a softly cooked egg, warm and fragrant from garlic and just tender enough to slip between my teeth with little effort. This and the more under-appreciated Russian Red kale are always the ones I reach for, while everyone else grabs the curly leaf like it’s all they’ve ever known.

    I do love kale. No doubt. I AM a bit tired of hearing about it as well. Yes. Yes. It’s fantastic. We get it. So is chard. And beet greens. And bok choy of a million varieties and the leaves of peppery radish, those collards and the kicky mustard greens. And pea shoots, sweet potato leaves….. oh my. Explore people!!

  • Caz

    Cavolo Nero is my favourite type of Kale! Sadly the season is over in the UK so no more cavolo nero until Autumn. I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe in mind when the time comes. Thanks :)

  • Connie

    Ah cavolo nero or lacinato… gorgeous stuff. Will be picking ours tomorrow. Our favorite kale recipe is from Red, White and Greens by Faith Willinger: Kale Pesto… Tear up the leaves of a bunch of kale and cook until tender in salted water. Refresh in cold water, drain well and squeeze. Whiz (technical term) with 2 garlic cloves and about 1/2 cup of olive oil. It’s great on pasta, fish, chicken, bread, beans or soup. I usually need to add a bit more salt.
    Happy noms.

  • I love kale! I’ve been eating a lot of baby kale lately, adding it to my breakfast green smoothie and adding it to everything I can think of. I’m not much of a fan of kale chips either, I prefer to eat it raw or lightly sauteed. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day – I enjoy “second breakfast” as often as possible, hobbit-style :) Thanks for this fantastic idea! Cheers!

  • Sound delicious for this breakfast recipe! It’s make me so hungry! I can’t wait to eat this :)

  • Machiavelli’s cousin, heh. This is my favorite kind of kale. Lately I cook it up in a skillet with salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a bit of agave nectar at the end. Good stuff.

  • Amanda

    I think kale is the gateway green. So many of us grew up eating slimy, overcooked greens or even (shudder) canned. No wonder so many people thought they hated greens. Kale holds it’s structure so well and is mostly found fresh so it is a great place to start a new love affair with greens. This recipe looks delicious and easy! I’m addicted to greens cooked with cream or with runny-yolked eggs. So good! And garlic…yes…

  • Val

    I tried Red Russian kale the other day from my CSA box and adored it. It’s a bit tougher and waxier than Tuscan but braising it like this would be perfect. Plus the leaves and stems have a purplish tint so it’d look lovely with a bight yellow yolk oozing into it.

  • I always buy this kind of kale. I believe it’s also called lacinato or even dinosaur kale? I think the latter name would be great for selling it to kids, but I agree about cavolo nero–I’m perhaps attached to that term because it reminds me of how much of it I ate while on a trip to Tuscany! I am sure I will be making this very soon, and I have even more growing in the garden!

  • My boyfriend eats kale, sorry, cavolo nero, every other day, but I doubt he’s had it in a skillet. I’ll surprise him one Sunday morning with this. Love the photos!

  • By any name, it’s a gorgeous dish!

  • This is a charming post, and I love the photographs. The fresh oregano is so light and dainty against the robust darkness of the… “cavolo nero”.

  • Regina

    Hi I saw this recipes awhile back and stored it away. My kale is just perfect now (Oz) so I picked some this morning and had it with my beautiful fresh eggs from my girls. Pure heaven thank you so much ….. my new favourite way to poach eggs!!!!!

  • carla

    Made this last night and will make it again and again!
    One mod, I used the kale stems (plus onion,garlic, the usual) to make a quick light broth for the sautee.
    (I’m going to use the rest of the broth for a tater soup and turn the stems into pesto)
    Thanks for the recipe!

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