Until, that is, I noticed a little section at the end of the entry labeled Flavor Affinities. At first I was confused by said section, as the entire list that comes before could be labeled as such. But, what appears to set this section apart is that it presents combinations of three flavors or more. Sweet potatoes + apples + sage (= yum.) Sweet potatoes + bacon + onions + rosemary (= yum.) And near the end of the list: sweet potatoes + kale + prosciutto (= so very yum and a perfect way to utilize a fresh bunch of kale in the fridge.) After noting that both kale and sweet potatoes pair well with thyme, I gathered my ingredients and went to work. Here's what I came up with, along with a few ideas for modifications the next time around.
Savory Kale & Sweet Potato Pasta (Gnocchi, if you've got 'em!)
Here, I stuck with a slightly modified version of my still favorite sweet potato preparation. Preheat the oven to 400. Mince 3-4 large garlic cloves and combine in a large bowl with 1/3 c fresh thyme leaves and 1/2 t red pepper flakes. Add in 3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into comfortably bite-sized pieces. Toss with enough olive oil to coat (about 3 T), add a pinch of salt and pepper, and distribute onto a foil-lined baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for around 40 minutes, till potatoes are tender.
Slice 4-5 pieces of prosciutto into 1/4 inch strips. Separate and sautee until crisp, adding a drizzle of olive oil to the pan if needed. (Do not use a non-stick pan for this--you want all of the brown deliciousness for later.) When prosciutto is crisp, remove from pan and spread on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving any remaining fat in the pan.
In the same pan, sautee one medium yellow onion, sliced thin. Add about 1.5 c of chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Add the kale (chopped), another generous helping of fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and cover. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. If needed, add more stock as it cooks--you want some liquid in the pan in the end to toss together with the pasta.
What I wanted to have with this dish were gnocchi, those pillowy little bundles of delight. But, as I didn't have access to good pre-made ones and was scared away from attempting some from scratch by a doomsaying husband, I ended up with whole wheat spaghetti. This was all right, but both the shape and the flavor seemed out of balance with the star ingredients--a bite with just kale, sweet potato, and prosciutto was divine, and the pasta seemed to get in the way of that rather than enhance it. Although I haven't tried it, I imagine that gnocchi would be a much better companion. I have also since learned that gnocchi can indeed be made at home without inviting certain disaster, and that The Silver Spoon cookbook has a lovely recipe. Next time around I'd like to attempt said recipe. At the very least, I would use a shorter pasta, probably penne.
The Final Product:
When your pasta, potatoes, and kale are done, toss the pasta and kale (with remaining broth) together in a large bowl. Fold in sweet potatoes. Serve and top with a generous sprinkle of prosciutto. As often as possible, combine all three of the delightfully affinitied flavors in one bite. Enjoy!