Dario Cecchini, the Tuscan meat-cutter who may just be the most famous butcher in the world, came to Los Angeles this year to visit friends. What does a meat man do on vacation? Cook meat, of course. While the story was focused around his phenomenal bistecca Fiorentina (basically small-end porterhouses cut at least 2 inches thick), what really got folks in the Test Kitchen going was this very simple home-style dish of fennel-scented pork served over Tuscan kale. These may not have the Stonehenge visual impact of those monstrous steaks, but we couldn't stop eating them.
Total time: 45 minutes, plus marinating time for the meat
Note: You can substitute 3 ounces fennel pollen for the fennel seed. It is available at www.thespicehouse.com (for $19.95 an ounce). (You don't need to grind it; just mix with the 1 teaspoon salt.)
3 tablespoons fennel seed
1 (1- to 1 1/4 -pound) pork blade roast or pork butt (the leaner part of the cut)
1 pound cavalo nero, Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale or other kale or mustard green
1/4 cup olive oil
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1.Using a mortar and pestle, or a coffee or spice grinder, coarsely grind together 1 teaspoon salt and the fennel seed. Cut the roast crosswise into slices that are one-fourth- to one-half-inch thick. Arrange on a plate and season with the salt and fennel seed mixture. Set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While waiting for the water to heat, strip the stems from the kale, and chop the leaves coarsely. Add the leaves to the boiling water and cook until they are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry and set aside.
3. When ready to cook, pour the oil into a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves, and cook until they begin to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the meat to the hot oil and brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
4. Remove the pork to a clean plate and put in a warm place. Reduce the heat to low, add the kale to the pan and cook, stirring to coat with the pan drippings, until the flavor mellows and combines, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
5. Arrange the pork on top of the kale, pouring any collected juices in the plate over the greens. Season with more salt if necessary, cover and cook over low heat until the pork is heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately, spooning a mound of the greens onto the plate and placing the pork steak on top.
Each serving: 355 calories; 29 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 75 mg. cholesterol; 665 mg. sodium.