Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Kale Commission

  • Somehow after making kale and white bean soup I still had some greens left over. While most of my favorite kale dishes are rather unassuming (one involves little more than a poached egg, cooked greens, and a piece of toast soaked in broth), I thought I'd be adventurous for once. Pickled onions and avocado? That sounds like it's got spunk! Unfortunately, I found it rather bland. The onions picked up little flavor and the avocado--usually paired with such bright flavors--looked forlorn sitting on top the failed mess I had made myself for dinner. So I'm introducing the failure tag. Fortunately, the other idea on that page is an excellent one: kale chips. I first read about them on Apartment Therapy and many attempts later I have a few pieces of wisdom to share. Start with this recipe (all you need is kale, olive oil, salt, and vinegar), and keep the following in mind:
  • It's fun to play with your food! Do like Dani Spies and massage the oil and vinegar into the kale pieces. Her explanation of how to clean the greens from the stem is also helpful. You don't want to tear your kale too small or they will singe.
  • Do NOT salt the chips until they come out of the over. Trust me on this.
  • Like potato chips, you can practically inhale a bowl of these without noticing. While kale greens are good for you, large amounts of salt are not. The vinegar gives it a real kick so you only need a dusting.

The Vegetable Formerly Known As Brussels Sprout

If I were to pair these recipes with music--and maybe I should--the perfect match to this side dish preparation would be Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." The way I'm suggesting you serve these humble, wild cabbages is dialing it up to ELEVEN. First, you cook them in a combination of butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Are you getting the vapors already? You would think this is indulgent enough, but oh no. We're going to put cheddar on top of these puppies. I'm a big fan of Black Diamond's grand reserve, but you really can't go wrong with any good cheddar. Here are the ingredients:
  • Vegetable oil

  • 2 1/2 lbs Brussel Sprouts, cut in half

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • cheddar (optional, but highly recommended)
When I mentioned this dish to a friend whose former profession was as a sous chef he asked, "What? No bacon?" So if that's your sort of thing, go ahead and crumble some crispy bacon on top. You can start with this recipe, but first a few notes:
  • Brussels sprouts should be washed thoroughly because these buggers hide grit well.

  • Trim the sprouts' butts before halving or quartering them.

  • Shave cheddar on top right before serving sprouts piping hot.

  • Are you one of those people who grew up hating Brussels sprouts? I did not because, as it turns out, my mother hated them so they were never served in our household. I may not have eaten a single Brussels sprout until college. This, and another preparation that I'll tell you about later, might change her mind and yours.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kale and White Bean Soup

Hello, gorgeous.

Happy Birthday, Heather! I got you a blog.

This year my lovely friend Heather packed up her many, many pairs of shoes and moved to the beautiful European island from which her (also lovely) boyfriend hails. I promised her recipes. Here is the first, which was originally published in Gourmet (RIP). Visit Epicurious.com for the full recipe. I've copied my altered ingredient list below so you know what you're dealing with. I replaced the chicken broth with a vegetable version and omitted the sausage. This is the perfect recipe for using up those sad-looking rinds in your cheese drawer (what--you don't have one of those?).

  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
A few notes:
  • Presoak your beans. It's an easy habit to adopt. Dump a bag into a large bowl, cover with water, and leave out while you go to work or overnight as you sleep.It's less work than operating a can opener, I promise.
  • If your eyes are sensitive to onions, bring a small fan into the kitchen to blow the noxious gases away from you as you chop. Or let the floodgates open and pretend your man done did you wrong. Theater pairs wonderfully with cooking.
  • Only fresh garlic is acceptable in my kitchen.
  • If I don't have homemade broth on hand, I use vegetable bouillon from Rapunzel. Not everything can be from scratch.
  • Rosemary is an incredibly hearty plant. I keep a pot in my windowsill and despite egregious neglect, it's still with me.
  • This soup ages well. Cook it the night before and heat it up for an incredibly warming lunch. The temperature here has been dipping into the 20s, so that is exactly what I'm doing.
  • Go ahead. Grate some fresh parmigiano reggiano on top. You've earned it.