Monday, March 07, 2011
OK, so like the other day I found myself wondering why I felt a vague sense of urgency...like...something was left undone....something was forgotten. I checked to see if I'd fed the cat, check; I checked to see if I'd charged my phone, check; I checked to see if I was wearing pants, check. Hmmm...wasn't any of the usual things...
Then my eyes slid to the refrigerator, and I realized what it was. The kale. Once again rearing its beautiful, overwhelming head. The thing was, through a series of circumstances beyond my control, I was now faced with a rather enormous quantity of kale piling up in my fridge. I'd gotten some in the CSA box, but then I just couldn't resist this pretty curly variety at the
farmer's market, then, who comes home proudly bearing a bunch, but The
Hubs, saying "hey, can we have that kale stuff again?" and slinging an
enormous bag of it on the counter. Sigh. (Awww, but he used a reusable bag!)
Oy...those things are BIG! Until you clean 'em and break 'em down, with
all their big ol' stems and all, they take up a LOT of room! And you can't clean 'em in advance; if you do, you've just bought a ticket on the express train to Browngooville.
AND, to top it all off, I'd found a whole treasure-trove of collard greens growing wild in my unkempt winter garden (what passes for "winter" here in CA simply means that I use the slightly chilly weather as an excuse to let my garden go to hell.) These I'd HAD to clean, as they were host to a number of "hangers-on" I didn't particularly want boppin' around my fridge.
...I was feeling uneasy...starting to panic...I had a ticking time bomb of rot hanging over my head...and there's only so much braised kale we can eat!
Later that day at work, a coworker overheard me fretting, and unlike most of my cubie-mates' reaction of "seriously? You're worrying over VEGETABLES?!", she had a suggestion: kale chips.
"Kale chips?" I said dubiously..."that sounds--"
"I know, gross, huh? But they're super good, really! Kind of
like...ummm...like salty nori!"
Now, nori is that black seaweed stuff wrapped around sushi; I love
sushi, but I'm not sure I see nori by itself as a nummy nosh...still, I trust my friend's taste, so I say I'll try it. She says she'll send me a recipe, and she does:
I get home that evening and take out a big wad of kale (jebus, there's kale in every freaking nook and cranny of my fridge!)and shove it into a sinkful of water, and begin stripping out the stems....this is a BIG bunch of kale and I kind of go off into a kale-cleaning trance, looking out the window at the backyard at my overgrown raised bed and wondering what I'll plant this year...hmmm...tomatoes, of course, and cukes for pickling...umm...and cilantro and parsley and chives...artichokes would be fun...and lettuces...mmm...maybe some nice kale...
This is where daydreaming gets you. I shook myself, and realized I was done cleaning the kale; it was floating blissfully in the water, looking all innocent and leafy. I gathered it all up and stuffed the leaves into the salad spinner, gave it a pump, and while it was spinning, went to check everything else. Yep, oven on, got the parchment paper on the cookie sheets, here's a big bowl. OK, good, we're done spinning -- in with the kale, on with the olive oil, toss toss toss (I use my hands -- best thing for dry cuticles!) and, onto the sheets. A little salt, and...and...wait. That's it? I can put 'em in the oven and walk away?!
If you've read my other blogs, you know I love a recipe where you can just leave and go have a glass of wine while things become edible. (My crock-pot gets a LOT of use.)
I take my wine out into the living room and wonder how these things are gonna turn out. I mean, really? KALE? CHIPS?! I'm sorry, it really does sound faintly revolting. Still, they're smelling pretty good...mmm...this wine is good...mmm...maybe I'll try some pattypan squash this year, and definitely peas...wonder if The Hubs'd build another trellis for me...and what about the chickens? When we married he promised me chickens...I wonder if chickens eat kale? RINGRING!!!
Yikes! I guess the chips're done! (I really need to get a hobby; this daydreaming is getting out of hand.)
I call The Hubs in and...moment of truth...take 'em out of the oven, and, halle-ever-lovin-lujah, I didn't burn 'em! Or even caramelize 'em!
They look lovely, all shiny and dark green, but how do they taste? I pick one of the curly leaves up gingerly, and, to my surprise, it does feel crispy! I take a bite of one ruffled edge, and it kind of crumbles in my mouth, and then, as I greedily shove the rest of the chip in, I mumble to The Hubs, "mmm, it'sh good! Chrispy...but kind of chewy at the end, too!" And reach for another.
He grabs one, not one to pass up a chance at a possibly tasty new snack, but I do sense a leeeeetle hesitation as he brings it to his mouth. He steels himself, however, (that's my man!) and pops it in. "Hey! Not bad!" He munches. "Yeah, there's a chewiness at the end that's really good!" He starts grabbing more and stuffing them into his maw, "You should make more -- do you want me to go get some more kale?"
I feel bad. He wasn't prepared for the attack.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
So like in my quest for a healthy, whole food, seasonal, local diet that I love and am excited about, I've been trying new foods and recipes...I've got kale and homemade hummus under my belt, so now's the time to try that grain I keep hearing about that's supposed to be super-healthy and full of all kinds of crap that'll make you live forever: quinoa.
But I really didn't know anything about it except that there was that one chick who tried to cook it on Top Chef and failed miserably because she undercooked it. So I was feeling some trepidation as I entered my local Whole Foods looking for it. At least I DID know how to pronounce it (KEEN-wa...say it! Keen-wa! Keen-wa! I was doing that for an entire evening after I heard about it on a food show; my DH, bless his heart, remained unfazed.) I was feeling rather "in the know" when I found a darling little proto-hippie working there and asked for it by name, only to be kind of deflated when she's all "Red or white? Pilaf mix? Packaged? Bulk?" And looking at me all cheerily expectant.
Oy. Here I thought I was so fancy knowing how to SAY it.
"Er, white, I guess? Packaged?"
She smiled, a bit knowingly I thought, as if she knew that the concept of bulk red quinoa made me feel a little faint. She told me which aisle and trotted off, undoubtedly to go prepare the outer bran of something for her lunch, and I shouldered my way past all the yoga-mat-toting fifty-somethings to the grains and pasta aisle, and surveyed the selection.
I picked up the least threatening-looking package and read the directions, hoping this wouldn't call for some extravagant rinsing and washing and overnight soaking (or is that dried beans?) but hmm...not too bad; in fact, kind of like couscous, which I've cooked before, albeit from a pre-flavored package...just bring to a boil in water or broth, reduce heat and -- whoa -- what's this:
"Let simmer until quinoa is tender and the protein spiral is released."
OK, hold on a sec -- is it just me or does that sound like something they'd say on a Discovery Channel special on the mating habits of algae?! Why would they put that so baldly on the package, as if anyone would be happy to have protein spirals releasing all over their kitchen??? Eventually, though, after reading some other, more informative packages, I found that this was normal for quinoa, and not dangerous at all, and actually just how it cooks and what gives the grain its nice "bite". Still.
I took it home and looked around the Internets for a tasty-sounding recipe. As usual I ended up getting the gist of it and then looking for stuff in my kitchen to use. I ended up with this:
1 cup of dry quinoa
2 cups of chicken broth
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
Couple grinds of pepper
2 tsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-low and sweat the shallots until soft. Add all the other ingredients, stir, cover and simmer for 20 mins, or until there are a bunch of released protein spirals flying around your kitchen. :)
I used shallots, 'cause Anthony Bourdain said if you want to do one easy thing to make your food more like restaurant food, use shallots. It smelled geat while it was cooking and I'm sure it would've been fantastic...if I hadn't burned it. Gah!!! Well...I didn't QUITE burn it...but it was a leeetle crispy around the edges...but we scooped out the "good stuff" and ate it anyway and it was really good! Definitely kind of like couscous except a little chewier and more flavorful, but that might've been the shallots. And so good for you, especially for its protein content...great for those poor, misguided souls among us who are vegetarians (Kidding!!! But how can one not live life without BACON, fergodsakes?!)
We liked it enough that I cooked it again a couple nights later and finally succeeded in not burn -- er, crisping it, and it really was great. Oddly, it reminds me a bit, in texture, of the sort of slight chewiness to the Malt-o-Meal I used to eat when I was a kid. I wonder -- you probably COULD eat it like a breakfast cereal! But maybe minus the shallots...
(KEEN-wa! KEEN-wa! KEEN-wa!)
Monday, January 31, 2011
So when I last posted, I had a beautiful but malevolent Savoy cabbage from my CSA box which I didn't know what to do with...thanks to my new Spark friend WYOBZM's suggestion, I decided to try a recipe for braised cabbage I found on SparkRecipes.com. This is the one I decided on (probably because it incorporated balsamic vinegar and I'd eat balsamic vinegar on my breakfast cereal if I didn't know my DH'd look at me funny):
Now, I'm not the most attentive of cooks. I tend to like recipes that incorporate the phrase, "cover, then simmer for 1/2 hour" or "cover, then turn to low and cook for 3-4 hours) -- which to me is code for "get your wine and go do something else." Sometimes this behavior bites me in the butt (remind me to tell the story of my first attempt at searing), but this time, I lucked out.
(It's two days ago. Me and DH are looking down into a pot that was once full of some beautiful, crispy cabbage, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, but is now a strange-looking, odd-smelling dark mass huddling on one side of the bottom of the rather blackened pot bottom.)
ME: Oh crap! I think I overcooked it...
DH (Being a true DH): No! No...um...I'm sure it'll be fine...have you...uh...tasted it?
ME: No...should I? (Giving DH a look full of generosity) Why don't YOU taste it? (Receive raised eyebrow and a "nice try" look) Hmph...girl tries to be generous...(sigh) OK...here goes...(tastes small blackish piece) Huh! Not bad! Kind of...caramelized-tasting! (Takes another piece) Yeah, tasty!
DH (dubious, to say the least): Really! It looks so...
ME: Burnt, I know...but...I think that may be the balsamic -- it did call for a lot, and it was the last of the bottle, and there was some sediment in the bottom...but it's good, really!
DH (Now even more dubious): ..."Sediment"???
ME: Well, you know how some of the wines we get have some sediment sometimes, well, you know, balsamic vinegar is kind of like wine, and I HAVE had that bottle awhile...
DH: (Now crossing his arms and reaching new heights of dubiousness) Yes, but this isn't wine...and when we get it in wine, we STRAIN IT -- we don't DRINK the sediment!!
ME: Well, sometimes I do, before I notice it's there, and you know, it's kind of interesting, and...and...look, just TASTE it, I swear to you, the cabbage is good! (Desperately) Remember the kale? You LIKED the kale! It had balsamic vinegar too!
DH: (Relaxing somewhat and uncrossing arms): Yeah, that WAS good...OK (giving me a hard look)...I'll try it. (I hand him the tongs and he picks up what I have to admit is not the most toothsome-looking piece of plant matter, and brings it slowly to his mouth, chews, look of faint fear replaced by surprise) Hey! Not bad! Kind of...sweet...and...chewy, like kind of caramelized! (I watch a lot of food shows; DH has absorbed some of the lingo.)
ME: (Relieved) Yes! That's what I thought! (peering down into the pot) Surprising, huh, 'cause it kind of looks like hell...
DH: (Cautiously) Yeah...but it tastes good! (Brightening) And we're having pork chops with it, huh? (DH loves my pork chops)
ME: Only if you make the mashed potatoes...(as much as I love his mashed potatoes!)
(We close with an "I Love Lucy" style heart, slightly burned around the edges, but caramelized! )
So, I seriously did burn the cabbage a bit...well, perhaps "burn" is overstating it...let's just say I "overcaramelized" it. But it really was good, and I'll cook it again, and maybe stick around a bit more during the cooking.
And before I do, I'm springing for a nonstick dutch-oven...I had to go to the garage for steel wool to bring the one I used back from the dead! Who knew balsamic vinegar turned to varnish when exposed to enough heat?!
Tune in next week for...Quinoa's pretty Keen!
Friday, January 28, 2011
So like my husband and I started having a CSA (community supported agriculture) box delivered after a nice young man came by our house selling subscriptions to it. At first, it seemed I'd never get through all the produce in it -- some of it I didn't even recognize (Oh, so THAT'S a bok choy!) But over time it's widened my horizons and inspired me to try new things.
My husband was questioning the financial viability of the box ($25 a month for a fairly small box, but all organic and local) especially since every month, some of the less-familiar stuff would turn to slime in the depths of the fridge. He was advocating stopping the delivery, but I really liked the idea of supporting my local farmers, plus eating seasonally, so I decided to make a goal of using each and every item. Some were easy (absolutely GORGEOUS little fingerling potatoes, pretty little yams, bright orange carrots, lettuce, oranges, apples, lemons) But then there was this giant head of purplish-green cabbage. And bok choy. And kale. Every month, a huge, really beautiful Vegas-showgirl-headdress of kale. How the heck do I cook a headdress?!
First of all I learned the best way to store these veggies before I used them. Don't wash 'em until you're going to use 'em, cut the tops off the carrots (or the tops'll suck the moisture out of 'em), set the lettuce root-end-first into a small bowl of water...plus my husband's surprisingly-effective trick: put any item into a plastic supermarket bag and wrap up. We don't know why this works, but vegetables and fruit stored this way just stay good longer! We think it's 'cause there's ALWAYS a hole or two in the bottom of those bags, so the rot-producing gases can escape? Who knows (and I was skeptical at first) but it works!!!
Once I'd got 'em all stabilized, I looked online for recipes. I specifically looked for recipes that were easy; I'm an OK cook but not too experienced and I didn't want to psych myself out. First of all, the kale. Not only was it the thing I was least experienced with, it also took up A LOT of space in my fridge -- you try storing a headdress in YOUR fridge! So I went online and googled "easy kale recipe"; this is an amalgam of a bunch of 'em, customized to use what I had in my kitchen and to suit my tastes.
Wash kale and remove central stem; dry thoroughly with kitchen towels, or better yet, a salad spinner. (I think it's easiest to dump all the leaves in the sink and fill it with water, letting the leaves float while I rip out the stems. Kale can be pretty dirty, and if you let it float, it loosens the dirt that'll just sink to the bottom.)
Rip up kale into manageable pieces -- they don't need to be too small.
Put 2 tsp olive oil in a large, nonstick saucepan with a lid.
Chop up one clove of garlic.
Get out a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and like a teaspoon of kosher salt.
Heat up the oil on medium-high heat til the oil runs like water when you tip the pan.
Put the ripped-up kale in the pan all at once and start moving it around with tongs. (I described this to my husband as "move it around like you're looking for something in it.") It will start to wilt pretty quick and take up less space.
Once it's pretty darn wilted, add in the garlic and salt and keep tossing for like another 30 secs. I don't put the garlic in right up front 'cause I find it gets overcooked and bitter in the hot oil .
Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for like 6-10 more minutes, depending on how soft you like your greens, and how tough the greens are (different varieties are quicker cooking than others), poking at it a bit once in a while.
That's it -- it'll look like spinach, but if you don't like cooked spinach, never fear, cooked kale isn't slimy and I think has a better flavor. The balsamic vinegar is key here -- kale can be slightly bitter and the sweetness of the balsamic cuts and complements that. You don't use much, so get the best you can afford; it'll keep forever.
MIRACLE! It was really good! AND, miracle of miracles, my husband, who is of the opinion that the only good vegetable is a potato, or maybe corn, ACTUALLY LIKED IT!!! I mean, liked it enough to ask me to cook it again!!!
And now that I've got it down, join us next week to see what I do with the giant, mysterious, purpley-green head of cabbage currently staring malevolently at me from the rotter -- er, crisper.
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