Tamari Braised Kale

Kale. It’s a vegetable that frequently induces this kind of reaction. But I for one love it.

A favorite neighborhood restaurant helped show me the light. A standard side dish for them is a delicious pile of kale braised in tamari soy sauce. It’s hearty and strikes a balance between saltiness, sweetness, and the bitterness of the greens. It also packs a wallop of a umami punch, probably thanks to that dark, rich soy sauce. Before our daughter was born, my husband and I ate there practically weekly but in the first few months of new, homebound parenthood, I had to figure out how to make that kale at home. Here’s my best effort– not exactly the same in taste, but I love this just the same. I like to serve this on the side of homemade mac n’ cheese just like they do at the restaurant (only there’s is an amazing vegan version!) since it’s not only delicious and helps cut through the creaminess of the cheese, but it also deceives me into thinking that mac n’ cheese is a nutritious meal.

  • 1 large bunch of kale (curly, lacinato, black your choice)
  • 1 small red or sweet onion or 1 large shallot if you prefer
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Remove kale leaves from stems then discard stems. Roughly chop the leaves and rinse in a colander. Do not shake dry– you want the water to still cling to the leaves.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion then add to the skillet. Saute until softened. Turn the heat up to medium high then add the kale leaves. Sprinkle with brown sugar, tamari, and black pepper and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook until liquid has evaporated and lightly coats the kale leaves. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

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Roasted Yams and Pears in Rosemary Walnut Honey

I am a slacker. Okay, for those of you who know me personally, that’s not news, but really– I’ve been feeling my slacker title particularly hard during the holidays. For example, it’s now officially too late to talk about the holidays as anything but dead and gone and I’m getting around to writing this post now. The reason? My amazing co-workers generously doled out handmade gifts– I received homemade soaps, a personalized covered notebook, amazing dark chocolate bark with sea salt and marcona almonds, and a jar of delicious rosemary honey. What did I give in return? Nothing. Yeah, I know I have this lovely excuse, but I still feel guilty.

But I made the most of those lovely gifts. That jar of honey? I used some of it to make a side dish for our Christmas dinner. Inspired by another co-worker’s contribution to our pre-holiday pot luck, I used the honey to help sweeten and add spice to a dish of roasted pears and yams. The honey had stems of rosemary, a couple of small red chili peppers, and golden nuggets of walnut, so I thought that since all those flavors marry well with yams and pears, maybe this might add something special to the dish rather than using regular clover honey.

And you know what? It was perfect. Those spices made the yams taste slightly earthy, enough of a contrast so that it helped round out the sweetness of the pears. There was also a pleasing variety of textures: slightly crisped skinned yams with soft but not mushy pears and the crunch of walnuts. This was a side dish that you just couldn’t help smiling after taking a bite. I may be a slacker and late to say this, but I am so very thankful for all the wonderful things that happened in 2011– a beautiful baby, a job that I love, and thoughtful co-workers.

Note: Be sure to buy under-ripe pears. I used Anjou pears here. And since not everyone can be lucky enough to receive a jar of honey steeped with rosemary, chili and walnuts, I’ve adjusted the ingredient list below accordingly.

  • 3 small yams, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 firm pears, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and roughly chopped (yield about 1.5 tablespoons)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped (yield about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except walnuts in a large bowl and toss together. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until yam pieces are tender. Tumble the roasted mix into a large serving bowl or onto a platter and sprinkle with walnuts and any additional fresh rosemary and thyme if you wish. Serve immediately.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Crispy Kale

It’s ridiculous how quickly time has gotten away from me. When I last posted on this blog, we were in the height of our CSA season. Each week, we took home a ridiculous abundance of fruits and vegetables. And even though one might speculate from my blog inactivity that all that produce went to waste, I actually have been cooking at least 5 nights a week; I just haven’t had time to document it here. Oh there are pictures alright as I still took those. It’s just that now that fall is here, and we’re practically at winter’s door, it seems a little silly to post summery ideas like my watermelon jalapeno agua fresca or a poached salmon topped with fresh corn and sungold tomatoes. Guess I’ll just have to keep those in mind for next summer. In the meantime, I’d rather talk about this hearty side dish.

The last few weeks of our CSA season usually means we are up to our eyeballs in various winter squashes. This season was no exception– at least 6-8 delicata squash, one red kuri squash, one sugar pumpkin, and a ginormous butternut squash that makes me tired just looking at it. I just… I just can’t deal with that at the moment.

Delicata squash has been my favorite of the squashes that our farm grows. It’s easy to cut and clean up, not to mention the skin is thin enough that you can just roast and eat it or peeling isn’t a huge difficulty. I chopped up a couple of medium, seeded delicata squash and spread them out on a baking sheet with potatoes, parsnips and leeks from our CSA. I then added some chanterelle mushrooms that I picked up for relatively cheap at the local grocery store. A good drizzle of olive oil, a half palmful of salt and some pepper then a quick mix, and my vegetables were ready to go in the oven for roasting. I decided no other spices or herbs were necessary, just the simple flavors of the vegetables, all nutty and crisp at the edges from the oven’s heat.

But as tasty as those vegetables would be, they could use a boost both in color and in texture contrasts. Seeing a bunch of red kale in the fridge, I decided to chop up the leaves, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne then sprinkled them on top of the vegetables to bake for the last 15-20 minutes of roasting. The kale crisped up, adding some crackly crunch to the vegetables. I loved how all these flavors melded together– subtly sweet squash, woodsy mushrooms, creamy potatoes, and slightly bitter but crispy greens. I piled them next to some pan-fried, pecan coated chicken and ended up serving such a warm and satisfying meal on the first cold, rainy night of the fall. Summer may have flown by, but cozy meals are just one reason why fall is my favorite season.

  • 2 medium delicata squash, seeded and cut into 1.5-2 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1.5-2 inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 small bunch of red kale
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of cayenne

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a baking sheet lined with foil, add chopped squash, potatoes, chanterelles, and parsnips. Cut the dark green part off of the leek and discard. Split the white/light green part of the leek in half lengthwise then thinly slice crosswise. Add sliced leek to a medium bowl of water and stir around. Use a strainer to remove the leeks from the water and add to the other vegetables. Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and mix until all the vegetables are evenly coated. Roast for 20-25 min. While vegetables roast, remove kale leaves from stems and discard stems. Chop the leaves then toss with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Mix together then sprinkle on top of roasting vegetables. Return to the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until kale is crisp and vegetables are tender and browned at edges. Serve while warm. Makes 4-6 side servings.

CSA Count: 5

Delicata squash, russet potatoes, parsnips, leeks, red kale

Snow Pea & Radish Salad

I bet that this post won’t get many hits. Snow peas? Radishes? Sounds boring right?

But in this salad’s defense, I’ll say that I was surprisingly pleased. For one thing, this salad is so refreshing on a hot day: chilled in the fridge, the snap peas and radishes stay crisp and are full of cool, hydrating water.  The lemony dressing and grassy dill are bright in flavors, pairing nicely with tangy, creamy blue cheese.

Then there are the colors: vibrant magenta and purple from the Easter egg radishes pop against that deep jade green of the snow peas. It’s a feast for the eyes, making this salad look and taste more exciting than what you’d expect from just hearing the ingredients. During these hot, late summer days, try a scoop of this salad next to food fresh off your grill. You’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

Note: Snow peas have to be trimmed of the tough fiber that holds the pod together, unless you want to see your fellow diners spitting out chunks of the pod. Simply twist the flowering end of the pod and peel down. If there’s no flower end, peel along the side where you can see the peas are attached inside the pod.

  • 3/4 lb snow peas, ends trimmed and fiber removed
  • 2 large Easter egg radishes, ends trimmed and sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped chives and dill
  • blue cheese crumbles to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and honey. Add in the snow peas and radish match sticks and toss to coat. Mix in chives and dill then plate. Add blue cheese crumbles to taste.

CSA Count: 4

Snow peas, Easter egg radishes, chives, dill

Five Spice Turnips

Turnips! (Just trying to psyche myself up here.) Er… Yum! Turnips! (Uh yeah, no. Let’s try again.) Woo-hoo!!! Turnips!

Really, does anyone get excited about turnips? When I saw these on the CSA packing list, fear struck– as much as I may love the CSA for introducing me to new produce and chances to experiment with cooking them, turnips just sound so unappealing. I searched around for ideas on how to cook turnips and came up with the usual ideas, that is, roast them or mash them. Meh. Then I went back to our CSA’s website to see what they might have to offer as far as recipe ideas and found a suggestion from Nigel Slater: saute the turnips in butter, add sherry, and fresh dill. Well, okay then. I could buy it that anything cooked in butter and booze has got to taste pretty darn good.

So I used that as a jumping off point. Why not add a third delicious “B”: bacon. I diced some bacon, cooked it in the pan until crisp, then removed most of the rendered fat from the pan. I then added some butter, and to add yet another “B” to this recipe, I browned the butter first. That way those peppery, earthy turnips would be coated in toasty, nutty, and sweet butter. Instead of sherry, I added a splash of Marsala wine along with a sprinkle of Chinese five spice powder. Sauteing alongside the turnips were some thin slices of sweet onion, chopped garlic scapes, the turnip greens and some rapini. I let the whole mix simmer until the turnip slices were firm yet translucent, before sprinkling back on the crispy bacon. John and I hesitantly took a bite– holy crap! These turnips were delicious! The five spice added a whiff of something exotic, pulling out the sweet yet spicy flavors of the Italian wine. The mustardy turnip greens and bitter rapini counter-balanced that sweetness and the bacon gave an underlying note of smoke not to mention a much needed contrast in texture to the softened vegetables. So let’s try that turnip psyche-up again, this time knowing that browned butter, bacon, and booze is involved: HURRAY!!!!! TURNIPS!!!!

  • 3 strips hickory smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch Tokyo Cross turnips, tops removed and chopped, turnips halved lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4 inch thick half moons
  • 3 garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 bunch rapini, chopped

Add diced bacon to a medium-sized skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Remove bacon pieces to paper towel lined plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat. Add the butter and cook until browned, stirring often (foam will subside, and butter will turn nutty brown color and smell heavenly), about 5-6 minutes. Add the turnips, garlic scapes, and sweet onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes then add the wine, brown sugar, five spice powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Continue cooking until turnips are shiny yet still firm and slightly brown around the edgest, about 18-20 minutes. Add the reserved, chopped turnip greens and chopped rapini, continuing to cook until greens have wilted, about another 5-7 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on bacon and serve immediately.

CSA Count: 4

Tokyo Cross turnips (greens included), garlic scapes, sweet onion, rapini

Sweet & Spicy Beet Salad

John and I have been eating a ton of salads with dinner lately. It’s in part due to an abundance of salad greens from our CSA, also in part due to visiting family bringing prepared salads, and also due to its being a fast way to get a vegetable in with our pre-prepared meals before one of us has to dash off to feed or comfort a newborn baby. This has meant that the vegetables that need to be cooked, beets and turnips, from the last two weeks’ shares have been neglected. Given the choice between a beet and a turnip, I opted for the beets.

I know that this blog is chocked full of beets, to the point of them having their own search category. So this salad isn’t really anything new as far as experimenting with ideas is concerned, but I thought it was worth writing about for the reason that this salad was both delicious and easy enough to make while exhausted from newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

I sliced my beets and started to roast them my usual way: foil wrapped, dressed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs. Then I thought, why not add other spices to the beets to see if it makes the flavors more complex. These beets then got sprinkled with chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon. Into the oven they went while I nursed the baby. The baby went back to sleep by the time the beets were done, giving me a chance to rummage through the dregs of salad greens left in our refrigerator. We had some red oak leaf lettuce, but sadly, the arugula that I had hoped to use for some peppery flavor was wilted and half rotten. No problem– I just tore up the beet green leaves themselves to supplement the lettuce. A quick dressing was thrown together, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, then for sweetness and added viscosity, I decided to use some maple syrup instead of the honey I normally would use. To play off the spices from the beets, I added some cinnamon and fennel seeds before pouring in the juices from my roasting foil packet. The greens and beets got tossed with the dressing then plated before getting topped with crumbled Danish bleu cheese. Sweet, complexly spiced, juicy, crisp and refreshing. Enough to wake us up until the next round of baby feeding/fussing.

  • 1 bunch red ace beets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, yellow curry powder, and cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small head red oak leaf lettuce
  • bleu cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juices from roasted beets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim beet tops and root ends from beets. Reserve the beet greens. Split each beet in half lengthwise then lay out on a piece of foil, about 1 foot long. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper along with the cinnamon, curry, and chili powder. Lay the thyme sprigs on top then fold up foil into a tight packet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until beets are tender, when you can pierce them with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil packet to avoid being scalded by the steam, and let cool while you wash and spin the salad greens and make the dressing.

Strip the beet green leaves from any tough stems and tear to bite size pieces. You can leave any beet leaves that are on a more tender stem in tact. Add these to torn lettuce in a salad spinner, wash and spin dry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then add the salad greens and toss to coat. When beets are cool enough to touch, peel away the beet skins then cut each beet half into thirds lengthwise. Plate salad greens with beets then crumble bleu cheese to taste.

Serves: 2-4

CSA Count: 2

Beets (beets and their greens), red oak lettuce

Honey Glazed Bacon Cioppolini

A fall and winter weekly ritual for me is to roast a chicken for dinner then make stock. The chicken makes for a comforting, cold weather meal, and the stock keeps us supplied for plenty of warming soups. The trick though is to keep the sides for my roast chicken dinners interesting.

One side staple is roasted potatoes. I particularly love adding chunks of potatoes to my chicken roasting pan about half way through as the fat from the chicken coats the potatoes, making them crisp and flavorful. But the other sides depend on what looks good or is available on hand. When our CSA gave us some cioppolini onions and some brussel sprouts in one share delivery, well, I knew that I had the makings for a dish that would definitely be something new at our table.

Cioppolini onions are ideal for braising or roasting as they get sweet and tender. I had thought about cooking them separately, but the sprouts were too few to make a side dish of their own and when added to the onions, I loved how they added bright pops of green amidst the creamy white onions. For flavors, I decided to keep things simple, by adding butter, honey, and balsamic vinegar to create an acidic but sweet glaze, and for texture– bacon, of course, a familiar friend to both brussel sprouts and onions.

This hearty side stood up to the tender chicken, what with its spicy onion flavor, subtle sweetness and tang, and crisp bacon. I also loved how the sprouts kept their firm texture while the onions were slightly creamy on the palate. I almost envy those who have had snowier weather just for the chance to make this dinner and eat it fire side on a cold night… almost. I’m not crazy.

Note: Cioppolini are usually smaller than these suckers. I suspect that the batch we got were overgrown (the sprouted tops would indicate that for sure.) So keep that in mind when shopping for some at your local grocery or produce stand. They may also come with their green stalks in place. Just trim the tops off, reserving those for making stock.

  • 8-10 cioppolini onions, trimmed of tough ends and halved (or quartered if large)
  • 12-16 small brussel sprouts, halved
  • 3 strips, thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick lardons.
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt and pepper

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. While waiting for water to boil, make an ice bath in a large bowl, combining 4 cups of ice with a quart of water. Generously salt the water, a small handful of kosher salt will do. Add the onions, skins on and boil for about 5-7 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove onions with a slotted spoon or strainer and plunge into ice bath. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon pieces to a paper towel lined plate. While bacon cooks, peel the skin off the onions. Once bacon is removed from pans, pour off bacon fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon behind and add the butter. Turn the heat up to medium high. Once butter has melted, add the onions and brussel sprouts. Cook until lightly caramelized on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 cup of water, then reduce heat so that the liquids simmer. Cook until liquids have reduced to a glaze, about 7-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Plate and top with crisp bacon.

CSA Count: 2

Brussel sprouts, cioppolini onions