Saturday, January 31, 2009

i heart kale

Kale is one of those foods that I didn't really realize existed prior to moving to California. Though my mother swears she grew it in the garden when I was little, I have no memories of it (perhaps it was during that period when the only vegetables I would eat were frozen peas?).

Even in California, my first couple encounters with kale were not good. Too much salt and overcooking rendered the veggie unappetizing. It wasn't until the leafy greens started showing up in our CSA box and I began experimenting with it in our kitchen that I fell in love.

Kale is a winter vegetable and member of the brassica family (which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts). The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health lists curly kale as one of the immune system super foods. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that guard against bacterial and viral infection, heart disease, and cancer.

Oh, and did I mention that (when not doused in salt and overcooked) it tastes fantastic? Kale typically comes in two varieties - curly kale and dino kale. I like both, but tend to favor one or the other for certain recipes (curly kale in the Garlicky Kale recipe, dino kale in African Stew - see below).

To be perfectly honest, my love isn't limited strictly to kale - I enjoy almost equally the other greens that can be substituted in most recipes - collard greens (also part of the brassica family) and the various types of chard (the golden chard that came in our CSA box a couple of weeks ago was perhaps the most beautiful vegetable I've ever seen). For example, any of the above will work in the Greek and Greens Omelette.

The following is one of my favorite kale recipes. As mentioned, I typically use dino kale. The flavor combination sounds strange, I know, but trust me - it works. Let me know what you think!

African Pineapple Peanut Stew

1 c. chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch greens
2 c. undrained crushed pineapple
1/2 c. peanut butter
1-2 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
optional: 6 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch squares

Saute onions and garlic in saucepan 10 minutes until lightly browned. Slice greens into 1 inch slices (removing tough center stems). Add pineapple and juice to onions and bring to a simmer. Stir in greens and simmer 5 minutes. Mix in peanut butter, hot sauce, cilantro, and tofu. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve over couscous.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

homemade pizza!

One of the (very few) disappointments of our locale on the peninsula is that we have not found any good, local pizza. This might be partly because we left behind a few fantastic pizza places in Seattle. Some nights I long for Pagliacci's AGOG Primo and Pagliaccio Salad, or a slice from Atlantic Street. What we've found in our area so far just hasn't measured up. So we've taken to making our own.

Tonight's pizza topping combo is courtesy of Jennifer Kurkoski (fellow Googler and culinary sage). I'm going to put it all onto a cornmeal crust. I think it's quite possibly the best pizza I've ever made. 

Pear Gorgonzola Pizza

Cornmeal pizza dough:
2 tsp. active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 c. warm water
1 2/3 c. flour (plus more for work surface)
1/4 c. cornmeal (plus more for baking sheet)
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (plus more for bowl)

6 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
1 large portobello mushroom
8 oz. mozzarella, shredded
1 large pear
olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until yeast is dissolved and mixture is foamy (about 10 minutes). 

Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add yeast mixture and oil to the well. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon until dough just starts to come together (sprinkle with flour if dough is too sticky, but not so much that it becomes dry). Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Rub oil over dough and return to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about an hour (the dough should double in size). 

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead for 30 seconds. Sprinkle cornmeal on baking sheet. Using fingers, press dough out on baking sheet to desired size. (Word of warning: dust off the extra cornmeal at this point before baking, otherwise there might be some smoke and the fire alarm might go off. That might have happened tonight!)

Brush the dough with olive oil and bake (about 8 minutes). Thinly slice mushroom and pear. Layer mushroom, gorgonzola, pear, and mozzarella (in that order) onto mostly baked crust. Return to oven. Bake until cheese is golden (about 5 minutes).

Add a simple spinach salad (tonight's version includes apples and walnuts) and we have a not altogether unhealthy meal to accompany our weekly viewing of the Bachelor. Perhaps it will be so tasty that Marika will weigh in with a comment this week!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

some spice on sunday

My first attempt at kale and potato soup was made a few weeks ago. While good, it wasn't wow. But the flavor combination definitely had potential. I made a note to revisit the idea when I had the basic ingredients on hand again. Fast forward to today. I spent some time online this morning and found a number of recipes for Caldo Verde - Portuguese Kale Soup. I decided to try a twist on this tradition, replacing the chourizo with chourizo-like spices: paprika, mexican oregano, and ground chili. I also added pinto beans for protein. It went like this:

Spicy Kale & Potato Soup
Serves 4

olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground chili
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
4 c. veggie stock or water
1/2 bunch curly kale, stems removed and cut into fine julienne
15 oz. pinto beans, rinsed

I started by making a light veggie stock: the stems trimmed from the kale, 2 cloves of sliced garlic, a few mixed pepper corns, and about 6 cups of water. Bring this to a boil, then allow to simmer for about an hour. If lacking the time or patience for this, use water instead.

Cook the onion over medium heat in a large pot until translucent. Add the garlic and spices, stir well, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer until the potatoes are done (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.

At this point, the goal is to mash up the potatoes. You can do this by hand, either using a masher or by pressing the potatoes with the back of a spoon against the side of the pot. I used my immersion blender, blending until the soup was almost smooth.

Add the kale. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the kale is cooked (about 5 minutes). Add pinto beans. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let the soup sit so the flavors can meld together (the longer it sits, the more the flavors will blend). When nearly ready to serve, taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary. At this point, I added a dash of Joe's Cosmic Good Stuff Chile (JR's fathers special blend of crazy hot chiles, dried and ground), reheated the soup, and served it hot with rustic bread.

The verdict? I'd say it beats the recipe I tried a few weeks ago, though there still seems to be something missing that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe more spice? I'm going to mix some more of Joe's Cosmic Chile in and let the flavors meld overnight. I'll report back tomorrow.

Portuguese Kale Soup on Foodista

Saturday, January 24, 2009

3pm saturday frittata

It's a drizzly grey Saturday. Mine got off to a nice lazy start... I slept in, went for a walk, and didn't really think about food until the afternoon. Can a meal after noon still be called brunch? I guess I'll call it my 3pm Saturday frittata. Greens? Check (golden chard from the CSA box). Cheese? Check. Eggs? Hm. Only 3. But JR is willing to make a quick run to the store for more. Check!

One of the things I love about the basic greens/cheese/eggs combo is that it can be changed up in a number of ways. What I throw in tends to be driven by what I have on hand. Today, I'm going with a Greek flair with red onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. You could exchange those for yellow onion, black beans, and salsa, go more traditional with mushrooms and potatoes, or throw in other veggies like red peppers or broccoli florets - the possibilities are endless. Here's the recipe for today's version:

Greek & Greens Frittata
Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers)

1 small red onion, chopped
1 bunch kale, chard, or collards, center stems removed and chopped
6 eggs, whisked
1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
6-10 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat. Add the greens and cook, stirring occasionally until they are dark green. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the onion and greens combo, half of the feta, the olives, and a few fresh grinds of black pepper. Stir, allowing the heat from the greens to start to cook the eggs.

Turn on the broiler so it can heat up. On the stovetop, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the egg mixture. Allow to cook for about a minute, then begin working your way in a circle around the skillet, lifting up the eggs from the outside with a spatula and allowing uncooked egg to run in (tilting the pan helps with this). Continue cooking in this manner until the top no longer looks runny. Sprinkle with remaining feta and cheddar cheese.

Move the skillet to the oven (broiler should be hot by now). Allow it to remain there for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes, then slice and serve. 

For brunch, I usually serve with a side of fruit. This is also makes a great dinner meal if you add a salad. The leftovers are yummy warmed up in the oven the next day. Which means my 3pm Saturday frittata will carry us through the weekend for a Sunday brunch as well!

Friday, January 23, 2009

friday night citrus

There is a bowl on our dining room table that has been filled with citrus since Thanksgiving. We spent the holiday weekend at a house in Sonoma with friends. Back with us came lemons from the tree in the front yard (and a couple of oranges from the neighbor's!). Our bowl has contained waxing and waning oranges, lemons, and limes ever since. Tonight's menu incorporates citrus in every dish.

Tempeh is something I've recently fallen in love with. It's cultured soy that has a very different texture (denser?) and taste (nuttier) than tofu. The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health highlights tempeh as one of the superfoods for its immunity boosting and cancer/heart disease preventing properties. Tempeh contains no saturated fats and is one of the few vegetable products to contain vitamin B12.

My plans tonight are for orange tempeh served over brown rice (cooked substituting half of the water called for with freshly squeezed mandarin juice to continue the citrus theme), perhaps mixed with some chopped parsley and with a side of roasted broccoli. Recipes below. Happy Friday!

Orange Tempeh
Inspired by Heidi Swanson (, modified based on ingredients on hand

1 c. orange juice (I used freshly squeezed mandarin)
2 tsp. tamari
2 Tbsp. mirin (chinese cooking wine)
2 tsp. maple syrup
2 cloves crushed garlic
tempeh, cut into bit size pieces
olive oil

Mix together orange juice through garlic and set aside. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Fry tempeh on one side until it starts to brown (about 5 minutes). Flip and do the same on the other side. Pour sauce over tempeh and simmer, flipping the tempeh a few times, until the sauce thickens (about 15 minutes). When serving, spoon extra sauce over the tempeh and a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice.

Oven Roasted Broccoli
(It's still not as good as at Black Bottle, but I'm going to keep trying!)

broccoli, chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
lime juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Chop broccoli and put in a bowl. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes. Add red pepper and heat for an additional 5 minutes. Add oil mixture to broccoli and mix well to combine. Squeeze juice of half a lime into bowl along with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the bachelor & black bean hummus

Treasures in this week's CSA box include:
fuji apples
yukon potatoes
mandarin oranges
flat leaf parsley
gold chard

Tonight, Marika and I are watching the latest episode of the Bachelor (recorded from earlier this week). Cross the CSA treasures with a need for tasty snacky food and what do you get? Black bean & orange hummus. Yum!

The hummus recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks - Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan (see Dreena Burton's blog). This particular cookbook has an entire chapter devoted to hummus. I've tried most of them and the black bean and orange tops my list. Here's how it goes:

Black Bean & Orange Hummus
From: Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan (Dreena Burton)

2 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 1/2 Tbsp almond butter
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tsp orange zest
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

In a food processor, combine all ingredients (except parsley for garnish) and puree until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl several times. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley.

I usually substitute the parsley with cilantro (there's something about cilantro + orange that I LOVE),
but went ahead and used parsley as called for this time since it was part of the CSA delivery. The carrots and broccoli from the box will make the perfect 'lil dippers. Ta Da! Healthy snacks! Perhaps that will help balance out our fabulously trashy TV viewing of the Bachelor!

Stay tuned for notes on what happens with the rest of the CSA treasures this week!

the inauguration of lentils

The CSA box arrives on Wednesdays in my neighborhood. That means by Tuesday, I'm running low on fresh produce. Lately at this point in the week, I've been trying out new things with dried goods. And I should clarify - by new, I don't necessarily mean innovative, but rather using ingredients that I have not attempted to cook with before.

On the agenda tonight: my first time cooking lentils. Ever.

I planned to accompany my lentils with curried kale and apples (kale and recipe courtesy of the CSA). Which made me think that curried lentils would probably be tasty. I found a few different recipes online and decided to take some bits and pieces from a couple (based on what sounded good and what ingredients I had on hand) as well as throw in my own twists (in this case, homemade veggie broth and some tomato paste; I'm a rebel, I know).

The verdict? The meal got a "you should make this again sometime" from JR, which I like to interpret as "that was meal was fantastic - I'm happy to be married to such an amazing woman!" Here's what I did:

Curried Lentils
1 cup lentils
3 cups veggie broth or water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
pinch of salt
6 oz tomato paste

Veggie broth: I made mine out of the stems trimmed from the dino kale, a few sliced carrots and a quartered onion. Bring the veggies plus a clove (or two) of sliced garlic to a boil in 4-5 cups water. Lower heat and simmer for an hour or two. Viola - homemade veggie broth. Given all of the spices in this dish, if you're in a time crunch or lacking veggies for broth, water would probably be fine in this recipe.

Rinse and sort the lentils. Bring the lentils and broth or water to a boil in a heavy pot (I'm using my favorite Christmas present - my Le Creuset french oven). Stir, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the lentils are simmering, cook the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until they start to brown. Remove from heat. After 20 minutes, add the onions and garlic to the lentils along with the spices and tomato paste. Mix well. Cover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 30 minutes or until the lentils are done.

I served the lentils over a bed of brown rice, with curried kale and apples on the side. A tasty inauguration!

Monday, January 19, 2009

where the magic happens

This is where the magic happens...or at least where I think it's been starting to. Growing up (to my mother's great frustration), I had no interest whatsoever in the kitchen. I existed off of frozen burritos and store bought cookie dough for far too many years. But part of my world that expanded when I moved to California in 2007 was culinary: quinoa, kale, did I exist before knowing these wonders? I can't even imagine it now. California's fresh, local ingredients have helped me to fall in love with the kitch(en).

I'm hoping that sharing my kitch adventures will inspire me to continue to try out new foods, flavors, and preparations. Stay tuned for tales of the experiences (from the failures to the fab) and a growing list of recipes. Welcome to Cole's kitch!

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