Category Archives: Greens

kale salad with lemon feta dressing, and an accidental smoked trout {charcutepalooza}

I may be accused of chutzpah for labeling this post “Charcutepalooza”, but so be it. Last month’s posting deadline (April 15) breezed past without fanfare like I wish this cold, rainy spring weather would, and although I had the hot-smoking challenge in the back of my mind all month, I had no specific plan as to how or when to execute it. So when my friend Todd invited a few of us over and said he was firing up his smoker, right after Molly and I had just bought a whole fresh lake trout (scored at Eastern Market for $1.99 a pound!), it seemed like kismet.

Because the trout was going to be in the fridge for a few days before the get-together, I salted and sugared it (no measuring, I just threw on what I thought was an appropriate amount). I had already used my share of the steaks, which I braised in a Thai red curry coconut milk concoction, so I had my half of the fillet left to smoke. Molly went the opposite route, saving her steaks for the smoker. Despite my lackadaisical approach, I did attempt to create a pellicle by  placing the uncovered fish on a rack in the fridge the morning of the party. (I mention this as a pathetic bit of evidence that I actually sort of “did” the challenge…)

I was requested to bring a vegetable side dish, so I decided to give raw kale salad a try. It’s something I’ve been reading all about on various blogs and wanted to try for a while, but they always call for lacinato or “dinosaur” kale which I can’t easily find around here. I decided to make up a recipe using regular (curly) kale instead and see how it came out. The verdict? According to the other guests, it was great. I was totally satisfied with the flavor, but I think texturally it could have been improved upon slightly by chopping the kale a little finer, almost like tabbouleh. A mezzaluna would have come in handy for this task, but I don’t have one currently. Another item for the wedding registry!

Apparently we were supposed to be there 2 hours before we actually got there (I recalled the email mentioning 7pm but apparently this was the sit-down-to-eat time, not the arrival time…. damn ADD) but fortunately we showed up just as the burgers were coming off the smoker and people were getting ready to dig in. Our host presented us each with a Cuba Libre (translation: rum & coke with a lime) and we loaded our plates and headed out to what Todd fondly refers to as “the magical front porch” to eat. It was a bit chilly, but the great food, drink and company distracted us enough from the cold.

After dinner, we moved the party out back where the fish was still smoking and a fire was roaring. I figured the trout would be a snack for those later-on beer munchies, but then Evan busted out a phenomenal lemon gelato with something like 20 egg yolks, so understandably no one was much interested in fish at that point. (I’m suspecting, and hoping, that those who stayed past us drinking had a go at it later). I of course had to at least sample some for posterity’s sake. The fillet was light and delicate, with just a thin darker layer where the smoke had adhered. The steaks, which had been on longer, had a fuller, meatier and more intense smoke flavor. Both were incredibly moist and delicious. I’m kind of kicking myself that I didn’t steal a small piece to take home to put on a morning bagel, but our hosts had been generous so I wanted to leave it for them. A good reason to actually attempt the hot smoking challenge on my own at some point (or, a reason to put a smoker on our registry!) . I do have a souvenir, though- my coat still smells like smoked fish.

Raw Kale Salad with Lemon Feta Dressing
printer-friendly version

Most of the kale salads I’ve seen on the interwebs are variations on Melissa Clark’s recipe and call for pecorino and lacinato kale…  I had feta and regular kale on hand so I developed this recipe instead. Featuring feta, lemon and oregano, the flavors are more Greek than Italian, and the copious but light dressing works well with the curly kale. The salad holds up beautifully for days without wilting, so it’s a great make-ahead dish.

2 bunches kale
1 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
2 oz. plus 4 oz. feta in brine
2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sugar
salt
optional: cherry or grape tomatoes or strips of red or yellow bell pepper

Notes:
Using the full 1/3 cup lemon juice makes what I consider a pleasantly tart dressing. If you are less of an acid-head than me, feel free to start with 1/4 cup; you can always add more.

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, oregano,  pepper flakes, sugar and a couple pinches of salt.

Cut the tough stems away from the kale leaves and discard; roughly chop or tear the leaves and wash and dry in a salad spinner. Finely chop the kale (think tabbouleh or a little coarser) and place in a bowl large enough to toss the salad.

Put the olive oil, garlic and 2 ounces of feta in a blender and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice mixture and process again until fully combined. Taste for balance, adding more lemon juice or an additional pinch of salt or sugar if necessary.

Toss about 3/4 of the dressing with the salad and assess the results, adding the remaining dressing to your taste. Crumble the remaining 4 oz feta on top. If desired, garnish with additional vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, etc.

home cured bacon and frisée aux lardons {charcutepalooza}


It seems as though charcuterie has officially reached an apotheosis- the food world has been incessantly abuzz of late about all things cured, smoked, salted and brined (to the chagrin of some and the delight of others). Although several adventurous food bloggers like Matt Wright and Hank Shaw have been dabbling in meat curing for some time now, things recently reached a fever pitch in the blogging world and on Twitter with the advent of Charcutepalooza, a challenge in which a different type of curing technique is explored each month.

I missed the first challenge, duck prosciutto, but was told that I could “make it up” at a later date (as I write this, the duck is hanging in my basement pantry). The second challenge was something that my friend Kim has been making for a while now, home-cured bacon. I decided to go for it, so I hit up the Bucu family’s stand at Eastern Market and had this gentleman hack me off a 5-lb piece of pork belly.

The cure was simple- just salt, pepper, aromatics and pink (curing) salt, rubbed on the belly and left to work its magic for a week. The belly was then rinsed, patted dry and put in a 200° oven until it reached an internal temp of 150°. This stage was the only “problem” I had with the recipe- it stated to cook for 90 minutes or a temp of 150°, and it took me over 2 hours to reach that temperature, unless my thermometer is really off. But I figured it was better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking.

As Charcuterie guru Michael Ruhlman suggested in his blog post on bacon, I went ahead and fried up a small piece as soon as it was done (well, after I removed the skin… I’m a pretty die-hard meat lover, but seeing nipples on my bacon was a little freaky). It was saltier than commercial bacon, but I figured that might have been due to it being an end piece.

In the past couple weeks, we have eaten the bacon on its own and incorporated it into several dishes such as Cuban-style black beans and this venison & porcini ragú. Since it’s not smoked, it’s a great stand-in for pancetta. I also made the French bistro classic frisée aux lardons, a salad composed of bitter frisée (a green in the endive family) tossed with vinaigrette, fried cubes of unsmoked bacon (lardons), and topped with a poached egg. There are versions that don’t use the egg, but to my mind it’s the best part, and really makes it a meal. The store Marvin went to didn’t have frisée so we had to use curly endive (possibly the same plant but more mature?), but it was a suitable stand-in. The salad with a glass of Beaujolais and a nibble of Roquefort was a pretty perfect Sunday afternoon lunch.

Frisée aux Lardons
printer-friendly version

serves two; recipe can be multiplied to serve more

2 small heads of frisée, washed, cored and torn into pieces
3 Tbs sherry vinegar or good quality red wine vinegar
about 3 oz. unsmoked slab bacon, cut into ½-inch batons
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1-2 Tbs olive oil as needed
2 eggs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
optional if you have on hand: 1 Tbs minced fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil or chives

Notes: This salad is great with homemade croutons if you’re so inclined. Add them when you toss the salad so they absorb a bit of the dressing. Also, oil & vinegar amounts are a starting point and will vary according to your volume of salad and how lightly or heavily dressed you like things. Please adjust as needed! Last but not least, although I encourage you all to cure your own bacon now that I know how easy it is, you can substitute cut-up strips of regular bacon and have a less traditional but still delicious salad.

Wash and spin-dry the frisée and place in a bowl large enough to toss. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and briefly blanch the lardons; drain. Heat a small skillet and fry the lardons over medium heat until they begin to brown and render some of their fat. Add the shallot and cook until softened. Stir in the vinegar and deglaze any brown bits from the skillet. Remove from heat. Whisk in olive oil to taste until the dressing tastes balanced (this will depend how much fat was rendered from the lardons). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill a medium-sized pan halfway with water and bring to a bare simmer. While waiting for the water, toss the salad with the dressing. Taste and tweak as needed with additional oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Distribute onto two plates or shallow bowls.  (A note here for people like myself with ADD tendencies: poached eggs wait for no one, so make sure to have the table, drinks etc. ready when you put the eggs in.) Poach the eggs for four minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks remain runny. Retrieve the eggs with a slotted spoon, gently shaking off as much water as possible. Place an egg on each salad and garnish with the herbs, if using. Serve immediately.

black-eyed pea & collard green soup à la Russell Street Deli (in case of a cold snap)

bep-in-dishIn Detroit’s Eastern Market, there is a restaurant called Russell Street Deli, a space twice as tall as it is wide, with about 8 tables where people sit communal-style, elbow to elbow.  They come faithfully for lunch to indulge in classic deli treats like corned beef on rye, or vegetarian delights such as the roasted vegetable sandwich.  On Saturdays, the line for breakfast (with specials culled from the market’s seasonal offerings) winds out the door and spills onto the sidewalk.  In addition to their above-par sandwiches and omelettes, Russell Street is particularly known for its wonderful soups.  I should know, because years ago I worked there for several months, first at the soup station, and later as a waitress.  Back then, a cup of soup often stood in for breakfast, and provided fuel for the frantic pace of busy lunch shifts.

bep-plated-11The soups are  typically made vegetarian or vegan, with the option of meat for those who want it, so they are appreciated by all.  One of the soups, Black-Eyed Pea with Collard Greens (with or without ham), was a combination that I had never tried before working there, but has since become a favorite and something I make at home fairly regularly.  I do make the non-veggie version more often at home, but I’ll give the recipe both ways.  (Recipe is my approximation and does not reflect the actual restaurant recipe, although to my taste buds I have come pretty darn close.)  Given the recent spate of warm weather here, I hesitated to post this, thinking no one would give a hoot about soup at this point (and apparently I’m not alone in thinking this could be the last soup of the season), but then I remembered that this is Michigan, and for all we know it could be snowing or sleeting tomorrow and a hot bowl of soup could be just the thing.

berries-plated2I served this with cornmeal drop biscuits from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, and they were wonderful for sopping up the broth.  I never thought I’d be the type to whip up biscuits for a weeknight supper, but these were super easy and fast (I cheated and used the processor instead of cutting in the butter by hand).  We also ate the biscuits as part of dessert, with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, as a rustic sort of substitute for shortcake.

Black-Eyed Pea & Collard Green Soup à la Russell Street Deli

(printer-friendly version)

1 lb dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
2 bunches collard greens, washed, stems removed and cut into 1-inch ribbons (you want about a pound after they’re all trimmed)
3 small or 2 medium cooking onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large celery stalk, diced small (not crucial, but I had some in the fridge)
3-4 quarts veggie stock, chicken stock or water+ ham hock (see notes)
bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 2 cups diced ham

Notes:  I made this just after Easter to use up some leftover Easter ham, but again, the veggie version is a worthwhile (and of course healthier) alternative.  If you’re not vegetarian, but just don’t want to buy ham, I’d suggest using chicken stock for the cooking liquid.  If you’re using the ham, I suggest using water plus a ham hock as the cooking liquid, but the other stocks would work fine too.  The total amount of liquid you’ll need will depend on a couple factors, such as how dry your beans are and how low a simmer you can maintain.  As for seasonings, the amount of salt you add will depend on your choice of stock, so just start tasting towards the end of cooking and add as needed.

Directions: Heat the bay leaf and stock or water + ham hock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, in a stockpot or Dutch oven, sweat the onions and celery in a little vegetable oil, adding the garlic a few minutes in.  When they begin to soften, add the beans and simmering liquid.  As the beans cook, if you are using the ham hock, you may need to skim the surface occasionally to remove any scum. (I know, at this point the vegetarians are either laughing at us or going “ewww, scum?”…) Cook uncovered at a gentle simmer, stirring from time to time, until the beans are nearly fully cooked. If the liquid gets too low at any point, top it off with a little water or stock- you want the beans to be covered at all times, and the end result should be brothy, not overly thick.

When the beans are almost done, remove the ham hock and bay leaf, then raise the heat slightly and add the diced ham and collard greens.  Simmer until greens are fully wilted and tender, about 10-15 minutes.  (Collards can take a longer cooking, if you prefer to put them in earlier; just make sure not to overcook your beans.) Check for salt and pepper, adding as needed, and serve. I love to season this soup with a dash of Frank’s Red Hot and/or a sprinkle of apple cider vinegar.

b.l.t. salad with mayo vinaigrette

Man, I feel like Rachel Ray about to post this… ACK!  I promise not to use the words “yummo” or “sammie” though (and please feel free to shoot me if I ever do).

blt-salad-color-adjustjpg

Last night I didn’t get home until 9PM- I had worked late and then gone to get groceries afterwards.  I needed something fast for dinner and somewhat on the lighter side, since I was eating so late.  I had bought some Niman Ranch bacon (pretty much the only bacon I’ll buy anymore after reading this article in Rolling Stone) and a couple bags of greens, and had some little grape tomatoes on hand, so I thought “BLT”- only I didn’t want to eat all that bread.  So I took two pieces of bacon, cut them into small pieces and fried them up while I made a mayo-based vinaigrette dressing.  I then tossed the dressing with some baby spinach and wild arugula, drained the bacon bits on a paper towel and sprinkled those over the top with the tomatoes.  I ate it with a small piece of toast, and it was a perfect meal.  I’m sure this idea of BLT salad has been done before, but I so enjoyed my take on it that I thought I’d share anyway.  The fact that the main ingredient is leafy greens makes it miles healthier than a BLT sandwich, but yet all the classic flavors are still there.  I would actually venture to say that at least to my taste buds, this was much tastier than a BLT sandwich, but then I’m a big salad and greens fan.  You could even cut back on the bacon and use only 1 slice, or three slices between two salads.

For the dressing, I didn’t measure, but I’ll try to approximate for you.  You won’t usually find me putting mayo in my salad dressings- I usually prefer a “clean”-tasting vinaigrette- but I wanted to approximate that classic BLT flavor, and mayo is pretty integral to that.  I made a large-ish individual salad, so adjust amounts if you’re cooking for two, or if you want smaller side salads.  In the bowl in which you’re going to toss your greens, put a blob of mayo  (about 1 tbs) and a much smaller blob of dijon mustard (maybe 1/2 tsp) and whisk together.  Add a small amount of olive oil, about 1/2 to 1 tsp, and stir that in too.  Whisk in some red wine vinegar, about 2 tsp.  Season with a little salt (not too much- don’t forget your bacon will add salt) and freshly ground pepper.  Taste for acidity- I like mine on the acidic side because it cuts through the richness of the bacon, but add a smidge more olive oil (or mayo) if it seems too tart.  Toss in your greens (feel free to substitute other types of greens- the spinach-arugula mixture was pretty darn good though) and top with the bacon and tomato.  This will make enough to dress a good-sized dinner salad for one.  I plated mine for photo purposes; otherwise I would have saved a dish and just eaten it straight out of the bowl!

holidays 2008

quiche-plate-1-crop1

Browsing through other food blogs, I feel like a huge slacker for not having posted any “seasonal” recipes, but what with having to go to three different family get-togethers, two of which were out of town, as well as working and getting my upper flat ready for a new tenant, I didn’t have much extra time for holiday baking. I did make a bread pudding for a friend’s holiday potluck, but it didn’t turn out all that well and was unfortunately not worth blogging about (other than as a cautionary tale, but being short on time, I’d rather write about stuff that DID turn out)! Still, I do have some good food-related memories of the ’08 holiday season…

Christmas Eve, Marvin and I went to his mom’s for dinner. She made a dish of her own creation that can best be described as a “Latin Shepherd’s Pie”: she takes ground beef and cooks it in a skillet with onion, garlic, carrot and tomato sauce, and then spreads a layer of mashed yuca on top and bakes it. This was served with salad and some excellent tamales. It was very tasty and I hope to get more of an actual recipe from her eventually.

noelle-quiche-crop1Christmas morning was lovely… Marvin and I opened our gifts in bed and then had a yummy breakfast of bacon & onion quiche, green salad and a tropical fruit salad. It was nice to be able to relax a little before having to dash home to make my dish to pass for Christmas dinner and make the drive to Lansing.

Our family does holidays potluck-style, with the host providing the meat and the rest of us contributing side dishes, desserts, etc. Our meat dish this year was ham, so my contribution to Christmas dinner was a dish of peppery turnip greens, sautéed with little pieces of bacon and a generous amount of diced onion, and seasoned with a couple pinches brown sugar, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a couple dashes of tabasco. I love the spicy/bitter flavor of turnip or mustard greens, but I realize it’s not for everyone- I had originally planned to do collard greens, but when I went to the store they looked terrible, so the turnip greens had to stand in. (I have since used some of the leftovers as an omelette filling, with a little handful of diced ham thrown in as well. Mmmm.)

xmas-greens-006

For my other family gathering, I made a really simple “cheese log” using a log of fresh goat cheese- I just rolled it in chopped walnuts and cherries, put it on a little platter and drizzled some balsamic vinegar on top. Although I feel like those flavors are a bit cliché at this point, it was a matter of making something easy and quick with what I had on hand. Perhaps I’ll try it again with walnuts, honey and herbes de Provence to switch it up a bit.

I got some great cooking-related holiday gifts, including two cookbooks that were on my wish list: The Flavor Bible, a wonderful reference that was on many foodies’ “Top Books of ’08” lists, and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (one of my resolutions for the new year: Bake more bread!). I also got a Wusthof chef’s knife and a beautiful French-inspired set of dishes from Marvin (you can see them in the quiche photo above), an ice cream maker from my sister, and a KitchenAid food processor courtesy of a gift card from my dad. Thanks everyone! I feel very fortunate to have such a generous family. Next year I do hope to get organized far enough ahead to give gifts of baked goods to friends… another New Year’s goal to strive for!

hot-dog-apps

 On the subject of New Year’s, Marvin and I decided to take it easy this year and just have a small gathering of friends over. I had to work during the day and the party was a total last-minute decision so I didn’t have any time to make any of the food… Trader Joe’s to the rescue! I feel guilty buying all store-prepared food, but it was either that or no party. Sarah did bring a plate of these cute little appetizers though… hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry, sliced, baked and served with a mustard dip. It reminded me of something Amy Sedaris would come up with. I’m happy to report that the party was a success, especially after we got a rousing game of Taboo underway (girls vs boys; the girls won, of course).

I have a few food-related goals for 2009, in addition to the bread-baking. I have a rather large cookbook collection, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I own several from which I have never cooked a single item. I thought I might set a goal of cooking one new item per week from these books, but I fear that may be a tad ambitious. Still, I definitely want to try to explore and make use of some of the books that have been sitting neglected on my shelf. My other main goal is to do more holiday baking- perhaps I’ll give Valentine’s treats out since I didn’t get to give away any Christmas goodies. I can’t think of many better activities on a cold February day than making batches of cookies or other treats!

chinese-style kale, and variations on a dumpling

kale-ingredients-crop-11In my potstickers post, I had mentioned that I would post my recipe for Chinese-style kale as well as some variations on the potstickers.  In addition to the pork potstickers, Kathy also made some with a really great seafood filling.  She was hard pressed to give me an exact “recipe” since she was kind of winging it, but I’ll try to approximate it for you all.  Also, although the browned plate of potstickers looks awfully impressive, Kathy tells me that her favorite way to prepare them is actually boiled, so I’ll give instructions for that too.  I think there’s just something more “comfort-food”-ish about eating them boiled, and they soak up the dipping sauce a little better than the pan-fried version.  In regards to the kale, it was something I came up with on the fly several months ago, and it was so addictive that I’ve made it several times since.  I hesitate to call it Chinese, since I only have a vague impression whether they would combine these particular seasonings, but the use of the dry mustard powder called to mind that sharp Chinese hot mustard, so I’m running with it.  I’ll try to give amounts, but honestly I usually just eyeball everything, so you may want to add the spices in increments and taste as you go.  Also, the kale cooks down a lot so you may want to double the recipe if you’re feeding more than a few people or want leftovers. (I wouldn’t necessarily double the spices though- try increasing them by a third and see how it goes.  You can always add more, but you can’t subtract once they’re in there!)

Chinese-style Kale (printer-friendly version)

1 large bunch kale
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder, or more to taste
1 tsp dried red chili flakes or Huy Fong chili sauce (the kind with seeds)
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil
optional: 1 tbs rice wine or Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)

Optional garnishes: toasted sesame seeds or fried shallots or garlic (these are available at Asian markets… try them and you’ll soon find yourself garnishing anything & everything with them!)

Remove the large stems from the kale.  Chop into strips about 1 1/2″ wide; wash and set aside in a colander to drain.  In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven), heat about 2 tbs of vegetable oil (add more if it doesn’t cover the bottom of the pan) and 1/4 tsp (a few dashes) sesame oil over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook GENTLY until the garlic is browned, turning the heat down as necessary so it doesn’t burn.*  If you are using the dried chili flakes, add them to the oil and cook them for about 30 seconds to bloom the flavor.  Add the mustard powder and stir out any lumps.

kale-crop-w-hands

Add the kale to the pot and stir to coat with the seasonings.  It’s ok if the kale is a little wet; the moisture will help it steam and cook down.  The kale probably won’t fit all at once, so cook it for a few minutes until it cooks down and then add the remainder.  You can cover the kale to assist the steaming process; just make sure to stir it often enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  When the kale is tender but still green, add 1 tbs soy sauce and the chili sauce, if using.  Stir and taste for seasoning, adding the remainder of the soy sauce as you see fit.  You may also want to add a dash or two more sesame oil, chili sauce, or more mustard powder to taste.   Sometimes I add a small splash of rice wine or Shaoxing as well (increase the heat for a moment to cook off the alcohol).

*A note on browned garlic:  I know that most cookbooks advise you NOT to let your garlic brown, as they claim it acquires a “bitter” flavor.  However, in some Asian and Indian cooking, cooks do brown their garlic and enjoy its characteristic flavor.  If you do it gently and make sure not to over-brown or burn it, you’ll be fine.  But feel free to sauté it for a shorter time if you disagree.

Filling for Seafood Dumplings (Gyoza)

gyoza-ingredients1

14 oz. raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
6 oz. mild, white-fleshed fish such as sea bass or rockfish  (you can alter the ratio of shrimp to fish if you like, as long as it totals 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs)
1 small bunch Chinese leek (available at Asian markets; see photo above)
2 tbs soy sauce
2 packages round gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen

Roughly chop or snip the Chinese leek (you should have about a cup).  Process with the shrimp, fish and soy sauce in a food processor until almost smooth (a little texture is OK, as long as the mixture holds together).   Pan fry a tablespoon or so to check the seasoning.  The filling will be a lovely pistachio green color when cooked.   It should have a delicate flavor and not be over-salted.  Wrap the dumplings as specified in the recipe for pork gyoza.

Boiling Instructions for Dumplings (courtesy Kathy Lee)

Bring a large pot of water to a fast rolling boil.  Add dumplings to boiling water.  When water comes back to a boil, add a cold 8oz glass of water.  Repeat 2 more times; then remove from water and toss around to keep the dumplings from sticking to each other and enjoy!