April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

My garden is overflowing with kale, and unfortunately, it is not my favorite green. I know it’s good for me, full of antioxidants and other vitamins, but I have a hard time getting around to cooking it. Enter some great ideas from two books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Norsrat. Ms. Adler modeled her book after one of my favorite food essayists, M.F.K. Fisher. Her classic collection of essays, How to Cook a Wolf, was written amid the hardships of W.W. II and is about cooking well in spite of lack. The New York Times described it as “spiritually restorative”. Ms. Adlers book is about eating affordably, responsibly, and well. There are recipes but it also contains many ideas to think about in light of our current global situation. I recommend all three of the books, they are essential parts of my library..

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent and turn this into a book review.

So, on to grilled cheese…

Ms. Adler recommends pre-cooking or preparing the greens as soon as you get them into your kitchen from the market or your garden. That way they are ready to finish quickly. Blanching also removes most of the bitterness from kale. So, I took her advice using the blanching instructions by Ms. Norsat. What a fabulous idea! The greens are ready to saute or add to a soup or other dish. A bonus is how much less space they take up in the fridge. You will see her simple instructions below.

Enter Friday night and the complete loss of ambition. Do you ever get like that? I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wanted to cook, and I write a food blog. With no energy to make a quick trip to the market, my husband suggested “Why don’t we just make grilled cheese?” It was a request to make me smile. Grilled cheese is one of my favorites, and not an everyday meal. It’s a special treat because we have cut down on both gluten and dairy, we don’t have either very frequently. This simple Friday night dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches became a special occasion. It was time to take a quick assessment of what was in the fridge and pantry. Earlier that afternoon we had picked up a loaf of wonderful seeded whole wheat bread from Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. That already blanched kale added another layer of deliciousness and health. Rounding out my ingredient list was a package of thinly sliced prosciutto I found in the cheese drawer (kale pairs especially well with cured meats according to the The Flavor Bible), and a sharp white cheddar from the UK. It melted beautifully.

The combo elevated grilled cheese to a gourmet treat.

Seed Bread

Just look at that melty cheese!

Grilled Cheese with Kale

I used a panini press but a heavy skillet would work just as well.

To prepare your greens:

  • Wash them if they have just come in from the garden or farmer’s market.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it liberally. Put a half sheet pan or baking dish next to the pot and line it with parchment paper.
  • Drop the trimmed greens (strip off any tough stems) into the pot and bring it back to the boil.
  • Cook until tender, my variety of kale only needed a couple of minutes. Chard may take up to 3 while collards could take as much as 15. Taste a sample to determine when they are tender.
  • Using a sieve or spider to to pull the greens from the pot and spread them on your baking pan to cool.
  • Once cool, squeeze out any excess water using your hands or a dishtowel.
  • Chop them coarsely and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches…

Ingrediens for 2:

  • 4 slices of sturdy bread
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto or other deli meat
  • 4 generous slices of a good sharp melting cheese
  • about 1/3 cup of precooked kale per sandwich
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • butter or oil if frying in a pan

Method:

  1. Lay out two slices of bread, cover each with a layer of kale (sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes), then prosciutto, then cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread.
  2. Grill or fry until the bread is crisp and cheese is melted.

Sliced sturdy bread

The seeds were deliciously crunchy and flavorful. A green salad rounded out the meal.

Grilled cheese and salad

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. This sandwich would also make a fabulous Saturday lunch, put an egg on it and it could be brunch.

I going to take this idea to the folks at Fiesta Friday, it’s Fiesta Friday #271, hosted by Angie. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You

Come enjoy the posts on food, crafts and gardening.

In My Garden – April 2019

In My Garden – April 2019

Spring is finally here and the rain continues, at least the weather has warmed somewhat with highs in the 50’s. But the skies are mostly grey and the garden seems to be a bit behind where it was last year. The daffodils have bloomed, and continue to bloom, in waves depending on the variety.

The lily of the valley bushes are putting out red and orange new growth.

Lily of the Valley Bush

These bushes make a lovely backdrop for the first rhododendron to bloom, a beautiful yellow one of shorter stature. This bush was on the south/west side of the house before we added the addition and didn’t look happy with the sun and heat. It is thriving in its new, shadier, home in the back of the yard.

Yellow Rhododendron

The azaleas are in full bloom.

And a lime colored fuchsia that was planted several years ago when we first purchased the house finally seems to be taking off. It’s especially lovely against the dark redwood of the deck.

Lime leaved fuchsia

Compared to last year, the bearded irises along the driveway have not shown the same growth. But it has been rainier and colder this year. I will fertilize them this month, as suggested on line, with a low nitrogen fertilizer.

Much to my surprise, the tulips (not supposed to be cold enough for them here) have come back this year and multiplied. They are planted in a half barrel with a butterfly bush.

The sweet flowering peas I planted last fall have definitely taken off with the warming weather, although there are no flower buds yet. It will still be a month or more before I can harvest armloads of the wonderful scented flowers.

The half barrel of bush snap peas has just started to flower. I’ve been harvesting shoots of these edible peas for salads as well.

You can see both of them at the back of the vegetable garden.

Here’s a quick photo of the meadow, you can clearly see the chaos…which was my intention. This will be a pollinator garden once it starts flowering.

Wildflower and pollinator garden

The vegetable garden in raised beds continues to flourish. I’m harvesting lots of greens for salads and struggling to keep up with the kale.

Vegetable raised beds

I have four new bare root roses, planted in half barrels for safety and protection from gophers. Although we keep up with them by trapping, overlooking one for several days would be disastrous to the rose bush. The newly planted roses are shades of pink, apricot and orange.

Bare Root Rose Bushes

I thought you might also like a quick look at the wild part of the garden, of which there are acres.

A friend requested that I add a few comments each month on what I have planted or chores performed. Keep in mind that I am gardening in zone 9b and your own planting times may be different.

Chores:

  • fertilize iris bed with low nitrogen fertilizer
  • cut back salvias and sages to encourage bushiness now that our last frost date has passed
  • fertilize citrus trees
  • add compost around plants
  • weed, weed, weed

April planting:

  • vegetables – from seed: lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, carrots
  • 4 bare root roses for half wine barrel containers
  • 5 new dahlia bulbs
  • small annuals such as baby blue eyes and poppies
  • 2 orange rhododendrons
  • pink lily of the valley bush
  • 5 white rock roses

New plants coming later this month:

And lastly, a look at the garden this time last year April 2018 In the Garden. Just click on the title to see the older post. The deer fence was’t finished until mid-May of last year. The garden has changed a lot since then, as I haven’t had to worry about planting exclusively deer and rabbit resistant plants (there are very few deer proof plants).

 

 

In My Kitchen – April 2019

In My Kitchen – April 2019

Well, as one blogger wrote last month, this should be titled Not In My Kitchen. Why, because I haven’t been very inspired to spend quality time there. Do you ever get that way? The grey days are getting to me and I hunger for fresh tomatoes, basil, grilled food, and a glass of rose sipped on a deck warmed by the sun. Alas, it is not to be for several more months.

Meanwhile the garden provides wonderful lettuce, and kale…lots of kale.

Arugula, radishes, and lettuce

To maximize the deliciousness of that lettuce I purchased a new salad spinner. The old one threatened to jump off the counter whenever I used it and inspired the dogs into fits of barking.

Austrian Technology

The new one is by Mueller from Austria and it is very well made, in fact they mention European craftsmanship in their brochure. While placing my order on Amazon they suggested that other folks who have made this purchase also bought a container for storing the lettuce (those Amazon folks are clever and devious). Anyway, I fell for the sales job and purchased it as well, and I am very happy I did. It does seem to keep the lettuce fresher for longer. I feel a little less guilty because I’m not buying those plastic clam shells of lettuce from the store. I’m on a kick to reduce the amount of plastic that flows through the house, which is very difficult.

Anyway, here it is:

Lettuce keeper

It has a tray in the bottom where you can put a few drops of water. It stores a generous two dinners worth of salad, and we eat a large portion each meal.

 

Lettuce

Lettuce Keeper

All in all I think it is quite clever.

We are eating a lot of wonderful main meal salads.

Typical salad

Also new in our kitchen is this electric kettle. We drink buckets of tea and I find the electric kettles heat water faster than one on the stove, and it lessons the disaster of a kettle boiling dry. A common happening if you (or I) get distracted. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be terribly well made and we have already gone through 2 in the last 12 months. Maybe we just use it very frequently. Hopefully, this one will be different as it was more expensive. We shall see.

Electric Kettle

Meanwhile, soups and chili seem to be on the menu frequently.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Best Ever Chili Without Beans

In My Kitchen is this lovely tea towel, made by my friend Wendy to commemorate our Alaska trip last summer.

Alaska tea towel

And that is about it for this month.

In My Kitchen is part of a monthly review of kitchens around the world. Each month is a fascinating glimpse into what is new, I have learned so much about new ingredients and utensils from reading the posts each month. Do stop in, it’s hosted by Sherry of Sherrys Pickings. And please chat with us about what is new in your kitchen and in your part of the world.

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Why is this deconstructed? Because it has all the delicious parts of pork wanton soup, but without the wanton wrappers. Leaving those out makes it both gluten free and low carb. I was inspired by a recipe for egg roll soup and thought…why not wanton? This is a lighter version of regular wanton soup, without the wanton wrappers. It’s perfect when you want a quick, healthy, vegetable laden and warming bowl of soup for lunch or a light supper.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon of neutral oil like grape seed
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions, sliced white and light green portions
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 baby bok choy, rinced and sliced thinly
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil for drizzling when serving
  • chopped cilantro for serving

Method:

  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large stock pot or saucepan over medium heat and sear the ground pork until browned.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and scallions. Saute until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the bok choy, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. It should still be bright green. if the white stems are large, add them first and cook for a few minutes before adding the tender greens.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup with Wantons

If you want a heartier meal for dinner, extra bulk can be added with a few steamed wantons. A request from the husband when serving for dinner. I found the lighter version perfect for me.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday would enjoy this, especially anyone wanting to cut down on the carbs. Angie hosts Fiesta Friday and this week her co-host isJhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. It’s Fiesta Friday #270. Click the link to read interesting posts about cooking, crafts and gardening.

In My Garden – March 2019

In My Garden – March 2019

What happened to February?! It simply disappeared in a flood of rain and grey skies (plus we were traveling the first week). In any case, it simply flew by without me getting in front of my computer to write about it. With the cold and wet weather, there hasn’t been much change in the garden. We are having an unusual amount of rain, or at least it is unusual compared to the last few years. Normal for the Northern California coast, Fort Bragg area, is about 40 inches. That is compared to the SF bay area where it is about 28 inches. The mossy low spots in the yard feel like a wet sponge, they squish when you walk on them. My sandy, fast draining sol is saturated. One small blessing is the absence of mud.

Along with the rain we’ve had hail, and even snow once.

Hail on the back deck

The result is some sad looking plants.

Unhappy Baby Blue Eyes

Prevailing garden lore claims that the best time to plant in Northern California is the fall, but I think I will reconsider the recommendation in light of the damage (and death in some cases) of those plants I set in the ground last autumn. Everything planted last spring seems to be surviving well.

This will be a quick update since the cooler weather has slowed down any new growth, with the exception of the bulbs.

The pollinator meadow, which was seeded last fall, will need thinning soon.

Pollinator Meadow

And the raised bed garden is producing lots of wonderful salads. It’s just warm enough during the day for the cool season veggies to be happy.

Raised Beds – cut and come again lettuce and radishes

The peas  are also happy in this weather.

There is a dry gully at the edge of our driveway, no longer dry. Under that protective basket is/was a small veronica bush planted last fall. It liked a moist spot but probably has been drowned under current conditions.

Dry Gully?

Casey and Quinn are overjoyed with their own personal pond for cooling off after a game of catch.

Casey and Quinn in their own personal pond