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.

April in the Kitchen – Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crispy Kale and Hijiki

April in the Kitchen – Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crispy Kale and Hijiki

The pictures don’t do this dish justice, it was absolutely delicious. You can serve this vegetable dish either warm or at room temperature as a salad. It’s an amazing combination of flavors and textures. It’s also a powerhouse of nutrition. Sweet spring carrots, creamy avocado, crispy baked kale, and crunchy hijiki seaweed combine to make a stunning salad.

Recipe adapted from “The Fat Radish, Kitchen Diaries“.

Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crispy Kale and Hijiki

(serves 6)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons seasame oil
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 ounce dried hijiki (about 1/4 cup), rinsed and soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, drained
  • 1 bunch curly kale, stripped from the stem and torn into small pieces
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 pounds spring carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into wedges. 
  • Black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, seasame oil, mirin, fish sauce, garlic and ginger. Add the drained hijiki and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F
  3. Place the kale on a baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the five spice powder and salt. Place in the oven and bake, turning once, until crispy, about 20 minutes. Set the kale aside to cool.

    Crispy Kale

    Crispy Kale

  4. Bring a pot of salted water to a bowl and add the carrots. Cook until nearly tender, about 10 minutes depending on size. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool. Cut in half lengthwise.
  5. Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Add the carrots to the pan and cook, stirring until brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  6. Spoon the drained  hijiki and its marinade over the carrots, add the kale and avocado wedges (if not serving immediately, wait to add the avocado), stir gently to combine.
  7. Add the avocado just before serving and combine gently.
  8. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

IMG_3037

This dish would be suitable for vegetarians and can be gluten free if you use gluten free soy sauce.

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

A glut of Meyer lemons has had me researching ways to use them before they rot. This recipe for Meyer Lemon Confit by Tara Austen Weaver in the Sunday Chronicle caught my eye. If you have a similar abundance, Meyers make a distinguished Lemon Curd and also do well salted and preserved. The article included a recipe for using the confit with Pasta with Kale. Since my garden also has an abundance of kale, it was a no brainer.

Meyer lemons are a hybrid cross between a lemon and an orange. Unlike the more commonly available Lisbon or Eureka lemons, Meyers are thinner skinned, juicier, and have less of a sour bite. Because of their mildness, they are not always suitable for recipes needing a lot of acid. But their flavor is slightly floral, delicate, and elusive. A bowl of them on the counter will fill your kitchen with fragrance. I once saw my son (as a toddler) pick one from the tree and eat it as if it were an apple.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

They are named after Frank N. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was a Dutch plant explorer working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He found them in 1908 near Beijing and brought them back, it was one of about 2,500 specimens he is credited with collecting.

Meyer lemons have thrived in backyards and gardens throughout California, Texas, and Florida. But, they haven’t made it as a commercial crop because they don’t ripen well once picked from the tree and are thought to be too perishable. The Meyer almost died out in the 40’s when they were found to carry a virus, which threatened the California citrus crop (although it didn’t hurt the Meyer lemon). Trees were to be torn out and destroyed. Lucky for us an “improved” Meyer lemon released in 1975 was found to be virus free.

Meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemon Tree in a Half Wine Barrel Container

There was a mature Meyer lemon tree in our backyard when we purchased the house 25 years ago. It has continued to provide us with lemons all year almost non-stop all year. The same tree will have mature lemons, immature lemons, and flowers at the same time. Meyers do well in containers, although they are frost tender and should be moved to a protected place in the winter.

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

  • 3 medium Meyer lemons (organic if possible)
  • ¼ cup of whole peeled garlic cloves
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry the lemons. Cut off the ends and slice them ¼ inch thick, removing any seeds.
  3. Cut the garlic cloves so they are approximately the same size.
  4. Set a saucepan full of water on high heat and bring it to a boil.
  5. Blanch the lemon slices for 90 seconds, removing them with a slotted spoon to a strainer set over a bowl. You may need to do this in several batches. Once drained, add them to a medium bowl.
  6. Add the garlic to the boiling water and simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain but DO NOT TOSS OUT THE WATER IF YOU ARE MAKING THE PASTA DISH BELOW.
  7. Add the olive oil to the bowl with the lemons and toss to coat with oil.
  8. Lay the lemons in a single layer in a rectangular baking dish leaving space at one end.
  9. Add the garlic cloves to the remaining oil in the bowl. Toss to coat. Then add them to the empty side of the baking dish.
  10. Drizzle with any remaining oil in the bowl.
  11. Bake for 1-½ hours until the garlic mashes easily and the lemon rinds are soft. Turn the lemons every 30 minutes.
  12. When done, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool.
  13. Finely chop the mixture and transfer it to a tightly sealed jar.

The Lemon and Garlic Confit will keep for a month in the fridge, freeze it for longer storage.

 

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Pasta with Kale and Lemon Confit (serves 4-6 as a main dish)

  • 1 pound of pasta, I used linguini
  • Water from blanching lemons and garlic
  • 2 bunches of Tuscan kale (you want about 5 cups when chopped and packed down in the cup)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ½ tablespoons of Lemon & garlic confit
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Grated Meyer lemon zest, to taste (I used one additional lemon)
  • ½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Wash the kale and remove any tough center stems. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (this can be the left over blanching water plus extra as needed). Once it boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time. Drain but do not rinse, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the kale, stirring while it wilts and cooks down for about 2 minutes. The kale will be slightly crispy like dried nori.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes and salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking.
  5. Stir in the Meyer Lemon Confit.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the frying pan; toss to mix with the kale. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems dry.
  7. Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and taste for salt.
  8. Serve hot topped with Parmesan.
Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

It was also good stuffed under the skin of a chicken breast, sauteed (skin up), and finished in the oven.

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Bon Appetit!

This post is part of the monthly link up party “Our Growing Edge“. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. February 2015 is hosted by Kim at the blog Love, Live, Life by Kim.

our-growing-edge-badge

I’m also taking this pasta dish to share at Fiesta Friday #54, a weekly bloggers virtual dinner party hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Please come join the fun.

Fiesta Friday

 

January in the Kitchen – Lentils with slow cooked Tuscan kale

January in the Kitchen – Lentils with slow cooked Tuscan kale

Lentils with Slow Cooked Tuscan Kale

kale with lentils

Tuscan kale with lentils

Kale is one of the vegetables thriving this winter in my garden. I’m starting to harvest Tuscan kale, sometimes called nero di Toscana, and will continue until late spring. By taking only the bottom leaves I should be able to extend the season until warmer weather starts and I need the space for summer vegetables.

Tuscan kale, is extraordinarily nutritious: a cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the value for vitamin C. Like other members of the brassica family such as cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts, kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.

This combination of lentils and kale is delicious, it works well as a side dish or vegetarian main dish. Even better, it is good hot or at room temperature. The slow cooked kale melts into the lentils giving them an extra boost of flavor.

I used some wonderful leftover lentils (they were in the freezer from the post Lentils with Roast Vegetable Stacks). You will find the recipe for those lentils below. Make a double batch and freeze them. However, if you don’t have any left over from a dinner or in the freezer, you can make this dish from scratch. See the directions at the end. It doesn’t take any longer.

Slow Cooked Kale

  • 1 bunch of Tuscan Kale
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced fine
  • 3 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 dried red chili
  1. Wash the kale and remove the tough center stem, chop the kale into small pieces.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the shallots, garlic, chili, and kale. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir until the kale reduces and sinks into the liquid.
  5. Continue to cook for 30 minutes, then add the lentils.
  6. Cook for another 30 minutes (adding additional water if it seems too dry) on low heat until the kale melts into the lentils.
  7. Serve, garnished with sour cream, cilantro or parsley, and salt as needed.

Lentils

  • 1 1/2 cups Umbrian lentils or lentils du Puy
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 1 small dried chili
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup of dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (optional)
  1. Put the lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, the bay leaf, and dried pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but hold some texture, about 25 minutes.
  2. While they are cooking, heat the 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and carrot, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are browned, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
  3. Add the garlic and tomato paste, cook for 1 minute then add the wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is syrupy and the vegetables tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the mustard and add the cooked lentils with their broth. If made ahead, stop at this point.
  5. When you are ready to reheat, bring the contents of your pot to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the sauce is reduced. Stir in the scallions, and optional butter, taste for salt, add freshly ground pepper.

(Lentil Recipe adapted from Debra Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and 101 Cookbooks.)

kale with lentils

Tuscan kale with lentils

This recipe lentils with kale is adapted from the book Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams.

Lentils with Kale when you have not leftover lentils

  • 1 bunch of Tuscan Kale
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil plus more for serving
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced fine
  • 3 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 dried red chili
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of dark lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground or grated nutmeg
  • Sour cream, scallions, parsley or cilantro for garnish and serving
  1. Wash the kale and remove the tough center stem, chop the kale into small pieces.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the shallots, garlic, chili, and kale. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add 4 cups of water, the lentils, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly until the kale and lentils are cooked through. You want the kale to melt into the lentils. This will take an hour. Add extra water if it seems to dry. The end should be soft and moist but not swimming in liquid.
  5. Serve, garnished with nutmeg, scallions, sour cream, cilantro or parsley, and salt as needed.
Lentils and Kale

Tuscan Kale with Lentils

Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Happy New Year! This post is part of the Garden Share Collective. Each month a group of dedicated bloggers and gardeners share the stories of the vegetable gardens. I’m adding mine to the group although I am definitely off-season to the gardeners in Australia and New Zealand! My mouth waters at their tomatoes. I try to avoid them until our season opens in July. My garden doesn’t usually produce the first tomato until August or September. But, I can look and enjoy and enjoy the pictures. Click on the link to take a look at gardens around the world.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix1I haven’t done much gardening in the past few weeks; some harvesting but we’ve had rain, cold weather (for Northern California), and frost. All growth in the vegetable garden has slowed. I’ll be seeding lettuce and arugula later this month.

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

And, the seed catalogs are coming! I received the first ones in the mail last week. Time to dream of spring and summer.

I had some carrots seeded in containers on my deck which were going well until I noticed that something (squirrels?) had eaten the greens entirely off! Frustration!!! It’s too late to try seeding again for a month. Do squirrels like carrot greens? Hopefully it’s not mice.

Carrots eaten by????

Carrots eaten by????

What is on the garden schedule for January?

HARVESTING: salad greens, chard, beets, kale, fava leaves, herbs, and sprouting broccoli.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Chard

Chard

Beets

Beets

Baby Cauliflower

Baby Cauliflower

Thyme

Thyme

Parsley

Parsley

PLANTING: more salad greens

TO DO: Continue clean up, watch for snails and slugs, add compost to beds. I’m considering the purchase of an indoor grow light to start seeds. I’ll have to figure out a way to keep the cat from eating the greens.