Sunday, June 28, 2015

Roasted Garlic Dressing (for Kale or Potato Salad)

This recipe is adapted for one intended for potato salad (and I'm sure it would work well there), but I like it as a nice complement to a fresh kale salad, which needs a robust flavor without too much vinegar (since the kale is already a bit bitter itself).

Roasting the garlic takes about 1 hour (which you can easily do alongside anything else in the oven), but otherwise it's as quick to put together as any other salad dressing, and even tenderizes the kale a bit if you dress it ahead. Makes about 3/4 cup.


4 cloves roasted garlic (directions below)
1/2 cup very good olive oil
3/4 tsp. good coarse salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 tblsp. white wine or champagne vinegar
3 tblsp. microplaned parmesan

To roast the garlic: cut the head crosswise so that the tops of the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on rack or pan in oven and roast until soft (about 1 hour at 350, though a shorter time at higher heat will also work). The garlic is about ready when you smell it, but be careful not to let it burn. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out of their papery skin.

To mix the dressing by hand, grind the garlic with the salt and a little bit of the olive oil in a mortar and pestle until a paste has formed. Scrape this into the remainder of the olive oil and add the vinegar, pepper, oregano and vinegar. Add the cheese and whisk to combine.

Alternatively, pulse the garlic with a little bit of olive oil in a food processor. Scrape the paste into the remaining olive oil, add the salt and the follow the directions above.

To prep the kale, fold each leaf in half lengthwise along the rib. Place the closed leaf on a cutting board and draw the blade of a chef's knife along the leaf just inside the stem. Wash the leaves well and then tear into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Kind of Kedegeree

Foods that one will happily consume at 3am don't always transition well to daylight hours. The below is my invented version of a dish that I later learned was a well-known British adaptation of an Indian dish called "Kedgeree"  - a dish of curried rice and flaked fish topped with an egg - which is great for a savory breakfast or brunch (or end-of-evening adventure). Though I've only ever prepared it one serving at a time, I could imagine it easily being adapted for a crowd, with eggs cracked over the top of a cast-iron pan full of the rice mixture, quickly cooked-and-crisped under the broiler. And because my time in Kenya combined with early farm-share experience (and good nutrition!) means I like adding kale to everything, well - there's kale in this as well. The slight bitterness of hardy greens offers a nice complement to the rich, creamy texture of medium-cooked eggs in a range of dishes. 


1 egg
1/4 cup basmati rice
Preferred curry powder (mild, medium or hot)
2-3 leaves kale, or other sturdy, dark, leafy-green
1-2 tbsp. coconut milk
olive oil

Cook the rice in a small saucepan: combine the rice with double its volume in water and about 1/4 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, until the water is just absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and chop the kale. Add 1 tbsp. oil to a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the kale and cook with a dash of salt until darker green and just wilted, 4-5 minutes. Remove kale from pan and set aside. 

When the rice is ready, mix in the coconut milk and 3/4 tbsp. curry powder or to taste. 

Cook the egg in the same sauté pan over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes - ideally no harder than medium. It's nice to leave the egg "sunny-side-up," which can be done more easily by covering the sauté pan for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.

Assemble and serve: in a bowl, add first the rice, then the kale, and top with the egg. Alternatively, mix the kale and rice and serve with the egg on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As noted above, the rice and kale portion could be multiplied as needed to fill a 9-inch cast-iron pan. Make small divots in the rice and crack 6 eggs into them, then cook under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, or until just medium. Serve hot.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pretty Tasty Salmon Cakes

I'm a huge fan of pantry/basic fridge recipes that can be made without any special grocery purchases or preparation. I'm normally turned off by long ingredient lists, but in this case, dry and canned goods, along with long-lived refrigerator staples make up virtually all of the ingredients, so you can just decide to make it at seven o'clock without worrying about going out for anything. The wheat germ is kind of weird, but a nice, slightly nutty (& nutritious!) replacement for bread or cracker crumbs. Serves 3.


2 - 7 oz. cans good quality salmon
1/2 cup shallots, minced
1 tblsp. minced garlic
1 medium egg
1 1/2 tblsp. wheat germ
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. mayonnaise
1/2 lemon, juiced
olive oil

Saute the shallots and garlic over medium heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until somewhat softened and slightly carmelized.

In the meantime, combine the remainder of the ingredients in mixing bowl, breaking up the salmon and mixing with a fork. Add in the shallots and garlic, and season to taste. Form the mixture into 3 hockey puck-sized patties, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.

To serve, saute the patties in a little bit of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat; a nonstick pan is best for this. You want to make sure to get a good color on both sides of each cake. Serve hot, with your preferred starch and veggie alongside.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Salad: Greek + Wheat

About a dozen years ago, my sister and I took a trip that involved grinding our way up and down the hills of mainland Greece in a tiny, tempermental, stick-shift car. Though our knowledge of Greek was limited to "please", "thank you", and the alphabet as gleaned from physics class and a childhood musical (don't ask), we got around well enough for me to have a real Greek salad at a taverna somewhere south of Thessonaliki. It was cool and crunchy and delicious - and very hard to replicate.

More recently, I discovered that I love bulgur wheat. This can be entirely attributed to Ina Garten's Chicken with Tabbouleh recipe, and her preparation of the bulgur is, I think, a wonderful basic recipe. It's nutty and fresh and the perfect accompaniment for the cucumber and feta of the Greek salad, turning it into a great summer lunch.

Note: this recipe has a day-ahead timeline, so that the shallots have a chance to both mellow out and flavor the olive oil. Generally, this salad keeps very well in the fridge, and the flavor tends to improve over time.


The Greek:
1 cup shallots, sliced
3/4 cup delicious olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 medium cucumbers, mostly peeled
4-5 plum or other firm tomatoes
8 oz. block feta cheese

The Wheat:
1 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup also tasty olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 day ahead:

Put the olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and shallots into your favorite plastic storage container, give it a stir or a shake and leave it in the fridge.

A few hours ahead:

Prepare the bulgur: in a large bowl, add the salt, lemon juice, olive oil, and water to the dry bulgur and give it a good stir. Immediately cover with plastic wrap or a plate and let it alone for about an hour. Definitely don't skimp on the lemon juice and ALWAYS use fresh! Lemons keep quite a long time in the fridge, so it's easiest to just keep 2 or 3 on hand.

Chop the cheese and veggies: roughly dice everything into about 1/2 inch chunks; you should have about equal parts tomato, cucumber and feta when you're finished. Toss it all into a big bowl with the shallot/olive oil dressing, season to taste, and then pop the whole thing back in the fridge while you wait for the bulgur. When most or all of the liquid is absorbed and the little grains are al dente, it's ready.


Combine the salad with the bulgur wheat, mixing thoroughly. Season to taste and return to the fridge until ready to serve.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pizza Pizza!

Homemade pizza is one of those flexible favorites; it's great for an appetizer party if there aren't too many people around - each little pie is enough for a person, but it's great fun to make them sequentially with different toppings and everybody trying a slice each time.

This dough recipe is straight from Mark Bittman's recipe for "Pan-Fried Pizza" feature, with only a couple of caveats:

1. You can also bake this in the oven. Crank up the heat (pretty much as high as it can go), and if put whatever you're baking it on in the oven for a good ten minutes or more first. You want it going onto a hot surface as well as in a hot oven. Also, par-baking it a little first (so it's a little bit cooked on top) will help the crust hold up to the tomato sauce and not get too soggy.

2. The rising times here are approximate, and more pretty much never hurts. You can always make pizza dough ahead by a day, and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight - the longer and cooler the rise the denser and chewier the dough.

Other than that - go to town! Everybody knows already how they like their pizza best.


2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more as needed
1/2 c. + warm water
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for cooking

The dough
Bittman suggests a food processor for this; I suggest your hands. Combine the first 4 ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and work it together with your hands. Kneading for three or four minutes at this stage is a good idea, working it around in the bottom of the bowl and adding more water if necessary so that the dough is only slightly sticky to the touch; the kneading will make it more springy. Coat the dough ball very lightly in olive oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap - now you can either let it rise for a couple hours on the countertop or for longer in the fridge.

About the water
Getting the water temperature right when working with yeast is pretty important; I'm no expert but the target temperature for instant yeast is somewhere around 100 or 105 degrees. The easiest way to measure this is to stick your finger in it; if the water feels just barely warm, you're in the right range (because your body temperature is about 98.6 degrees). Lips or the inside of your wrist would also be good thermometer-zones (as they are for baby bottles). You can also use an actual thermometer, of course.

After the (first) rise
Divide the (now hopefully larger) dough ball into four pieces; make them into balls by sort of tucking the bottom under and pinching. Dust these with flour and let them rise again for another 1/2 hour or so under a damp towel (or even return to the fridge). The point is, they need to be room temperature when you go to pull them.

Dealing with dough
Stretching the dough can be a bit tricky; it also has a tendency to spring back, so I use a two-round approach. The first time, squash the ball and then flatten into a disk with your fingertips and by pulling slightly (holding the dough in the air). Then you can put it back on the counter and plant the heel of one hand on the disk while massaging the other side outward with your fingertips, rotating the dough a little at a time. You don't generally want to roll it, but you can if you get frustrated. It takes practice.

Usually after the first round of stretching, I kind of stick the dough to the counter and let it rest for another few minutes under a damp towel, then stretch it out again - the interim "rise" makes it spring back much less.

Pizza please!
If you're pan-frying, preheat your skillet to medium heat and put a very little bit of oil in it; you don't want really greasy pizza. Cook the dough for four or five minutes until it's reached your preferred doneness, then flip, add your toppings, and cover the pan (so the toppings warm and melt). That's it! For the oven it's much the same, but you'll want to par-bake the dough a little longer. Naturally - top as you please!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer's Pseudo "Spinach and Artichoke" Dip

Ok, there's actually no spinach or artichoke in this dip, but it's a great summer alternative to the hearty flavors of that wintertime favorite, and would be perfect with its usual toasted-pita companion. The other sneaky trick is that it's almost ridiculously good for you, because (surprise!) it's made with kale and Greek yogurt. Don't worry, it's been road-tested. Another way to get your head around it is think of this is as tsatsiki with kale instead of cucumber.

One thing about kale is that it cooks down incredibly. I made this recipe with and entire bunch of kale and a medium-sized container of Greek yogurt and liked the balance, but you can add a more yogurt depending on the density of greens you like.

1 bunch kale
1 7 oz. container Greek yogurt (I prefer 2% or regular)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tblsp. olive oil
1 lemon

Prep the kale by rinsing in a bowl of cold water, then removing the tough parts of the stems. Stack several leaves and roll into a cylinder, then slice the roll into 1/4 inch sections; cross-chop into medium-small pieces.

In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add kale and saute 4-6 minutes, until tender. Season with a few grinds of salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Once the kale has cooled completely, combine with the yogurt, juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Season to taste with additional lemon juice (and/or zest), salt, and pepper.

As with most dips, flavors will blend and improve with time. Serve with toasted-pita points or other flatbread.

Tuna and White Bean Salad with Chard

Buying a farm share, joining a CSA, or even just going to the farmer's market is a great way to get the best vegetables in season, but particularly with the former, you can end up with a lot of dark, leafy greens over the course of a season. Kale, chard, dandelion greens - they're wonderful for you but it's easy to get stymied trying to figure out what to do with them.

Most of my preparations for the dark greens that are too stiff or bitter to eat raw begin with the step: "Chop and saute with olive oil, garlic, and salt." Many of them will taste just fine that way, but a pile of fried greens may be a tough sell to some eaters and it's not that visually appealing, let's be honest. So I've tried to develop a few ways to integrate them into more versatile offerings. Below, red chard tints the salad a unique (though I don't think unappetizing) pink. It's also a great protein source for a midsummer-twist on the Nicoise salad, and does well when composed with the green beans, beets and tomatoes available at the same time.

The base recipe augmented here is Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions.


For chard:
2 large bunches chard
2 tblsp. olive oil
2 tblsp. unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

For beans:
1 c. dried white kidney beans, soaked overnight, then boiled until tender (do not salt)
2 cans white kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 6 oz. can tuna fish (packed in oil or water)
1 lemon

Prep the chard by rinsing in a large bowl of cold water and then removing the ribs (you will use both): cut off the very ends of the stems, but leave an inch or two at the base. Holding the stem between thumb and forefinger, loosely close your other hand just above the base of the leaf and then pull down - you want to separate the leaf from the stem. Alternatively, fold the leaves in half, and cut just alongside the rib with a large knife to separate. Chop the stems into 1-inch pieces. Chiffonade the leaves by stacking several, then rolling up into a cylinder and slicing thinly. If the ribbons are very long, you can cross-chop with one or two strokes.

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy pan over medium heat until butter foam subsides. Add the garlic and onion along with 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften - about 6 or 7 minutes. Add stems and continue cooking until tender, about another 10 minutes. Finally, add chard leaves in batches, adding each as soon as the previous wilts (you may cover briefly to speed the wilting), and saute until leaves are tender, about 6-8 more minutes.

Remove the chard from the heat and combine with beans and tuna in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the mixture while still warm and season (aka salt and pepper) to taste.

As with many cold salads, the flavors will blend and improve in the fridge.