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.

Great Granola

This has become a tried-and-true favorite: when offered around it somehow disappears faster than microwave popcorn, and is great with milk, yogurt, or on its own. It is also almost impossibly easy to make, with about 2 minutes (I'm not kidding) of active prep, with the whole shebang basically ready inside of an hour. To boot: it's cheaper and healthier than store-bought granola, which somehow can cost $6 or $8 per pound.

This recipe evolved from Alton Brown's Granola Bars recipe.

2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. shelled sunflower seeds
1 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. wheat germ

1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tblsp. (unsalted) butter, plus more for pan

1 - 1 1/2 c. dried cranberries and/or other dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the dry ingredients together a cookie sheet with a half-inch lip, and toast for 15 minutes (you will just be able to smell it). Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees.

In a medium saucepan combine honey, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat, stirring until butter is incorporated. Remove from heat and add oat mixture and dried fruit to taste, stirring to coat. Quickly butter the cookie sheet, and, using a rubber spatula, turn the oats-and-honey mixture back onto the pan and spread into a roughly even layer. Return cookie sheet to oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Let the granola cool for about 10 minutes. It will still bend and stick together - use a spatula to lift it off the pan and transfer to a sturdy ziploc or large tupperware. Then, just shake it around until you have the size of granola-gravel you prefer!

(stores in an airtight container for a week or so)