Close Enough

 

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I am a bad food blogger. Let me explain. Purim’s coming up, and as I’m assembling costumes (including a fairy dress that “needs to have buttons up the back”), I realized that I never told you about last Purim, when I snuck away after Carnival for a blogger event. It was for cookbook author and chef Sara Moulton, and it was at Harvest in Harvard Square. Turns out she got her start there, so this was a very special afternoon for her. She collaborated with Harvest’s Executive Chef Tyler Kinett on a very special menu inspired her new cookbook Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better. (Well, new at the time. Like I said, bad food blogger.)

We started with a delicious Spring Pea Soup that had smoked salmon, crispy potatoes and crème fraiche on top, which was inspired by the Pea Vichyssoise with Smoked Salmon in the cookbook. Dessert was La Tulipe’s Apricot Souffle, which she adapted from her time at Gourmet Magazine (z’l). Sara actually called up someone to help her with the demo, but when I saw that the prepared menu in front of me said there was soufflé for dessert and she was holding up a whisk, I knew there was going to be an insane amount of egg whites being whipped – by hand – and I kind of hid my head as to not be noticed for that task. Someone did raise their hand to help out. I think it was a fashion blogger who didn’t see it coming, but she did a wonderful job of whisking, for nearly 10 minutes straight.

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I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember what my actual main course was. According to the menu I saved, we had “Steak & Eggs,” which was “Braised Short Ribs, Poached Egg and Broccoli Rabe & Butterball Potatoes,” inspired by “Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs of Beef” in the book. But because I write a “mostly vegetarian food blog”, they knew to make an alternate dish for me. I’m a bit mortified to admit I can’t remember what they subbed for it. But I promise you, the soup and soufflé were so good, what came in the middle doesn’t really matter.

What did matter from that event was that Sara was darling and kind and warm and lovely. She is bite-size, super small, and her Converse All-Stars gave her no extra height. I told her how much her nacho pie recipe is enjoyed in our house, and she appreciated the sentiment, or at least seemed to.

The afternoon ended with each one of us receiving a signed copy of the cookbook, and I’ve enjoyed cooking from it these past 11 months. The Beans and Greens Gratin is just about perfect for this time of year. As Sara explains: “When you see the word gratin in the title of a recipe, it means that the dish is topped with a light brown crust usually consisting of baked breadcrumbs or grated cheese. […] Here I’ve combined two hearty ingredients: beans and greens.” It employs one of her favorite tricks for thickening bean-centric dishes, which is mashing some of them. And it works! It’s very hardy, and travels well the next day for lunch leftovers.

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I did a “close enough” version of this recently. It calls for fresh breadcrumbs, but since I’m still waiting for my replacement blade for my recalled food processor, I had to use Panko that I had. (Any time now, Cuisinart…)  I didn’t have fresh rosemary in the house, so I skipped it, and it was fine.

The recipe also survived me using a slightly smaller can of beans and a larger can of tomatoes, which is what I had on hand. I used a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon in 1 ½ cups water in lieu of Sara’s Homemade Vegetable Stock. Like I said, close enough.

Beans and Greens Gratin from Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better

 Start to Finish: 1 Hour 15 Minutes/Hands-On Time: 40 Minutes/Servings 6

 Ingredients

1 ¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs (made by pulsing 2 to 3 slices homemade-style white bread in a food processor)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

4 cups packed coarsely chopped chard, kale, mustard greens, collard leaves or a mix (tough stems removed)

2 cups cooked pinto, white, kidney, or black beans, or chickpeas; or rinsed and drained canned beans (a 19-ounce can)

1 ½ cups Homemade Vegetable Stock or store-bought vegetable broth

1 ½ ounces freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup chopped whole canned tomatoes

Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss together the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the pepper flakes and salt to taste in a small bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the greens in batches and cook until they are wilted. Mash ½ cup of the beans with a potato masher or fork and add the mashed beans along with the whole beans, stock, cheese, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly on top of the mixture. Bake on the upper middle shelf of the oven until the crumbs are lightly browned and the beans are bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.

 

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A Tall Kale

Last week at Russo’s I bought the largest bunch of kale I’d ever seen. I took a photo so you could get a sense of how enormous this vegetable was.

bale of kale

Yes, yes, I know. I tend to take photos of my daughters and not of food, so you get a two-for-one with this post.

I bought it because we were having pizza night on Saturday, and I wanted a nice kale salad alongside my slice. (Yes. Kale and pizza. It’s totally a thing at shmancy pizza places, at least in Boston.) The next morning, a kale salad recipe arrived in my inbox. As my mother would say, it’s a siman, a sign, to make this kale salad.

The recipe is from a new cookbook I’m dying to get my hands on. (I’m number 34 on the wait list at the Boston Public Library.) The book is Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Solomonov is the genius behind the Philadelphia-based Israeli restaurant Zahav. Rich and I had a chance to eat there about five years ago, and I still think about the buttered hummus.

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Zahav means gold in Hebrew, and I swear that man has the Midas touch. He also has a fried chicken and donut shop called Federal Donuts, and even better, he started Citron and Rose, a glatt kosher restaurant in a suburb of Philly. I don’t think he’s there anymore, but dishes like crispy duck spring rolls and wild citrus salmon with black lentils and asparagus have them lining up at the door.

The recipe is called Kale, Apple, Walnut and Sumac-Onion Tabbouleh, but it’s a lot simpler to put together than the name suggests. The one trick is to start the onions first so they have some time to pickle before you throw everything together. The onions make one cup and the recipe calls for 1/4 cup. That’s ok, because since this was the kale that never ended, I ended up making this recipe four times this week. I first served it for Shabbat dinner, next to roasted delicata squash tossed with thyme breadcrumbs, and tomatoes sprinkled with Maldon salt and basil chiffonade. Then I served it for the aforementioned pizza night. Then I brought the salad, along with the most delicious, time consuming and complicated noodles that ever were, to a friend’s house on Sunday.

pizza night

It was at this point that I started feeling like Homer and that sandwich that just kept on going and going. I tossed the kale with beets, sweet potatoes, more apples, golden raisins, pepperoncini — basically everything I found in my fridge.

I had never thought about apples, walnuts and kale until this recipe, but just yesterday Yotam Ottolenghi tweeted and posted to Instagram a photo of a salad of kale, apples, walnuts and radish. Is it an Israeli chef thing? Maybe, and I’m right there with a fork.

kale and noodles

A few other things: Yes, I know this is my third recipe in a row with walnuts, and no, I’m not trying to kill my sister. The next few recipes I plan to share are walnut-free. I buy my sumac at the Armenian shops on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. The Butcherie in Coolidge Corner also sells sumac in their Israeli spice section. Although the recipe calls for a Honeydew apple, I used a Fuji I had left over from last week’s baked apples. I never have pomegranates in the house so I skipped them, but they would be terrific.

Finally, a few of you have requested more Lilli and Beatrix photos. I do a pretty good job of posting photos of them to Instagram, I’m @cheapbeets, so for all you needing a Parr baby fix, that’s the place to go.

Kale, Apple, Walnut and Sumac-Onion Tabbouleh  — Recipe adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook

Ingredients

For the pickled sumac onions

1 cup finely diced red onion (1/2 large red onion)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons ground sumac

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Tabbouleh

2 cups packed shredded kale

¾ cup finely chopped walnuts

½ cup diced apple (1/2 Honeycrisp)

¼ cup pickled sumac onions

½ cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish (not necessary, but nice if you have them)

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Directions

Make the pickled sumac onions: In a small bowl, toss the onions with the red wine vinegar, sumac and salt. Let the onions macerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 1 cup. Make ahead: The pickled onions can be made, covered and chilled for up to 3 days.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the tabbouleh ingredients and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Sprinkle with more pomegranate seeds and serve.

Kevin’s Grandma’s Soup

Lately, Lilli has been crawling over to her book chest – a soft cloth toy chest that I filled with books instead of toys – pulling herself up, pushing the cover aside, and taking out book after book. Sometimes we read the books, sometimes she eats them. It’s a mix, really. Watching her with her books reminds me of the books I used to love to read when I was a little girl. One in particular I was reminded of lately, and it’s because of a recipe.

Lilli and her books

Kevin’s Grandma, by Barbara Williams, sounds like a pretty cool lady. She’s been a performer in the circus – riding a unicycle on a tightrope, no less. She knows judo, and goes sky diving. She is also quite the chef, because, according to Kevin, she makes a mean peanut butter soup. But Kevin’s friend, the narrator, has a hard time believing Kevin, and doubts about the peanut butter soup most of all.

This summer I was sent The Leafy Greens Cookbook by Kathryn Anible. It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, so I haven’t checked out every recipe. Kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, and collards are some of the greens with recipes in here. I tested the Dijon mustard greens salad with capers and eggs on Rich this summer and he really enjoyed it. (I’m not a mustard person, so it was all him, and he licked the plate clean.) But it was the African Peanut Stew that caught my eye. Just like Kevin’s grandma, I thought.

This week, when both a bunch of kale and a bag of sweet potatoes came in the CSA I thought of the recipe immediately. Turns out I had everything else already in the house, including the fresh ginger I keep in the freezer. The only slight change is that I had a hot red pepper and not a habanero chile pepper in the fridge. Like all recipes, use your best judgment with how spicy you want your dish to be.

Anible suggests serving this over rice or another grain; I cooked up a cup of barley in the pressure cooker in 20 minutes while I was cooking this on another burner. I’m not going to use the times of how long each step took, because, like with most recipes, it’s a lie. I’ve never met an onion that becomes soft and translucent in 3 minutes, and sweet potatoes and carrots take more than 10 minutes of simmering to soften, but you’ll get the idea. Rich and I each had a serving the night it was made, and I had enough for 3 more Tupperware containers for lunches for the rest of the week. Of course, just like with the apple cake, I failed at taking a photo of the stew. It was very good, though. That’s the truth.

African Peanut Stew

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion (I just used an onion and was done with it.)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 chile pepper, seeded and minced

4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth or water

1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 large carrot, peeled and diced into ½ -inch cube

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

½ teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups packed chopped spinach or packed de-stemmed chopped kale

¼ cup packed and chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper

¼ cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Directions

In a 6-quart stockpot over medium heat, warm the oil until it shimmers. Cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chile pepper, cooking for another 30 seconds. Add the broth or water, tomatoes, carrot, sweet potato, and peanut butter. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender. Stir in the coriander, cayenne, spinach or kale, and cilantro. Simmer for an additional 3 minutes, until the spinach or kale is wilted, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over rice or another grain. Top each serving with chopped peanuts. This stew can be cooled, covered, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Kale to the Chief

Last fall, during the lay-off, we took in a roommate. A good friend of ours needed a place to live for a few months, and we had been thinking about renting the second bedroom for extra cash. His rent included dinner every night, which was a bit of an upgrade for him. (He’s a great guy, but the one cookbook he owns is A Man, a Can, a Plan.)

Whenever our friend talks about his time at our place, the nightly dinner always gets mentioned. I’ve asked him for his favorite and most distinctive food memory from his time with us, and his answer is always the same: kale. When he thinks of eating at our table, he thinks about kale.

This dish, a panade, literally, a “big bread thing,” is my absolute most favorite thing to do with kale. It takes a good long time to prepare and even longer to bake, so I typically make it on football Sundays in the late fall and wintertime, starting around 1:00 for a 4:30 meal. I say Sundays because I always use leftover challah, although it’s certainly not what the recipe calls for.

In fact, the recipe I use doesn’t even include kale. It calls for chard, which I am sure would be dandy, but as soon as I saw the ingredients — stewed onions, chard, and fontina, nestled in between cubes of bread and bathed in stock — I thought kale would be even better. This season, you can get a bunch of kale for under a dollar — mine was .79 at Russo’s.

You can certainly use fancy fontina, but if you want to keep costs down, Trader Joe’s cheeses work great. I had some leftover veggie stock in the fridge, so we used that, along with the frozen turkey stock Rich made the day after Thanksgiving. We’ve found that animal stock makes the dish unctuous and more layered with flavor and depth, but I promise you, it will be delicious veggie-only as well.

This is one of those dishes that requires the dirtying of a frustrating amount of dishes, and Rich and I make it together, each tackling a part of the preparation. But trust me, the time and dirty dishes are well worth it.

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