Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuscan Kale Braised with Bacon

Tuscan Kale, Lacinato Kale or Dinosaur Kale is a beautiful green that is in season right now! If you are lucky enough to have a farmers market still running then you should have lots to choose from in the kale department. Tuscan Kale is a dark green vegetable with curly tough leaves, when cooked the leaves turn into a silky vegetable that loves a bit of acid. We us it in soups and pastas but our favorite way to cook it is to braise it with a bit of bacon and onion. When we teach our students recipes using kale and other tough greens they often say that they have tried to cook them with little success. Because of that we think many people are afraid to cook kale or other greens and that is a real shame, they are so good when done right.
One of the biggest keys to cooking these types of greens is to make sure when they are served they are nice and tender and well seasoned.  To start the greens we first remove the stems from the back of the greens

Then bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the Kale and cook until just barely tender about 10-12 minutes. Drain the kale, shock it by running cold water over it to stop the cooking. Now you are ready to cook the kale. In a large saute pan heat about 2 tablespoons of oil add your bacon and cook it just until the bacon begins to brown then we add the onions and cook until they just begin to brown. Add the sliced garlic just as the onions are browning and cook until the garlic just begins to brown

We then add the kale some chicken stock, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and cook until the kale is completely tender and has a silky texture. At this point we add a bit of spice most of the time in the form of red chili flakes or fresh chilies diced. We usually use this dish as a side dish, the night we tested this recipe we roasted Yukon Gold potatoes in a very hot oven with herb sea salt and pan-fried a piece of cod with a cornmeal crust. A little squeeze of lemon over the top and we had a great dinner. Eat this now!

Braised Tuscan Kale
Serves: 6
2 bunches Tuscan Kale, stemmed and washed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
red chili flakes to taste
salt and black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the kale and cook just until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to shock and stop the cooking.
Heat a large saute pan with oil until very hot, add the bacon and cook just until it begins to crisp about 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook until they just begin to brown about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown about 2 minutes. Add the kale, stock, vinegar, and lemon and cook until the kale was very tender and silky about 10 minutes. Add chilies and season well with salt and pepper. Serve warm

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

John's Pancakes

I am not exactly what you would call a morning person, morning for me is closer to noon then anything else. John on the other hand wakes up a bit happier than I do.  Which means he was elected to make breakfast or should I say brunch. He is the breakfast cook in our house also because he is so much better at it then I am. Cooking eggs takes a certain type of person and that has never ever been me. Even when I have been forced to work brunch during my career it was pure hell. John on the other hand sails through a brunch service and still liked the world at the end of it.

About 3 years ago John found this recipe for pancakes in Saveur magazine and he has been using it since, it is so simple and the pancakes are crispy on the outside and tender and cake like on the inside. Part of why we wanted to put this recipe on our blog is to encourage people to stop using pancake mixes. Pancake mixes are full of stuff that none of us need. Once you see how simple it is to make these you will never buy store bought again!

There are just two things to keep in mind when making pancakes. The first is not to over mix the batter. Just mix until the batter comes together a few lumps are ok. If you mix to much then your cakes will become tough and chewy. The second thing to remember is to make sure your pan or griddle is on a medium heat. Cooking the pancakes too hot will cause the cakes to burn and be gooey inside. The only other thing to keep in mind is to make sure and use the best syrup you can afford to crown your cakes. In the summer we scatter fresh blueberries on the cakes as they are cooking on the first side. One last tip if you do not have buttermilk combine 2 tablespoon of white vinegar with 2 cups of milk and allow to stand about 10 minutes. We use this when there isn't any buttermilk in the house and we need pancakes.  Eat this now!

pancake ingredients
John's Pancakes

Makes: about 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

To prepare the pancakes, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to mix well. In a separate bowl add the eggs and whisk until a bit frothy. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Gently fold in the butter.  Heat a large non-stick saute pan or griddle with a bit of butter over medium heat. Ladle as many pancakes that will fit without overcrowding the pan. Cook the pancakes until the tops bubble. Flip and cook until the cakes are golden brown about 4-5 minutes total. Remove from the griddle and serve warm.

Recipe taken from Saveur number 87


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Cauilflower, and Leeks

When John and I read cookbooks and magazines we are looking for new cooking methods or flavor combinations. We use these methods or flavors to spur our creativity. When I first read Mario Batali's cookbook Babbo I noticed that he cooked cauliflower a different way, he cut it  into small pieces then cooked it until very brown and crispy. If you haven't had cauliflower cooked this way you are really missing out, it turns a rather bland vegetable into crispy goodness. We really love cauliflower done this way and often use it as a side dish as well as adding it to soups and pasta.

We used sausage in this pasta recipe but in the past we have used pancetta and big surprise even bacon and if you are cooking for vegetarians you can easily leave out the sausage. 
We used Trader Joe's egg pappardelle pasta it really has a nice texture and cooks up like silk. When you cook the pasta make sure that you use a pot that is large enough, sometime I think people seek out the smallest pot they have to cook their pasta in. So get a nice big pot and add at least 8 cups of water and add  a generous hand full of salt to the water before adding the pasta. You can cook extra pasta and keep it for later in the week just toss with a bit of olive oil and it will keep for 3-4 days in your refrigerator. 
The goat cheese is added to the sauce to thicken the sauce but also adds a nice tangy flavor to the finished dish.I like a really big pinch of red chili flakes to spice up the pasta or you can have your guests add the spice at the table for those who are spicy weenies.Eat this now!

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Cauliflower, and Leeks
Serves: 6
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 leeks, julienne
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces soft mild goat cheese
salt and black pepper
red chili flakes
2 packages pappardelle pasta
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a very large pot of salted water to a rolling boil

Heat the a large saute pan, then add the olive oil, heat the oil until smoking hot. Add the cauliflower and leeks and cook until very brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the sausage and cook until brown and just cooked through, add the chicken stock, garlic, and thyme and cook for about 2 minutes to deglaze the pan.  Add the pasta to the water , stir and allow to cook. Cook until al dente about 5-6 minutes. Strain the pasta. Add the goat cheese to the sauce and mix well. Add the cauliflower to the sauce and toss well. Season with salt and black pepper. Add a nice big pinch of red chili flakes. Add the pasta to the sauce, toss well and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve warm topped with a bit of grated parmesan cheese.