Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat More Kale

The world might be a better place if we all had more kale in our lives. It's been called a "superfood" for good reason. And for less than $1 a bunch, I try to make it a regular part of my meals. Loaded with vitamins C, K, beta carotene, calcium, and possibly cancer preventing compounds, it's hard to say no to kale. It's tasty to boot! Try the curly variety or one of the other colorful varieties. It's great in soups, steamed with loads of garlic, with beans, or roasted to make chips. If you're particularly daring, try a shot of it in your next smoothie.

I love kale paired with lemon and parmesan. In my mind, lemon and parmesan are like chocolate and peanut butter--the scent intoxicating and completely satisfying. Try this combination with your next bunch of kale. This could just as easily be turned into a pesto for a richer dish.

Tortelloni with Kale, Lemon, and Parmesan

1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb fresh tortelloni (or ravioli, or tortellini cheese or spinach flavored)
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Toast the pine nuts and set aside. Boil the tortelloni in salted water and prepare the kale. Heat the garlic until just fragrant. Add the kale and stir adding more oil as needed. Add 1/4 of pasta water and let the kale steam. Cook until kale is crisp, tender, about 5 minutes. Pour off the excess liquid then add the juice of half a lemon and stir. Add the tortelloni to the kale and then the zest, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and finish off with a bit more olive oil.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beans 'n Greens 'n Crunch

Although this isn't the perfect time of year for swiss chard, I go to this dish for a reminder of Summer. Rainbow chard can still be found in my produce section--its brightly colored red, orange, and green stems make it the most eye-catching leafy green in the whole store.

Swiss chard is hands down my favorite of all the greens. It is just tough enough to not wilt away to nothing when cooked, and I love the way the bright red stems stain the surrounding ingredients. The stems are slightly sweet and the leaves tender with only the tiniest bit of bitterness. I prefer it served lightly sauteed with lots of garlic as a side dish, chopped up in pasta, or alongside white beans for a filling meatless main.

Swiss Chard with Cannelini Beans and Herb Breadcrumbs

1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch swiss chard, stems included, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup panko bread crumb
2+ tsp Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper

On a foil lined sheet pan, mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and pepper, and a spot of olive oil. Mix together with your fingers then put in a hot oven to toast, stirring often so not to burn. Toast until fragrant and browned all over then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the garlic in oil for thirty seconds. Add the chard stems and cook until they just begin to soften. Finally add the leaves and stir for a couple minutes until wilted. Remove the chard from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Toss in the drained beans and spread out in an even layer in the pan. Let them sit for a minute to just brown slightly then toss and cook for another minute. Add the greens back to the pan and toss to combine. Add more oil if it seems dry then season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the toasted bread crumbs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beans 'n Greens, Indian Style

Let us not forget that the lowly lentil is in fact in the legume family. This Indian inspired version of beans and greens is a nice change of pace. When I make this again, I will consider doubling the spices for an even more intensely flavored dish. That earthy, lentil flavor needs to be overpowered with fragrant spices. The dollop of yogurt that finishes the dish adds a cool, creaminess making this ideal for a light lunch or dinner.

Lentils and Chard with Mushrooms

1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed
4 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric

In a small pot cover the lentils with 2 1/2 cups of water, salt, and bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, lower the heat and cover, simmering for about 30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and cook until tender. Move the mushrooms to the outer rim of the pan and add some more oil and the garlic. Add the spices and stir 30 seconds. Add the chard and mix everything to combine. Cook another 2 minutes until wilted. Add the lentils and some of the cooking water (about 1/4 cup) to the pan. Simmer until all the flavors come together. Serve with yogurt.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Beans 'n Greens, Caribbean Style

The black bean stands so well on its own -- bold and earthy. I don't use black beans enough and tend to forget just how much I love them. This is evidenced by the 6 cans I have in my pantry! I'm always reminded of my favorite Cuban restaurant back in Florida where they served up black beans thick and creamy, devilishly rich. Rich? A bean can be rich?

Ever since this summer I've been hooked on this recipe for kale with bacon and coconut milk. It is fabulous just as it is but thought I'd make a vegetarian alternative to add to the beans 'n greens saga. Crisp kale, creamy beans are made rich with coconut milk and just a hint of chile powder that makes for a lovely sauce. I'm sure this recipe would be great with the bacon (because what isn't improved with bacon?) but is quite tasty without it.

Kale with Black Beans and Coconut Milk
adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch kale, stems removed
a small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1-2 tsp chile powder (or to taste)

Cook the onions and garlic in a large pot until just tender. Toss in the kale and stir around for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the chile powder, beans, and season with salt. Cover and let simmer until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice, with some sweet bread, or warm tortillas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Beans 'n Greens

After all this time I'd say my diet has changed a little bit. After reading a lot of Mark Bittman, mulling the pros and cons in my head, and considering my own health, I have decided to become a pseudo-vegetarian. Now I say 'pseudo' because I'm not cutting out meat entirely but I am limiting it in my diet to only a couple times per week or only when I'm out to dinner and vegetarian options are limited. It's a win-win -- good for me and good for the environment as Bittman would argue in his book Food Matters.

I understand the vegetarian diet isn't for everyone, and the raw food or vegan diet is for even less. There is a huge commitment to make to live this way, and for foodies it can be even more difficult. If you are the type of person who can do it, then good for you. I cannot live entirely without meat however, but have felt better since limiting it in my diet. It has also been fun to get creative with a whole different way of cooking. Jazzin' up those veggies and whole grains has not been as challenging as I thought. In reality, I don't really miss meat or crave it throughout the week. A meat-free diet can be just as filling and satisfying.

The biggest addition to my diet has been various beans and various greens. I've been honing in on my favorite combinations of beans and greens but excited to try more as certain greens start in season and as I start to incorporate unfamiliar beans into my pantry. A weeknight standby has become great northern beans, escarole, and tomato sauce -- a dish I first had at our neighborhood Italian joint that was so luscious and creamy I had to try to make it at home.

What's your favorite beans 'n greens preparation?

Beans and Escarole with Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 head of escarole, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained well
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
28 oz can of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade)
red pepper flake, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan, adding red pepper flake and any other seasoning to taste. In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, then add the escarole. After 2 or 3 minutes, when the escarole starts too cook down, gently stir in the beans so not to break them. Cook another minute or 2 adding more oil if it gets too dry. Finally ladle in the tomato sauce and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for a couple more minutes to let the flavors come together. Season with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

best weekend ever

Imagine the best weekend of your life. Now imagine Michelin star dining with top notch wines. A 2+ hour meal of fun and playful dishes. Elusive bars with hidden entrances. Supersized macarons to put in your pocket. Finished with a heaping helping of sizzling meat. This was my weekend. The weekend of your dreams.

It started at Esca -- the Mario Batalli joint. Here I admitted that I don't like oysters but I love halibut belly. I was amazed by every wine we tried from the bubbling champagne to the crisp basil-tinged white and luscious reds.

Then we were off to Jean-Georges for a lunch of incredible value. I was wowed with watermelon and refreshed with their homemade sodas. A quick snack of macarons at Bouchon bakery was only across the street.

A late night reservation at wd50 was a true highlight. A casual atmosphere, wd50 is no Alinea but Chef Wylie Dufresne is all business when it comes to what's on the plate. The dishes were fun and quirky. Mostly tasty but nothing too, too memorable. wd50 is more about experimenting with food and textures than big flavors and challenging the senses like Grant Achatz does at Alinea. Not sure I would eat there again, but this was a meal I will remember for a long time.

Striped bass wrapped in pineapple with chorizo and popcorn

Everything bagel (ice cream) with smoked salmon and crispy cream cheese

Foie gras with passion fruit center and chinese celery and avocado dust

Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, kampachi and fried potatoes

Cold-fried chicken with buttermlk-ricotta, caviar, and honey tobasco

Sweet shrimp with red pepper strands, black sesame and shiso

Beef consommé with bernaise gnocchi and haricot verts

Lamb loin, pickled ramps, black garlic romesco and soybean

Chewy lychee sorbet with pistachios and celery puree

Hazelnut tart filled with coconut, chocolate, and chicory foam

Rainbow sherbet of tarragon, orange, and tarragon over olive oil sponge cake

A few rendezvous at various speakeasies around the East Village rounded out the weekend. Angel's Share was very well hidden behind a nondescript door in a busy sushi restaurant. The Bourgeois Pig was super hip with snazzy decor. And Please Don't Tell, found on the other side of a phone booth inside a hot dog joint where you pick up the phone to gain entrance, was full but will have to be explored next time.

We ended the weekend with Peter Luger's monstrous meat (a 40 oz porterhouse!) while World Cup blared from the next room. Chocolate coins dipped in a bowl of "schlag" finished the perfect weekend. I've never been so happy and so full.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Bananas

Call me crazy (ahem bananas...) but I hate ripe bananas. In fact I only eat green bananas. Now I don't mean so green that you can barely bite through them or peel them but just green enough. I find them refreshingly grassy that way and the riper they get the sweeter and worse they become. Ripe bananas are just too strong in flavor and I can't stand the mushy texture.

I have to admit, I feel quite badly about throwing away my bananas as soon as they turn a bright, bright yellow. Smelling their unpleasant sweetness while eying the trash can the other day, I thought instead to save those inedible fruits. I decided to bake banana bread!

Seldom do I have such a strong feeling to bake and actually have all of the ingredients on hand. Most of the time there is always one ingredient missing and that is what happened in the case of this bread. OK actually I was missing two ingredients.... chocolate chips and white flour. The chocolate chips are any easy omit but the flour, well I'm ashamed for not having any in my kitchen. I did however have some wheat flour stowed deep in the cabinets from a past bread experiment. So I went with the wheat and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

This comes from Molly and is so easy a monkey could mix it together (doh!). Moist and tender, and tastes best the day after.

Banana Whole Wheat Bread
adapted from Orangette

3 ripe bananas (medium or large)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups whole grain wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or nuts, optional)

Preheat the oven to 375. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the eggs and combine. Stir in the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour batter into a parchment-lined or oiled loaf pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.