Grilled Cheese with Fennel and Kale

Grilled Cheese with Fennel and Kale

My Imperfect box came yesterday and I got a fennel bulb. I love fennel and want people to cook with it a lot more so it becomes more common and less expensive. This time I made a grilled cheese sandwich using some of the 5 pounds of kale I got from the Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share.

So what did I do?

Fennel, Onions, and Kale
I put a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat and added 1 tbsp of olive oil. While it heated, I used a mandoline to thin slice a medium-sized yellow onion and the small fennel bulb. I tossed the thin slices in the skillet, added a bit of salt, and sauteed until tender. Meanwhile, I chopped up about 2 cups of raw kale. I pulled the leaves off the stems, rolled to chiffonade. When the onions and fennel began to caramelize, tossed in the kale and covered to let it cook for about 5 minutes.

I removed the veggies from the skillet and dropped some butter, putting down one slice of whole wheat bread, I added thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese and then forked some of the veggies on top of the cheese. When it was toasted and ready to flip, I added some more cheese on top of the veggies and added the second slice of bread and flipped the sandwich. In a few minutes, it was beautifully toasted.

So, this has an unctuous kind of savory deliciousness. People think of fennel as sweet, but it’s not and when it’s cooked it mellows even more. Kale is best with strong contrasts and fennel is ideal.

 

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Kale Salad with Rutabagas, Apples, and Carrots

Kale, Rutabaga, Carrot, and Apple Salad

I went to Harvest Share at the Ortiz Center yesterday and took home a huge bag of kale, sacks of carrots, rutabagas, and onions and thought this sounds like salad.

I stripped the kale leaves off the stems and chiffonaded the leaves. I put a big plastic container on my scale to set the tare weight to zero and added the chopped kale until I had a half pound of prepared, chopped leaves. It was sort of heaping over the top of the container, but that’s okay. Kale is one of those duplicitous vegetables that lose their volume when you cook with it…even if all you do is massage oil, vinegar, and salt into it. That heaping over the top kale will be just over half full in no time.

So, once I measured the kale, I added 1 TBSP of olive oil, 1 TSBP of apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Using my fingers, I worked this into the kale, massaging it toward tenderness. It lost about 1/3 of its volume. I covered the container and set it aside, unrefrigerated, to continue “cooking”.

While it “cooked”, I made the dressing and chopped my veggies and fruit.

In a bowl, I zested one lemon before juicing it, To the zest and juice of one lemon, I added 1 TBSP of soy sauce and 1 TBSP of maple syrup, and some pepper. I stirred and set aside. There’s no oil in this dressing because it will get plenty from the kale.

I peeled an apple and diced it into pieces about 1/3 inch squares.

I peeled and chopped a medium-sized carrot – 1/3 inch squares.

1 diced 1/2 a yellow onion.

I peeled a rutabaga and chopped it into 1/3 inch squares. Peel deeply into the rutabaga, not just the outer skin, but also that heavy, woody rind. It’s usually just easier to cut it away.

All the pieces should be about the same size, as though making a chopped salad.

Add the vegetables to the kale. Toss with the dressing. I put the lid on and shook and shook and shook to distribute it evenly. Ideally, the salad will be fully dressed, but there won’t be any liquid gathering in the bottom.

The kale has that earthiness that makes for a great foundation for salad. The carrots add sweetness and the rutabagas and lemons add a bright tang. You get just a bit of sweet and sharp from the onions. The maple syrup does not make this sweet but instead add this wonderful note for the aftertaste.

 

 

Roasted Root Vegetable and Kale Soup

Roasted Root Vegetables and Kale Soup

Sometimes you think you have the ingredients you need and then you cut into something and discover you need to rethink things on the fly. I hate onions, garlic, and linguiça sauteeing for a Caldo Verde when I discovered only a couple of my potatoes were any good. I suppose this is why you are supposed to do mise en place before you cook one thing, but I chop while I cook and probably always will. Okay, time to cook on the fly.

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 linquiça sausage sliced into 1/2 slices.
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups of finely chopped fresh kale
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • kosher salt

So, starting with what was already cooking:

In a stock pot, I heated 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. I added yellow onions and sauteed until beginning to brown. I added the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and linguiça and cooked for about 3 minutes. Now this was when I would be adding the potatoes for Caldo Verde, but no…

I turned on the oven to roast some root vegetables rather than boil potatoes.

So, I decided to use rutabaga and thought I needed a brighter flavor. I added diced tomatoes and added the same amount of water as I added tomatoes. (I filled the empty cans, shook them a bit, so everything dumped into the stock pot.) I turned the heat to a low simmer.

Meanwhile. I tossed the chopped rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes in a roasting pan with 1 TBSP of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. I roasted them at 450°, turning them after about 15 minutes. After about 25-30 minutes they were tender and browned.

 

The tomato sauce/soup has been simmering away very slowly for about 30 minutes. I added the kale and let it wilt in the soup until tender, about 5 minutes. I then added the roasted vegetables and added a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

This is definitely something to make again and again. It has a bright, fresh taste with just the tiniest bit of heat. The carrots balance the rutabaga with a bit of sweetness, the linquiça is amazing as always, and the tomatoes and kale are made for each other. It’s a delicious soup, a bit lighter than Caldo Verde, and beautifully vibrant.

This made 8 servings, but that means 8 meals of progressively more flavorful soup since it always is better the next day.

Curried Turnips and Kale

Curried Turnips and Kale

I put a cast iron skillet on the stove at a low medium (4 out of 10) heat and put about 1/4 cup of sauteed celery and onion mix in the pan to thaw. (When I got 10 heads of celery from Harvest Share, I sauteed half of them with onions and made the other half into mirepoix and froze them in freezer bags, so I just pulled out a bag, whacked it against the counter a few times, and dumped 1/2 cup of it in the pan.

While the onions and celery thawed in the pan, I peeled a turnip and cut into chunks a little less than an inch square. I added some salt and pepper and let cook for about 4 minutes. Coming back to stir it a bit, I added 1 TBSP of rice vinegar and 1 tsp of curry powder. I stirred a few minutes longer before adding 1/2 cup of fresh kale. I put the lid on and let it cook for a few more minutes, removing when the turnips were tender.

You don’t really taste the vinegar, but there is a lightness to it that comes from that bit of acid. The curry adds a nice bit of heat and the turnips are such a bright, sharp flavor that balances well with the earthy kale.

Breakfast Tostada with Kale, Eggs, and Lemon

This took less than five minutes to make. I heated two pans on the stove, one set at about 4/10 and the other at 6/10 on the heat dial, a low and a high medium. In the low medium, I added no oil at all. I put about 1/4 of a small onion cut in thin slices and about 1 cup of chopped kale, chopped up. I added a bit of salt and pepper and a few red pepper flakes. I squeezed the juice from half a lemon on it and let it cook. I did not want it to get overly cooked, just warmed.

When the kale was about half done, I melted 1/4 tsp of butter in the other pan and cracked an egg in the melted butter. I added salt and pepper, and let it cook for a minute.

I put the tostada on a plate, spooned the kale and onions on the tostada, then I flipped the egg for a few seconds and placed the egg on top of the kale. When eating, I broke the yolk right away so it blended with the kale and onions. The kale alone tastes too strongly of the lemon juice until you mix the egg yolk…and then it’s a perfect lemony sauce .

This is a pleasant mix of textures, soft creamy eggs, crunchy tostada and soft, but still toothsome veggies. The egg yolk and lemon are a light and creamy sauce for the salty tostada and the sharp onions and slightly bitter kale. It’s fast, easy, and delicious.

Kale & Cabbage Salad with Toasted Pepitas & Plum Vinaigrette

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I sliced 1/4 head of cabbage into thin ribbons and chopped up an equal amount of fresh kale in similar thin ribbons.

In a large pot, I brought 2 cups of water to a boil with a teaspoon of salt. I added the cabbage and kale and put a lid on it, letting them cook for one minute. I strained the water off and set them in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, I sliced up 2 plums and sautéed them in 2 TBSP of white wine vinegar and 2 tsp of soy sauce with 2 tsp of Tajín. I added a bit of salt and pepper, a tsp of sugar and stirred until the plums were just about to break down, but were still holding together. I poured the dressing on the kale and cabbage, stirred and set back in the fridge to cool.

Before serving, I toasted the pepitas in a bit of peanut oil with smoked paprika.

This made two large servings or four small salads. It’s a great blend of hearty veggies, sweet fruit and tangy vinegar. The pepitas add a bit of crunch and umami.

Linguiça with Cauliflower, Kale and Grape Tomatoes

Linguiça with Cauliflower, Kale and Tomatoes

This was a delicious and hearty casserole that took very little effort and about 20 minutes to make. I sliced 1 piece of linguiça sausage (about 6 oz.) into 1/4 inch pieces. Then I chopped up 1/4 of a yellow onion. I tossed them together into a medium low sauté pan, since the linquiça has plenty of fat for the dish without any additional oil.

I then chopped up 2 cups of cauliflower and added the cauliflower, and some salt and pepper, to sauté for a bit. Meanwhile, I cleaned 5 pieces of kale, removing the stems. I rolled the kale up and sliced in ribbons and then did a quick chop cross-wise of the ribbons. This made about 4 cups of kale. Kale cooks down a lot, so when cooking you always want to add more than you think you want.  I added the kale, another bit of salt and pepper to the pan. While that cooked, I quartered grape tomatoes – until I had 1 cup of them. When the kale was about half done, I added 2 TBSP of red wine vinegar and the tomatoes and let cook for about 4 more minutes.

The vinegar is critical to elevating the flavors. It helps the flavors blend. The linguiça is spicy and adds rich flavor to the vegetables. This made 4 servings of delicious casserole.

Kale & Grapefruit Salad

kale and grapefruit salad

I used a small bunch of lacinato kale, washed, removed the stems and chopped the leaves. This made about 8 cups of chopped kale. I added 1 TBSP of olive oil, 1 tsp of kosher salt and 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated. With my hand, I massaged the oil into the kale, softening the leaves.

With a knife, I supremed a grapefruit, cutting off the ends and the peel and pith. Then I used the knife to cut the flesh off in segments between the skin. I tossed the grapefruit into the salad.

I then added 2 TBSP of mango nectar and 2 TBSP of 100% cranberry juice (unsweetened). I put a lid on the container and shook it to distribute everything evenly and let it set in the fridge for an hour.

When serving, I added a bit of pepper on top. It’s a delicious tart and sweet salad with a hearty kale foundation. The ginger adds heat to balance the sweet mango.

Warm Mushroom and Kale Salad

Warm Kale Mushroom Salad

This was a fast and easy salad that I decided to have as an entree instead. It makes a single serving entree or two sides. The key to success is not overcooking the kale, letting it darken in color but not cooking until it wilts. That makes the rest seem more like a dressing for the kale and keeps it fresh in taste, texture and appearance.

Warm 1 TBSP of olive oil, add 1/4 cup of diced onions, 1/4 chopped red peppers and sauté until tender. Add salt and pepper. Meanwhile clean and slice 9 small mushrooms or whatever amount you need to make 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. Also mince one clove of garlic. Add the garlic and mushrooms and let cook until tender. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Finally, add 2 cups of chopped, cleaned kale and 1.5 tBSP of Balsamic Vinegar and stir. Keep stirring quickly so the kale heats evenly and quickly without steaming and wilting. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It might sound crazy to add salt and pepper three times, but the secret of good seasoning is to season at each stage of cooking for the amount that you have in your pan. This will make your seasoning more effective and actually end up using less salt and pepper.

This is earthy with a bit of tanginess from the balsamic vinegar. The flavors blended beautifully and would make a great side dish for something like a pork chop or beef steak, but is capable of standing on its own.

Shakshouka

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I was inspired to try this Middle Eastern egg dish for a mid-morning brunch thanks to friends on my timeline. I am so glad I did. I did not have fresh tomatoes to make it from scratch and used a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. It was still delicious and incredibly easy.

I put a tablespoon of olive oil in an iron skillet and brought the heat up to medium. I added 1/4 tsp of cumin and 1/4 tsp of cardamom and let them simmer in the oil until the rich aromatics scented the room. Meanwhile, I diced a small yellow onion and 2 garlic cloves.  I added the onion, salt and pepper and let sauté and then added the garlic along with 1 cup of finely chopped fresh kale. The kale is not usually found in Shakshouka but I don’t care. It was what I had on hand and added a delicious grounded earthiness to the flavor.

I then added a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and some salt and pepper. I filled the can about 1/3 full and added water and let it come to a nice simmer. Then I cracked 6 eggs on top and let them cook. I wanted the yolk a little more done than recommended, so I put the lid on towards the end. I continued to let them poach until completely done.

This made 3 servings You could, if you like, reserve the sauce and poach just 2 eggs at a time. It’s rich, spicy and very filling.

I sprinkled some feta on top but that could easily be left off because with the spicy tomatoes, it was superfluous.

I heated the leftovers for another meal – using very low power so they eggs didn’t freak out and this time, I sprinkled a bit of sumac on top and that seemed to marry the flavors even better.