January 22, 2010

Kale with Onions and Garlic

I always wanted to like kale more than I actually did. The first time I had it, my vegan roommate sauteed it before adding it to some dish she was making. I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised by this kinda scary looking, dark leafy green. The first time I used it, I added it to a potato, kale and chorizo soup. First of all, I couldn't believe how much went into the pot, and then when I tasted it I was a little underwhelmed. The potatoes and the sausage stole the show. But, like magic, as the soup---how shall I say it---matured, the kale became more and more delicious with each bowl. It was growing on me.

I've also tried sauteing kale on various occasions and found it decent, but not fantastic. Still, for some reason, I always cut out every single kale recipe I found. And recently, I found out that kale is probably the most nutrient-and-antioxidant-dense food on the planet. I wanted to LOVE kale! Why didn't I?

Well, luckily I never gave up. I soon came across a recipe that boiled the kale before sauteing it garlic and onions. Perfect! Amazing! It's everything I always wanted kale to be. It is honestly my favorite thing to cook and eat right now. So satisfying---AND healthy. This is a win-win recipe.

Kale with Onions and Garlic
  • 1 bunch of kale, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Remove kale leaves from stems by folding leaves in half, then chopping off the core. Tear leaves into smaller pieces. Add kale to boiling water, stirring well to incorporate. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, until the kale is almost tender. Drain.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and cook stirring occasionally until translucent. Add garlic, stir and cook 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Add kale and stir to toss in the garlic and onions. Cook a few minutes more, until the kale is tender and the flavors have blended. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

January 10, 2010

Indian Chai

"Chai" can mean many different types of tea. (In fact, chai actually means tea in multiple languages.) Real Indian chai, the kind you get from chai-wallahs in India, is not quite the same brew you get here in the U.S. Now don't get me wrong---I love a good soy chai latte from a certain coffee chain here, but it's just in a different category.

After watching a friend's mother make masala chai in her kitchen in Mumbai, I was inspired to learn how to make it myself. It's not particularly difficult, you just need the right spices. And, of course, black tea. Oh yes, and plenty of half and half--if you want it to taste authentic.

I bought my tea in Mysore, India, from a roadside bulk tea vendor, but it's possible to get it mail-order in the states (and possibly at some specialty markets). The CTC on the package means that it's "crush-tear-curl" processed, which makes the tea leaves end up looking like this.
The nice thing is that all you really have to do is throw everything in a pot and let it boil together for about 15 minutes. The hard part is that you should stir it constantly, or at least very frequently. I didn't have any half and half, so the tea pictured above is made with soy---a hybrid of my two favorite types of chai.
The recipe below is for one cup of chai, but it can easily be doubled (or otherwise scaled up). Much of the liquid cooks off, concentrating the flavors.

Indian Chai
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp black tea
  • 3 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 pea-sized pieces mashed fresh ginger*
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon (or more if it's not fresh)
  • 3-4 black peppercorns
  • Sugar to taste (I used 2 teaspoons)
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring very frequently. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil and stir for 15 minutes. Stir in sugar to dissolve.
  2. Remove from heat. Strain through a fine mesh strainer (or cheese cloth) either directly into the cup or into another pot. I used a molinillo to create a little froth before I served it.
*Recipes I've seen recipes that say not to substitute any ground spices for those listed above, but I didn't have fresh ginger and a dash of ground served my tastes just fine.

January 6, 2010

Salmon with Orange-Hoisin Sauce and Bok Choy

Mark and I don't eat a lot of fish, but not because we don't like it. It's just a little pricier than, say, the tempeh at Trader Joe's. But, we decided to "splurge" and get this salmon from New Seasons (my favorite grocery store of all time and one of my favorite places in Portland, period) to celebrate the new year. In the end, two large fillets set us back a whopping $11.50. Then again, when you really think about it, that breaks down to $5.75 a piece for a healthy and delicious meal, which I consider to be a good value.

One recent morning, pasting the recipes I'd cut out of my food magazines (Bon Appetit, Saveur, and old issues of Gourmet) into my cooking notebook, I came across a Bon Appetit recipe for Salmon with Hoisin, Orange and Bok Choy. The title alone ensured that I would have to make it---it just sounds too delicious to pass up. Then there was the fact that I needed a good salmon recipe---usually when Mark and I just wing it, the results are edible, but less than stellar. (Fish is not a food category that either of us has mastered.) And I am always intrigued by new ingredients; though I'd read about it, I'd never prepared anything with bok choy before.

Done deal. Except when the time came, I forgot the green onion and we subbed a white one instead. I also I got a little carried away with the orange zest and juice. (I'm usually the kind of person who assumes if a little is good, more is better! Which is not always the case...) BUT, I bought a whole orange just for this salmon---I didn't want to waste it, you see. Well, don't make the same mistake (stick to the quantities listed below) as the orange in my version dominated the other more delicate flavors.

As for the bok choy: it was good and I'm glad to have tried it, but it is not my new favorite.

NOTE: Hoisin can be found at Asian markets. I recommend having a bottle on hand for stir fries, marinades and the like. Savory-sweet goodness. Also, the picture here is of the salmon before it went into the oven. The photos of the finished project were a bit blurry. Sorry!

Salmon with Orange-Hoisin Sauce and Bok Choy
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, each cut length-wise into 6 wedges
  • 2  5-or 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced---or about 1/4 of a white onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (only!) finely grated orange peel
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked coriander seeds (I used a few pinches of ground coriander)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or more, to taste)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Form a bed of bok choy in the center of two large sheets of tin foil.  (Make sure they are large enough to seal over your bok choy and salmon.) Center your salmon fillets over the bok choy. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix orange juice, onion, hoisin, ginger and orange peel. Spoon sauce over fish, dividing equally. Sprinkle with salt and coriander. Top with cilantro. 
  3. Fold foil together and pinch to seal tightly above the fish and at each end. Place packets on a baking sheet and bake 12-14 minutes, or until the fish is opaque in the center. Plate and serve.
(Serves 2)

January 3, 2010

Christmas Meringues

I really should have posted this before the holidays, but better late than never. These cookies are named for Christmas because in our family we always have them on Christmas and on other special occasions. The recipe comes from Grandma Barbara Reid, one of many of her classics. These cookies look like little clouds of snow, and will stand apart from the rest of the holiday cookie fare. They are simple to make, and will wow your guests!

What's in them
2 egg whites
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 C chocolate chips
1 C nuts

How it's made
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (do not forget to do this step first!)

In a non-aluminum bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, and whites are stiff. Slowly add the sugar, beating until glossy and smooth. Beat in vanilla and salt. Your mixture should be quite stiff and not runny. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spoon cookies 1/2" apart. Place in oven and turn oven OFF. Leave in overnight or for 5 hours.

For tips on beating meringes go here. I don't recommend trying this recipe for the first time on a rainy or damp day.

January 2, 2010

Cheese Ball

That's right, I said it: cheese ball. Mmmm hmmm. It may not look like the most appealing thing ever, but think about it--who doesn't like cheese? (Any and all cheese-haters can leave right now, thank you.) I believe the premise stands that if you take a bunch of ingredients that taste wonderful alone and you mix them all together and coat them with toasted pecans, the result is destined to taste good. There's just no arguing with that logic--it's iron clad, I tell you.

And so it was. I needed an hors d'oeurve-type dish for a small gathering on New Year's Eve and I happened to come across two different recipes for this dish in my pile of recipe clippings. Apparently, the idea of a cheese ball had been percolating for some time. Well over a year, in fact--I first discovered the delights of this cheese ball phenomenon before a Thanksgiving dinner in 2008, compliments of my dear friend Jesse Kaminski. It was savory and addicting. And better than a dip any day. I'm pretty sure I asked for the recipe back then, but Jesse made me wait.

As I was perusing my recipe cut outs (from The Oregonian and Bon Appetit), I decided what I really wanted to serve was Jesse Kaminski's cheese ball. So I asked for the recipe--and voila! In five minutes time, it was in my inbox. Jesse Kaminski saved the day, or at least my cheese ball. Thank you, Jesse!

What follows is my interpretation of the Original Jesse Kaminski Cheese Ball, allowing for some adjustments around ingredient availablity and other sources' suggestions:

Cheese Ball
  • 1 cup packed finely shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz. package of cream cheese
  • 1 12 oz. package of Alouette Soft Spreadable Cheese (I used the garlic and artichoke flavor. Jesse Kaminski calls for 1 jar of Old English pimento cheese, which alas, Fred Meyer does not carry.)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 of a medium white onion, finely diced
  • 4 pequillo peppers, from a jar, finely diced (available at Trader Joe's. Roasted bell peppers would also work.)
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  1. Mix all three cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, onion and pepper in a large bowl, until fully incorporated. 
  2. Chill mixture in the fridge or freezer if it is too soft to form into a ball. Spread pecans on a plate.
  3. Form the chilled cheese mixture into a ball with your hands or a spatula. Roll the cheese ball in the pecans until completely coated. 
  4. Serve with crackers.