Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hot Salad

When I say hot salad, I don’t mean fancy hot bacon-grease-wilting-fresh-spinach hot salad. I am talking about that salad-feeling you get in the summer when you pile so many ripe, juicy fresh things together that you become full without even noticing. When going to the farmers' market and chopping is as good as cooking dinner. I miss that already. I need salad. Hot salad.
So on a jog, a few weeks ago, my brother and I decided we needed to make hot salad with a warm and cozy, fall slant.

My first attempt, two weeks ago, was a simple beef stew. So ordinary and ho-hum that I didn’t want to burden you with reading about it. This week, however, I went for an oldie-but-goody and made a slightly modified version of a minestrone soup that my mom has been making since I can’t remember.

I spruce it up with freshness and green—some kale and fresh parsley to add the healthy hot-salad feeling that I am jonesing for, post summer. I’ll enjoy this hot salad all week long. You should have some too.

¼ cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
2 medium onions, diced
2 cups chopped celery (about 5 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (about 4 large carrots)
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
1 t cumin
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
5 cups water
1 # dried white beans, cooked
2 t kosher salt
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy, pot, cook the garlic for a few minutes, and add the onions. 
  • Cook until the onions are translucent and add the celery and carrots. Cook for 10 more minutes. 
  • Add the oregano, basil, cumin, tomatoes, tomato paste and water, bring to a boil, and simmer on low for about 45 minutes, until carrots are cooked through. 
  • Add the cooked beans, salt, kale and parsley and cook until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes. 
  • Serve with parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Momma's Garden

My mom was out of town for a few weeks, so I went to her house last weekend to take care of business. Watered some house plants, deadheaded the geraniums, took out the recycle. Best of all, I got to check in on her garden. It was like my own personal farm box—a random bounty of what was ripe from my momma’s garden.
After a few hours of shuffling around in the sun, here’s what I harvested to bring home:
  • A giant shopping bag full of green beans. I pickled most of them with red pepper and garlic, and served the rest alongside trout with sour cream, lemon juice, lemon rind and fresh dill.
  • An herb bouquet. Basil, thyme, Italian parsley, and mint to sit on my counter and use at will all week long.
  • Zinnias. They’re short stemmed little buggers, so make for a casual arrangement, but the bundle of coral, orange and yellow feels like summer’s last gesture.
  • Four stalks of rhubarb. My mom’s not a big fan of rhubarb, so I think she might plant it for the garden drama alone. Those big leaves sure make a show. I chopped the stalks up for one of my all-time favorite tart recipes, and served it to deserving dinner guests on Sunday night. I also ate it for breakfast this morning with coffee. And just had the last piece for an after dinner snack.

Rhubarb Tart

2 cups flour
2 T + 1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t lemon peel
¼ t salt
1 cup butter, frozen, cut into bits
1 egg
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup crème fraiche
3 egg yolks
2 T honey
  • Combine flour, 2 T sugar, vanilla, lemon peel and salt in a food processor.
  • Add the butter and egg and pulse until blended and powdery.
  • Press the mix into an 11 inch tart pan and chill for 45 minutes or so.
  • Toss the rhubarb with a little sugar and let it drain while the crust chills.
  • Sprinkle the chilled tart shell with a tablespoon or so of sugar and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Fill the tart shell with the drained rhubarb, cover with the remaining sugar, and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Mix the crème fraiche, egg yolks and honey. Pour over the rhubarb and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Serve with unsweetened whipped cream.
  • Swoon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kale for all Seasons

This weekend was ambiguously seasoned. We were caught with indecision mid-stride—with one foot in summer and the other on its way to fall. There were blueberries and strawberries at the farmer’s market, and the first winter squashes. I ate sliced heirloom tomatoes with salt and olive oil for lunch, and saw my friend off as he went home to make mushroom soup. Coral red and hot pink are giving way to orange and buttery yellow.

It’s that time of year, I guess. I haven’t come to terms with saying goodbye to summer yet, but fall has some nice things to say, and I’m looking forward to it.

So it felt like the right time to make one of my all-time favorite salads that truly is a season-trotter. Because of the hearty kale that grows well in the cold and dark, this salad is the queen of carrying me from the end of summer through to the beginning of winter.

Kale salad with shallots and ricotta salada was first served to me with pork sausage by my dear friend in San Francisco, as a welcome lunch when I flew in from Seattle. Since then, I have made it countless times, across the seasons. I crave it. If I have cooked for you, I have probably made you this salad.

It’s great with sliced radishes and avocados, or alongside any strong dark meat. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it stays tasty days after you dress it. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.
Tonight I was lucky enough to share it with my amazing friend Shannon. We ate it with boiled egg, Italian plums, and a 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Gris.

Kale with Shallots and Ricotta Salada
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 ½ T minced shallot
2 t champagne vinegar
¾ t kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 oz ricotta salada, grated

  • Wash the kale, remove the spines, and chop into 1 inch squares.
  • Make the dressing: whisk shallots, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Toss kale with dressing and ricotta. Serve or store.