Category: Appetizer

Baby Kale with Beets and Onions

Baby kale with beets and red onion and aged balsamic vinegarFlush with baby kale right now, this dish was probably my best improvised dish yet this year. Inspired by many a salad I have eaten I took something raw and turned it into something warm and hearty and so good you can make new friends just by sharing it. The key to this dish is that the beets and the onion are somewhat sweet, and while the aged balsamic vinegar is somewhat sweet as well, the acidity balances the dish so perfectly that I want this dish to be my final one on death row. I’m not there yet, but just in case, you know?

You really want to slice the beets thinly as they will be sauteing in the pan rather than being boiled. You also don’t want to over cook them as a little texture is very nice in this dish. The onions should soften and the kale should be cooked gently, for just a short period of time. You don’t want to turn them into a spinach like mush, they should retain some of their crunch, which the stem will provide.

6 cups of baby kale? yes, it cooks down, even after a minute or two. But it’s so darn nutritious that why not? 618% of the Vitamin A you need for a day! 411% of the Vitamin C you need for a day! Fiber galore! It can make you rich! Kale! Seriously, why the heck not? Plus, you can fill your tummy for 211 calories. Seriously, do I really need to convince you? Fat loss schools and Weight Watchers be damned, this doesn’t need to be a side dish. While it is great on its own, the aged balsamic vinegar gives it that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes me want to serve this at my next dinner party. It’s not inexpensive stuff, but one bottle will last you forever, seriously.

Kale is an extremely overlooked vegetable, and is best in early summer. Stuff your face while you can because kale is one of the most healthful foods you can eat, and it’s very filing as it is full of fiber. The good kind of fiber. Regular kale is a bit more tough, so baby kale is my personal choice, but you could certainly make this with regular kale as well. Just cook the kale a little longer. You won’t regret trying this dish. And you can thank me by sending huge bags of cash.

Baby kale

Baby kale

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Baby kale and beets cooking

cooking

Baby Kale with Beets and Onions
Author: 
Recipe type: side, entree
Serves: 2
 
A lightly cooked kale salad, a new take on what has been a boring bistro salad.
Ingredients
  • 6 cups baby kale
  • ½ cup beets, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (w/ must)
Instructions
  1. Slice the beets into tin little discs.
  2. Do the same for the onions.
  3. Saute the beets for a few minutes to soften.
  4. Add the sliced onions and soften as well, just a few minutes.
  5. Add the baby kale and let wilt, but not cook to a mush.
  6. Plate, and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.
Notes
This could easily be topped with pine nuts (pinoli) or goat cheese to great effect. Don't hesitate to experiment. Nutritional Analysis -No cholesterol -High in calcium -High in dietary fiber -High in iron -Very high in manganese -High in potassium -Very high in vitamin A -High in vitamin B6 -Very high in vitamin C
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 313g Calories: 211g Fat: 8.3g Saturated fat: 1.1g Unsaturated fat: 7.2g Carbohydrates: 31.5g Sugar: 7.2g Fiber: 5.8g Protein: 8.0g Cholesterol: 0g

 

Cannellini Bean Salad

Cannellini Bean SaladThere are so many variations of this recipe, sometimes called Tuscan cannellini bean salad (the beans are also referred to as cannelloni beans as well), or white bean salad, and the ingredients are often varied and quite good. This is my version, which, of course, makes it the best. You may see a small bowl of this on the table at good Italian restaurants, and while the most common variation uses parsley instead of basil, I much prefer my version. You will too.

Ingredients:
1 19 oz can of cannellini (cannelloni) beans (or any kind of white bean such as butterbeans)
the juice of 1 lemon (~3 tablespooons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon pesto (or a handful of basil leaves coarsely chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
A baguette or rustic Italian bread, sliced into small cracker-like shapes

Directions:
1. Rinse the beans under water as, while the liquid they are packed in is quite nutritious, it won’t work well if included in this recipe. Set the beans aside. If you prefer, you can use dried beans that you soak, cook, and prepare yourself, but unless you are comfortable doing so and know how to ensure their tenderness, I recommend canned beans.

2. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and pesto (or basil leaves) to a bowl and stir together. The mix does not have to be a perfect emulsion, just a gentle stir will do.

3. Add the beans and stir it up a bit. I like to crush a few of the beans to thicken the dressing mixture allowing it to adhere better to the beans and giving it some texture. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Eat the whole bowl because you can’t stop after testing the flavor. Go back to step 1 and start over and try not to eat the whole bowl this time.

4. Place a spoonful of the bean salad onto each piece of bread and serve.

I always have pesto around so it is easy for me to use it in this dish, but basil leaves work perfectly well and so does parsley. I may experiment with the decidedly non-Italian cilantro to see how that goes. As I always say, experiment yourself, add other items that interest you, and you may chance upon something that blows you away. As you can see from the picture, I also added a lot more garlic than I indicate in this recipe, and woke up this morning still tasting the garlic, which I rather enjoy. Cooking is as much an art as it is a science, so tweak any of the ingredients or techniques to suit your own taste.

I also put the salad in the refrigerator for a bit which causes the olive oil to thicken somewhat. This helps the salad stay together a bit better and allows some tome for all the flavors to blend. I can easily make an entire dinner from a hunk of bread and a bowl of these beans, which is not just frugal, but also delicious and nutritious.

African Peanut Chicken Soup

African Chicken and Peanut SoupThis surprisingly delicious soup may sound odd to westerners, but the combination of peanut butter, tomatoes, and spices is truly a marvel of gastronomic achievement. Peanut is a definite presence in the soup, but is not the dominant flavor, which may sound impossible, but hey, would I lie to you? This is probably my favorite soup of all time. You can easily make a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock and it will be just as good. It is also so easy to make I force my 6 year old to make it for me as punishment for her misdeeds. She misbehaves a lot.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
as much or as little cooked chicken meat, to your preference
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet potato (or 1 15-ounce can of sweet potatoes, drained of syrup)
1 medium Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste

Additional Ingredients (they add a nice background, use at your leisure):
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 pinch cayenne pepper (if you like heat)

Directions:
1. Bring the stock to a boil and add the all the ingredients except the chicken meat and peanut butter.

2. Simmer for about 30 minutes, allowing the sweet potato to soften, and then slowly add the peanut butter a bit at a time so that it melts well and into the soup.

3. Puree the soup either with a hand blender, or by transferring the soup to a blender and processing it in batches.

4. Return the pureed soup to the pot, add the chicken, salt and pepper, and serve.

I prefer to make my own stock by putting a whole raw chicken or chicken pieces into a pot of water and boiling for an hour or so. You can then remove the meat and reserve it for later, and cook down the stock until you have about 4 cups. Also, this particular soup is very flexible. Change the amounts of different spices if you would like, I like a lot of cinnamon, which goes so well in this soup that it is astounding. The peanut butter is definitely present in this soup without it being cloying, though, but again, if you prefer more or less, experiment. I also tend to sprinkle a little crushed peanut onto the soup for a garnish when I’m taking a picture for this wildly popular blog, but don’t bother if I’m not serving to guests.

Roasted Garlic – The Garlic Lovers Treat

roasted garlicRoasted garlic is one of the easiest things to make and is not only great when included into other recipes, but it is magnificent on its own, squeezed out onto a crust of bread. Garlic is a lucky little bulb; like all nubs in the Allium family, it has a high concentration of both flavor and sugar. When roasted, the Maillard reaction changes those sugars into a garlic caramel, which coincidentally are two of my favorite flavors.

Roasted garlic bulbs make for a simple snack to have around, and while it may take some time to roast, it’s pretty much fire and forget as you pop them into the oven for a while, wait, and they are ready to eat. Roast, let them cool a bit, snip off the top and squeeze onto a toasted baguette and you have license to ignore the kids.

One tip, though. Most recipes you find suggest you cut off the top of the bulbs with the head intact and then roast. That’s fine if your goal is to peel the bulbs, but I find it much easier to pull the bulbs apart without cutting them, roast, and squeeze the garlic out. Peeling roasted garlic is a hassle I’ll leave to the celebrity chefs who dump that work on their assistants.

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Pull the garlic bulbs apart from the head and place in a sheet of aluminum foil.

3. Fold up the foil to create a pouch, leaving some air space.

4. Place foil pouch in the oven for 45 minutes.

5. Let the garlic cool a bit before attacking it. Just snip the top off a bulb and squeeze out the sweet, garlicky goodness.

Asparagus and Brie Soup

Asparagus and brie soup

Asparagus and brie soup

I love asparagus and I love brie. So why not combine the two? The mustiness if the brie combines very well with the vegetal nature of the asparagus and while this soup seems like it would be very rich… it is. But so worth it.

Ingredients:
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, cut into small pieces, lower portions removed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup white wine
4 to 6 ounces Brie, rind removed and cubed
Dash salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Saute the asparagus in a saucepan with the butter until tender. Stir in the flour and mix until the flour absorbs the liquid. Cook the  flour for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, forming a roux. Add the broth slowly, then add cream and wine. Bring to a slow boil and reduce the heat, simmering for 10-15 minutes.

2. Blend the soup with a hand blender, or in small batches in a food processor. Return to soup the pan and add brie, stirring gently. Simmer at a low heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.