Friday, July 30, 2010

The Power of Kale

Kale is wonderful for providing the strong flavors of a green leafy vegetable, with the sensation of muscle-building powers like that of Popeye's spinach.  And it can stand up to some serious heat, unlike wimpier spinach, which cooks down to nothing the moment you turn your back.  The SLO Farm had some lovely fresh kale on sale last week at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

One of my favorite ways to prepare kale is to couple its bitterness with some sweet caramelized onions, and a splash of sweet and sour balsamic vinegar.  A handful of raisins and some crunchy toasted almond slivers add additional sweetness and crunch to the dish.

First I chopped the kale leaves from the stems.

Then I soaked some golden raisins in boiling water to plump them up and toasted some almond slivers. Next I chopped and sauteed a small red onion in olive oil with some red pepper flakes.  When it was good and translucent, I added the kale and sauteed until it was starting to wilt.  I added the raisins and a splash of balsamic vinegar and cooked down to a syrup, then finished by tossing in the almonds.

For the rest of the meal, we broiled some salmon (topped with some springs of fresh fennel and slices lemon (in the toaster oven, to avoid turning on the oven on a hot day.  It cooked remarkably well).  This would be a great preparation or the delicious salmon fillets from The Salmon People, who now have a booth at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

For a grain, I planned to cook some red quinoa, but found only half a cup left in the package, so I added some white quinoa, which we dubbed "confetti quinoa" on the spot. The hearty, sweet and sour kale was a delicious complement to the rest of the meal.

Kale with raisins, almonds, and balsamic vinegar

1 bunch kale,  leaves chopped from tough part of stems
1 small red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked in boiling water and drained
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Sautee the onion until it is translucent and begins to caramelize.

2. Add kale, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste, and saute until the kale begins to wilt.

3. Add raisins and balsamic vinegar and cook down into a syrup.

4. Toss in the almonds and serve

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Picnic in the Park

The offers from SLO Farm at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market included some delicate fingerling potatoes, which were the inspiration for a salad nicoise for a summer picnic later that evening in Washburn Park, enjoying the summer concert series. I like to prepare the components separately and then mix them when serving.  First, potatoes and green beans in a mustardy, white wine dressing (with fresh tarragon, if you have it), decorated with hard boiled eggs.

Then, tunafish in olive oil and anchovies with tomatoes (I used yellow cherry tomatoes here), white wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh parsley or basil.

Pack these with some washed lettuce and a loaf of fresh bread (from the Eugene City Bakery, of course), and you have a delicious picnic meal that you can assemble on your plate at the park.  

Also, the undressed components make a great meal for picky eaters.

Salad Nicoise

for the potato salad:
A dozen fingerling potatoes, boiled and pealed
1/2 lb green beans, boiled just until just tender
6 hard boiled eggs

for the mustard dressing:
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp white wine or white vermouth
2 Tbsp olive oil
fresh tarragon if you have it
salt and pepper

for the tuna salad:
2 cans tuna in olive oil
8 anchovies
4 tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
fresh chopped parsley or basil
salt and pepper

lettuce or mixed greens
serves 4

1. Prepare the mustard dressing while the potatoes are cooking.  When they are done, peel them as soon as you can handle them and dress them.  Then toss in the green beans and layer quarter hard boiled eggs on top.

2. Chop the tomatoes and mix with the tuna and olive oil from the can, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley or basil, and layer on anchovies.

3. On a bed of lettuce, serve a helping of the potato salad topped with a helping of the tuna salad, along with plenty of fresh bread to mop up the dressing.