salad

Chard with Caramelized Shallots & Orange

by Caroline

This recipe, from Mark Bittman’s indispensable How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, is my new favorite way to eat chard; the only flaw in the recipe as he writes it, I think, is that he calls it simply “Chard with Oranges and Shallots.” Why, when you have the chance to use one of the most appealing food words in the English language, would you skip it? But Bittman is a busy guy with a thousand recipes to cover, so I can understand why he skips the adjective. Not me, though. The shallots and orange are caramelized here, and that adds greatly to the appeal of the dish (if you really don’t think you’ll like the chewy bits of peel, then by all means, peel the fruit before you add it, but I think it adds a nice contrast to the tender chard leaves).

This would make a great side dish, of course, but I’ve been eating it all week on a bed of Trader Joe’s harvest grains, a pilaf you can recreate yourself with Israeli couscous and lentils or split peas. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and maybe add a drizzle of yogurt, and you’ve got yourself a terrific lunch.

1 lb chard
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 T sugar
1 small, unpeeled orange or tangerine, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 T sherry vinegar
salt & ground pepper

Strip the chard leaves from the stems. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons — the quickest way to do this is to stack a number of leaves, roll them up into a cylinder and then slice the cylinder. Then, keeping the stems separate, slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Pour the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and sugar and cook for a minute, then add the orange or tangerine bits and lower the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. It looked so beautiful at this stage, and smelled so fabulous, that I paused to take a picture:

Raise the heat to medium and stir in the chard stems. Cook, stirring once or twice, until they soften a bit, just a couple minutes. Add the chard ribbons, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the chard steam for a few minutes, then stir and recover the pan for another 2-3 minutes. I didn’t really believe this would be enough time or heat to cook the chard, but it absolutely is — the chard turns out beautifully tender.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve right away, or within an hour or two at room temperature.

Thanksgiving Favorites, Old and New: Kale Salad and Lemon-Parsley Stuffing

by Caroline

Like Lisa, I had a Thanksgiving without cooking, but my younger son and I were both too sick for me to be thankful for it. Instead, I was thankful for my sister’s oven repairman, and her own ability to produce several dozen of my mom’s wheat germ rolls, two pies, a pumpkin-ginger cheesecake, roasted vegetables, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes Anna, apple-chestnut stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce (including one with grapes, almonds and whipped cream that is surprisingly delicious), brussels sprouts with maple-glazed hickory nuts (nuts gathered and shelled by my dad) and, of course, a turkey. My husband made his family’s stuffing (recipe below) and all I did was ask for a couple bunches of fresh kale, which my husband chopped for me to turn into kale salad. It turned out to be a nice foil for the rich sweetness of the rest of the delicious meal, and I think it’ll become a regular part of the ever-expanding Thanksgiving menu.

The stuffing, a recipe from Tony’s grandmother, couldn’t be simpler, so I offer it as Tony dictated it to me:

Of course, it is an entirely eyeballed “recipe” …

several cups breadcrumbs
2-3 bunches, Italian Parsley, washed and chopped coarsely
zest of 2-3 lemons

Mix thoroughly while dry.

Add boiling hot vegetable stock to moisten thoroughly. Cover or serve immediately.

The kale salad is based on this recipe, but I tinker with it (reducing the number of ingredients and the steps involved), so here’s my version:

Combine in a large salad bowl:
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about a pound), center ribs and stems removed, leaves sliced thinly crosswise
2 handfuls dried cranberries
2 handfuls toasted sliced almonds

Mix together dressing ingredients:
2 T balsamic, red wine, or raspberry vinegar
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
1 T olive oil
salt to taste

Toss the salad with the dressing, and let marinate for 20 minutes or so before serving.

One City Garden

by Caroline

I grew up in a little town (it calls itself a village, and while I find the word a little precious, it fits) of big, pretty houses on smallish lawns. The yards weren’t fenced, and my neighborhood didn’t have sidewalks, which made it a pretty soft place for a kid to grow up running around with her friends, racing from one yard to the next as our game developed. Our yard was part of the action, too, until my dad realized that the front got a lot more direct sun than the backyard, and so that’s where the vegetable garden went. Screened by a pretty hedge of deep pink and white beach roses, the garden produced peas, beans, tomatoes, broccoli and lettuce, among other vegetables. My dad established another small garden next to the side door and encouraged a patch of blackberries at the end of the driveway. Volunteer squash and tomatoes sprang up from the compost pile and, as my siblings and I grew up and needed less yard to play in, Dad cultivated gradually larger swaths of the backyard, too.

Now my parents have retired to a big piece of property in rural Connecticut, where my dad has an enormous garden and orchard, and I’m the one with an urban garden. Now, this is not the kind of really urban gardening that Lisa wrote about last summer. We don’t have a front yard here in San Francisco, but we can at least do our planting in the ground, not a truck (though honestly, my kids would prefer a truck).

For now, while my children are young and require a lot of my attention for their cultivation, we’re keeping the garden small. (A friend, whose youngest child is the age of my oldest, has recently converted her entire backyard into an edible space; no lawn at all, just paths made and lined with herbs, blueberry bushes and fruit trees in sunny spots along the fences, vegetables — some in beds, some (like the artichokes) standing alone — sprouting up in every spare nook. I dream of such a yard, someday). We’re still learning what we can
produce here in our foggy neighborhood; we don’t get a lot of heat or sun, but we have a pretty long growing season; greens do very well, tomatoes do not. And whenever one of my kids has an urge to plant a seed, I encourage the impulse even if I know, as with yesterday’s apple seed, it’s not likely to bear edible fruit. Some times, it’s important simply to plant a seed.

future apple tree

future apple tree

strawberries and chard

strawberries and chard

lettuces, agretti, and zucchini

lettuces, agretti, and zucchini

can you spot the artichoke?

can you spot the artichoke?

Dinner in 20

by Lisa

I  love to cook.   I do not always want to cook. These statements are not mutually exclusive.

While I will very often prep a little bit of dinner at lunchtime (the virtue of working from home), one day last week I had done nothing for dinner.  I hadn’t even taken a mental inventory of my produce and pantry to come up with a quick game plan, which is something I do daily. But on this day, I was just so tired I hadn’t done any of that. And  all of a sudden it was 5:35 and there was nothing in the way of dinner suggesting itself.  I took a deep breath, walked into the kitchen,and opened the refrigerator.

For a busy parent, perhaps the greatest virtue of shopping at a farmers market is that you always have something so fresh and so good that it can be cooked very simply and quickly.  That night, I took from my produce bin:

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Italian parsley, sage, basil, chives, green leaf lettuce, a few green beans, 8 eggs

I’ve written before about how eggs are your friends and how simple is very often best, and about how in many ways, cooking for my young family very involves making small, new changes to staple ingredients to keep seasonal ingredients a little bit exciting.  That evening, from some pre-conscious part of my brain “Omelette aux fines herbs” suggested itself. This was a much loved dinner for Kory and me, but a new twist on the omelette for the kids.

I chopped up the herbs, par boiled the green beans until they were tender-crisp, then rinsed them in cool water to stop the cooking, and washed the lettuce.  I made a quick jar dressing:

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One part red wine vinegar, one part mustard and 4 parts olive oil, a smashed clove of garlic, a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Let the dressing sit for 10 minutes so the garlic infused the dressing. Put the top on before you shake it up.

I made a quick omelette with the herbs and the eggs, and tossed the green beans in with the lettuce for a really lovely, tender green salad. The dressing went on the greens.

Dinner was on the table by 5:55 pm.  That’s less than 25 minutes from concept to table, and the hardest part was snipping the stems off the beans and washing the lettuce.

Of course, both Ella and Finn complained about the green bits in the omelette, protesting that they didn’t like them.  I told Ella they were chives, Finn that they were basil, and they both raised an eyebrow and dug in and one bite was all it took to convince them that it was, in fact, delicious.

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The fringe benefit to this fast, easy meal is that it is also an easy, manageable fun meal with which to work on table manners.  Eggs are easy to cut, and whenever possible, I encourage Ella and Finn to use their knife and fork in the continental way. This is how Kory & I eat, and both Ella and Finn at 7 & 4 are old enough to control their utensils. It doesn’t always happen in the ideal way, but this kind of dinner is the ideal place to practice.  It becomes a kind of quiet contest to see who can rise to the challenge of eating like a polite little French child. Of course, it doesn’t always happen like this, but  it really can be done.

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So, while I wished, for a minute that night, that I had a stash of TV dinners to plop on the table, I didn’t really need them.  There was enough in my kitchen to make something fast and delicious, and the lovely fall flowers that live on our table reminded us that even the hastiest, thrown-together meals  can be an occasion.

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Barbeque Red Hook Style

by Lisa

I don’t know how I missed this, but I found this post, languishing in my Drafts folder, and, well…better late than never.  When we were in NJ, my great friend Molly had us over for the day, and we did lots of fun things, including the Circus on the Barge. But maybe the most fun was the BBQ on the roof of her Red Hook house.  Molly and her husband have spent a few years building a really cool modern home, smack in the middle of a incredibly cool mixed use neighborhood (where there were more kids square block than on my suburban street, and also cool coffee shops and bars and boutiques and industrial spaces and well…we could easily make ourselves very happy as their neighbors…)

Their roof is awesome, and her husband fired up the charcoal grill and cooked piles of meat: sausage, chicken, hot dogs….and corn…

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we had impromptu tables of vegetables and dip and breads and salad:

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coolers of drinks for adults and kids, and lots of old friends. There were lots of little ones, too, who had a fine time eating and cooling off in the tub/pool sunken into the corner of the roof/patio. The adults had an outrageous Key Lime Pie and for the kids,  of course, no  east coast childhood is complete without these:

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even if they no longer come from a truck.

It was a pretty perfect barbeque.  Thank you, Molly & family, and all my friends.