Friday, July 19, 2013

lemony kale caesar salad and little kitchen inspiration

In the little kitchen, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
If anyone had told me, even a year ago (when my go-all-out new kitchen philosophy was transforming the little kitchen), that I would eat, much less purchase, and be happily fileting anchovies in my kitchen, I would have told you you were ca-raaazy.  But, as my palate evolves, so does the little kitchen. Remarkable things have occurred in recent months that continue to enlighten and confound the little kitchen almost daily.
I'm currently reading "The Omnivores Dilemma" and I'm trying to wrap my brain around the whole corn thing---eeek---and pondering the last 3 months that have been the speedy blur of information, education and inspiration as I close in on my first 90 days as an employee at the amazing Bi-Rite Market. Not only am I happily over-whelmed by a dazzle of wonderful food products, I'm inspired by a great bunch of people. The first being Sam, the owner. Sam took over the family business in  1996 and transformed it into a brilliant specialty food market. I've never met anyone so passionate about food and feeding people as Sam. Sam has about 275 employees and knows and greets everyone by name. He personally handed me a birthday card last week and thanked me for my work. That was unprecedented in any place I've ever worked.
The card contained a gift card and I immediately knew what I was going to use it for...something I'd never remotely consider dropping $20 on. Ever. I bought a can of imported Italian anchovies. This didn't just come out of nowhere. A few weeks ago, I took a cooking class at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rites non-profit educational space.  It was a class on sauces. We made Bagna Cauda, an amazing sauce featuring anchovies lightly cooked with garlic and butter. The finished sauce is primarily used as a dipping sauce for vegetables, either raw or cooked. I was also informed about the goodness that anchovies bring to pasta sauces and salad dressings.
This is what I learned about anchovies: Salt packed anchovies have a more intense flavor (I found this true of capers as well) The big can in the picture contained about 20 whole anchovies. Once the can was opened I transferred everything into two airtight jars and packed in more coarse sea salt. When you're ready to use them, rinse the salt off and then place the anchovies in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes. This draws out more salt. Cut off the head and tail, then draw the tip of a sharp knife down the back of the anchovy just to make a shallow cut, carefully open the anchovy to reveal the skeleton and lift it out. I then scrape the silver skin off with the knife. Mince up the anchovy and it's ready to go in the sauce or dressing you're making.
I'm all about kale right now, so I made the Lemony Kale Caesar Salad from Eat Good Food which seemed like the perfect place to start with my anchovies and it happily surpassed my expectations. I made a very large bowl of it and the leftover salad was just as tasty as it was freshly made.  Coincidentally I got the latest Bon Appetit in the mail today which included a bit about the healthy veg benefits and kale is said to have more calcium than 6 ounces of milk and more fiber than 3 slices of whole wheat bread and raw kale has more vitamin C, anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrient than cooked.
So I'm off to make another kale salad.

Lemony Kale Caesar Salad
from Eat Good Food

1 medium bunch of dino kale
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt
2 anchovy fillets, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese, more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice off and discard the stalks of the kale. Stack the leaves on top of each other and then slice the kale into 1/4 inch strips. If you're gonna eat this immediately, I might suggest a little massage at this point to tenderize the leaves a little. I tend to make these kale salads in advance to let the leaves self tenderize in the dressing. Set the bowl of prepared kale aside.
Coarsely chop the garlic, sprinkle with some sea salt and give the garlic a smash and smear with the side of your knife. Transfer into an airtight jam jar or a practically empty jar of Dijon. Add the anchovy, egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon and olive oil . Seal the jar tightly and shake like crazy. Dip a leaf of kale into the dressing and taste it, adding more lemon juice or salt as desired.
Put the kale into a large bowl and drizzle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing over the kale. Using your hands, gently toss until the leaves are evenly coated.  Sprinkle the cheese over the salad and toss again. Taste and add more dressing or salt as needed. Sprinkle a little cheese on top of each salad plate with a quick grind of fresh black pepper.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chicken, Kale & Brown Rice

Chicken, Kale & Brown Rice, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
I am the anti-Gwyneth. I am inspired by her mission to spread healthy eating through-out the land. I truly do aspire to some teensy element of that, if it only be here. Someday? who knows? For now, in my solitary, Kitchen Aid-less little kitchen, I attempt to conjure up good, nutritious food at minimal expense.
So, whilst in temporary possession of GP's latest cookbook, It's All Good, I felt compelled to check out My Fathers Daughter again. I've had my mitts on this cookbook many times, yet this was the first time I zeroed in on the Kale and Brown Rice Bowl. It must have had something to do with  my current obsession with any and all manners of fried rice. So, in my own personal quest at healthier eating, I've put kale (collards and chard, oh my!) at the top of my list.
This is really good. I made a large pan of it and subsequently added  chicken to round out the meal-in-a-bowl concept and I've also topped it with a poached or fried egg and a little grated Parmesano Reggiano for a perfectly satisfying and quickie breakfast.
This is also a little bit of a mash-up of another Kale Brown Rice Bowl recipe I found over at 101 Cookbooks.

Kale and Brown Rice Bowl
adapted from My Father's Daughter
and 101 Cookbooks

1/2 pound lacinato or dino kale, stems removed and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic-peeled and minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons za'atar

optional add-ons:
red pepper flakes
cooked chicken
a poached or fried egg
parmesano reggiano
pan fried capers

1. Steam the kale for 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the diced onions (add optional red chili flakes at this point), a couple of pinches of salt and a grind of black pepper. Cook until the onions are starting to brown and caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add he cooked chicken at this point, toss the pieces around in the pan to heat through, then add the brown rice and kale. Cook and toss until everything is heated through, adding the soy sauce midway through  to deglaze if the pan is getting dry. Finish with small additions of soy sauce to taste.
3. Dish up into a bowl and sprinkle the za'atar over the top.


Monday, July 15, 2013

brown butter, rosemary & lemon zest popcorn

I am completely re-obsessed with this popcorn...I can't remember how I was originally introduced to this recipe. I seem to recall it appearing around Oscar time.
A few weeks ago I was looking for some home made movie theater snackage I could smuggle into the waaaay overpriced Kabuki when Sheena and I went to see Before Midnight (I'm obsessed with these films). 
Whoever you are, where ever you are, many thanks. You had me at brown butter. Last night I finished the giant bag of popcorn I bought those many weeks ago. The drill goes like this:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon well chopped fresh rosemary
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernals
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook it until it browns, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it because it only takes seconds for it to burn. You want to see little brown particles appear in the bottom of the pan. Once that has happened, remove the pan from the heat and add the rosemary and lemon zest. Stir it together and set it aside.
 In a large pot (that has a lid that fits), add the olive oil and 3 or 4 kernals of popcorn, cover, and turn on the heat to medium high. Once you hear those kernals pop, add the rest of the popcorn, cover, and remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds while shaking the pot to coat and level all the kernals. Return the pot to the heat. The kernals should begin to pop right away. Once the popping subsides and there's about a 3 second interval between pops, remove from the heat and pour the butter mixture over the popcorn and toss to distribute the butter.
Transfer the popcorn to a large tossing bowl (I use my large salad bowl), sprinkle the salt and toss, taste, sprinkle and toss until the popcorn is salted to your liking
Of course, this is best when consumed immediately, but for the movie thing, I bagged it up in plastic bags I keep on hand for cookie gifting and sealed them with a twist ties. Way good! 

Friday, July 5, 2013


Shakshuka, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
I saw a gorgeous photograph of this thing called Shakshuka when I finally got my mitts on Jerusalem last year. That was my inspiration to commit to my library cookery books by limiting my bookmarking by editing down to 10 recipes AND copying each recipe long-hand.  Then, as usual, I got side-tracked.
Some roundabout trip through the blogosphere landed me on Smitten Kitchens Shakshuka post and my OCD kicked in and I had to make Shakshuka. Now!  For my 4th of July birthday brunch. Nevermind that I had Ottolenghi's perfectly perfect recipe in my TO DO binder and Smitten Kitchen's also perfecty good recipe saved on my phone, true to form, I spent an entire morning googling a gazillion ways to make Shakshuka. I landed on David Lebovitz's adaption . It involved the least amount of shopping and it was adapted from both my original inspiration, Jerusalem, and Secrets of the Best Chefs (Amateur Gourmets Adam Roberts brilliant book).
The only shopping I needed to do was for the greens (I decided on spinach), chili peppers and caraway seeds. I work in a specialty market and I'm surrounded by foodies of all calibers. As I talked up my birthday/4th of July plans, I don't know what surprised me more: those who loved Shakshuka and those who'd never heard of it. 
Shakshuka is believed to be of Tunisian origin, a dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It's the North African version of Huevos Rancheros or what the Italians call Eggs in Purgatory. It's super simple, budget friendly and healthy to boot. It can be adapted and personalized in endless ways and best of all, the sauce can be made up in large batches and frozen in 2-cup freezer bags to make meals in minutes and its amazing for any meal of the day. Served with a salad and a big crusty hunk of bread, it's dinner...or spooned over a bowl of polenta...oh dear!
This is Smitten Kitchen's adaption which I kept bouncing back to. It's slightly simpler in that it doesn't include the toasting and grinding of whole spices.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mr. Crispy

Lunchtime, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
I can noodle away hours and hours searching for that next best recipe, seeking inspiration and making list upon list of new ingredients to try, cook books to reserve and peruse, restaurants and food shops I want to check out. I hit up my favorite foodie blogs and make more lists. I love lists...making them and then crossing things off them.
A few weeks ago I came across Smitten Kitchen's post about her recent vacation in Italy and I've been thinking about it ever since. She posed this question:

"Where are you going this summer and what can't you wait to eat when you get there?"

I'm not going anywhere, sometimes I think I'll never go anywhere again. But I started a list anyway. Things I would eat in Paris which morphed into Places I would like to eat in Paris. I Googled and Google mapped my way through Paris' eateries.
I couldn't stop thinking of all the travelling I used to do and all the food I didn't eat. I was not an adventurous eater. I dug out the journal from a 1997 trip to Paris that I unearthed during my latest Feng Shui purge. 
I subsisted on a diet of baguettes, brie and beer. There was the occasional addition of  salami (if I came across something that resembled the super-thin slices found in a package of Gallo) when I felt like a splurge. The ultimate indulgence was the rare Omelette Fromage. It's embarassing now to think how delighted I was with myself and my travel saavy resourcefulness, when one day I wandered into a little bistro in the Bastille, later writing, "Where else can you get a sandwich and beer for $4.00!?!?!" Yes, part of it was frugality but I was also the pickiest eater ever. That was my biggest challenge when I travelled. In the Greek Islands, when all of my friends were gorging on calamari, I was eating French fries dipped in Tzatziki sauce.
 What I wouldn't give now to be able to eat my way through Paris. Trying as many classic dishes as I could.  As things stand now I'd have win the lottery or charm a wealthy patron. I have this ridiculous illusion that one of my moneyed chums would be so desirous of my personally tweeked guidance through the arrondisements of Paris that they would insist on our funding a gastronomic assault on its bistros and brasseries.
I would start simply. My current obsession with the Croque Monsieur would be my jumping off point.

#1 Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame: I wouldn't have touched either of these with a ten foot pole back then because I didn't like ham and the whole egg deal in the Croque Madame grossed me out...and the béchamel sauce? What the hell was that all about? Sheeesh!

#2 Boeuf Bourguignon: It was probably out of my budget range back then but even if it weren't I would have been afraid of biting into big fatty hunks of meat. That would have totally grossed me out.

#3 Coq au Vin: see #2
#4 Ratatouille-well...the eggplant.
#5 Yes! I would eat Escargot now! I've never eaten it but if I were ever to get to Paris again, I would do it.

I have been inspired to prepare some of these classic French dishes. First up:

Le Croque Monsieur
(this translates as the Crispy Mister)
It's still a work in progress (I've yet to attempt the béchamel version I've bookmarked in The Barefoot Contessa in Paris) so far, it goes a little bit like this:

2 slices of bread
1/2 cup cheese (gruyere, emmentaler, gouda-anything flavorful that melts well) grated
2 slices of smoked ham-I've also used smoked turkey
caramelized onions
Dijon mustard
Turn on the broiler and on the stove top heat up a skillet on medium high heat. Butter  a couple of slices of bread and place the slices butter side down onto the hot skillet and pile on some grated cheese and cook until the underside of the bread is toasty and golden brown. Transfer the cheesy toasts onto a broiler proof pan and broil a few minutes until the cheese is all melty and bubbly.
Toss a couple slices of cooked Virginia ham into the still hot skillet to heat through then lay the slices on one side of the sandwich and caramelized onion on the other half, just as you remove the pan from the broiler. Spread a little or a lot of Dijon mustard on the ham side and sandwich your two melty slices together and slice in half and you're good to go.

I've made this a couple of times now and it's off-the-hook good. So good I failed to get a decent picture of it. The meal in the photo is a simple grilled cheese sandwich. The Scallion Ramen soup was a concoction I came up with when cleaning my pantry and discovering 3 packages of Top Ramen. I tossed out the flavor packet and made my own starting with a base of Chicken Better Than Bouillion and adding miso, fish sauce, caramelized onions and scallions then tossing in the noodles to absorb all of those great flavors.
The Orzo Salad is topped with a brilliant Salad Booster from 101 Cookbooks.