Tangled Branches: Satiated

riveting tales of how we sustain ourselves

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Potatoes, Kale, and Chard

The kale in the garden is sweet and delicious after our recent cold weather, so I picked a batch on Sunday afternoon and cooked it Tuesday evening. Indian recipes are the default method for cooking vegetables here, but I don't see too many (any?) published recipes for kale in Indian cookbooks. But I reasoned that the flavor could stand in for any cabbage-y type thing in a basic recipe for sauteed mixed vegetables, so I created the following based on Gobi-Aloo-Saag (Cauliflower-Potato-Spinach) from Quick Vegetarian Curries by Mridula Baljekar. Quick is a relative term - most Americans wouldn't think of these dishes as quick. And there's more than just curries here - a quick glance through and I find Pakoras, Rice, Bread, Raitas, and Desserts. Anyhow, here's what I made:

Boil 1 lb. potatoes; drain, peel and chop into approx 3/4 inch cubes.
Remove and discard large midribs from 6 to 8 oz. kale (I left the small ones in), and chop the leaves coarsely (about 1 to 2 inch pieces).
Remove leaf stalks/midribs from about 8 medium-large leaves of chard. Slice the stems thinly crosswise and chop the leaves coarsely.
Slice vertically one medium onion. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil in a large deep saute pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add 2 dried red chiles and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric. Stir once and add sliced onions. When the onion begins to brown, add 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground red chile (or to taste), and minced garlic.
Stir a few times, and add kale, chard and chard stems. You may have to do this in stages because all the leaves may not fit in the pan before they're wilted. Once you have all the kale and chard in the pan, and they've wilted down a bit, add about 1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes, the potatoes, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and about 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer until kale is cooked through.
Now, the original recipe called for 5 fluid ounces of single cream to be added at this point. I didn't have any (half and half, or table cream), but did have some Mexican crema in the fridge. So I added a few spoonsful of crema, thinned with water to a flowing consistency. Add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (I used Penzey's Punjabi Masala), and just about a teaspoon of butter. Stir and cook until the cream/crema is heated through and the butter is melted. Taste for salt. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon salt, but I usually start with half the amount and add more at the end if the dish tastes flat. (Also, the crema was quite salty.)

That's it. This amount was enough to serve 2 people as a main dish with ample leftovers.

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posted by Entangled at 3:52 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spicing Up Swiss Chard

This post is as much for my own notes as anything else. I've been searching for ways to tame the earthy flavor of Swiss Chard. So far the most satisfactory experiments have involved one of two things - making sure the chard is not the main ingredient and sticking to spicy Asian-inspired dishes.

Last night's dish was good enough to write down for future reference.

1 clove fresh garlic
equal amount of ginger root

Chop fine in mini-chopper (or mince with a knife).

3 green onions, "onion" part sliced thinly crosswise and "leaf" part sliced thicker
2 small russet potatoes (may have been better with a more waxy, shape-holding potato), peeled and cut into approx 1/2 in dice
Swiss Chard thinnings, stems sliced thinly crosswise and leaves sliced into about 3/4 inch strips
a few small Bronze Fennel sprigs, finely chopped

Heat about a tablespoon of cooking oil on medium or medium-high heat in a large skillet. Sizzle ginger-garlic mixture briefly (try not to let it brown), then add 2 dried red chiles (broken in half) and 1/4 tsp turmeric. Sizzle that a few seconds and add potatoes, green onions, and bronze fennel. Stir until potatoes are well coated with spicy oil, add 1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4-1/2 tsp. ground coriander seed, 1/2 tsp. salt and a small amount of water. Cover, turn down heat to medium-low, and cook until potatoes are almost cooked through.

Add sliced Swiss Chard, and 1/2 tsp. brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. garam masala (or cinnamon - the Bantry Bay garam masala I had on hand tastes mostly of cinnamon anyway), and a spritz of lemon juice. Let this cook until the Swiss Chard is wilted, adding more water if necessary. There should be a little liquid left in the finished dish, just enough so it's not dry.

I served this with grilled salmon topped with Green Chutney. The Green Chutney was some I made last fall (when fresh chiles and coriander/cilantro were plentiful) and put into the freezer in single-serving containers. Basically, it was a couple of green chiles, a good handful of coriander leaves, a few spearmint leaves, with lime juice and salt to taste, all chopped fine in the mini-chopper.

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posted by Entangled at 8:17 PM 0 comments

Monday, April 07, 2008

Green Garlic Soup v1.0

I still remember the first time I ate green garlic. The spouse and I stopped for lunch at the (lower priced, no reservations) café at Chez Panisse. This was at least 15 years ago, probably more. I don't remember what else I ate there, but we still talk about the green garlic soup. It was such a revelation. I remember it as being a pale green potato soup and one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.

I think that version must have been made something like this, but yesterday I concocted my own version, and it went something like this:

Chop one half a medium size yellow onion. Cook it slowly in 1 tbsp. butter until soft. Add 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes and 3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced crosswise. Stir this around for a minute or two and add 1 pint chicken broth (store-bought in this case) and 1 pint milk. Season with black pepper, but hold off on the salt for now (store-bought broth is usually so salty).

When the potatoes are very well cooked, mash them with a fork (or potato masher), and then puree part of the soup in small batches. This leaves you with a silky textured base, but not totally smooth. Taste first, then add salt if needed. I added a small amount of half & half just before serving, but it really wasn't necessary.

Now, this amount of garlic wasn't enough to really tint the soup green, and while the garlic flavor was there, it wasn't dominant. Perfectly acceptable for a business lunch or any other social occasion. We liked it a lot, but I plan to do it again with more garlic. And next time, I'm going to save some of the green leaves to chop as a garnish.

Alice Waters' latest cookbook (the only one of her books I own), The Art of Simple Food, has a green garlic soup recipe that's thickened with semolina instead of potato. We're very fond of potatoes, so I probably won't try that one until I've exhausted all the green garlic/potato possibilities.

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posted by Entangled at 6:05 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Potato and Tomato Tart

This recipe is my conglomeration, but the original inspiration was published in the NY Times, August 20, 2003 in an article by Amanda Hesser. I wasn't keen on the seasonings suggested, so I changed it. It's not difficult, but takes about 3 hours overall. Also, you need to have the oven on a fairly high temperature for several hours, so I usually make this only when the weather is cool enough that I'm not running the air conditioner - I hate to cool and heat the house at the same time.

The basic idea is a base of roasted potato slices topped with roasted tomatoes, flavored with garlic and herbs. I like to make it so there's enough olive oil left in the pan to sop it up with good crusty bread. The original recipe was meant to be a side dish, I think, but for us it's a main dish and serves 2.

First, roast the tomatoes. Amounts are not critical here and ideally the tomatoes should be a thick and meaty variety. For the last batch I used mostly Striped Roman, with smaller amounts of Kellogg's Breakfast and Cherokee Purple. You might as well make a big batch and if there are any leftovers, they'd be great tossed with some pasta. This part is very similar to a recipe in Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tomatoes into large pieces, say an inch and a half or 2 inches. Find a roasting pan large enough to hold the tomatoes in a very snug single layer (or even doubled up a bit, but not much). Coat the roasting pan with olive oil and place the cut tomatoes in the pan. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top (say 1/4 cup to several large tomatoes), and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (remembering that these will shrink in cooking). Place the pan in the oven for 45 minutes. Roughly cut up some garlic cloves, and distribute them over the tomatoes, pushing them down in between the tomato pieces so they don't brown too much. Return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes or so. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and the skins starting to blacken. Remove them from the oven and let them cool while you cook the potatoes.

Peel and slice thinly about a pound of potatoes. Coat a round 9 or 10 inch diameter pan with olive oil (a skillet with an ovenproof handle works well here). Beginning at the center, layer half the potato slices in an overlapping spiral. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make another layer the same as the first. I like to drizzle more olive oil on at this point but the original recipe didn't call for it. Place the pan in the oven (still at 400 degrees) for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are starting get a little browned.

Remove the pan from the oven and spoon some of the roasted tomatoes, garlic and the liquid left in the pan over the center of the potatoes, leaving the edges of the pan tomato-free (think pizza crust). Return the pan to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chopped basil and parsley. Let it cool a bit, cut into wedges and serve.

This is a good Saturday night supper with the addition of crusty bread and some good Chianti.

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posted by Entangled at 2:35 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pink Potatoes

Aren't these funky?

See the garden blog for more details on how I grew them. This is about how I cooked them.

I peeled them, which isn't really necessary, and sliced them about 1/4 inch thick. In the frying pan over medium heat, I melted some butter and mixed it with olive oil - about half butter and half olive oil. Use as much as your conscience will allow. When the butter/oil was hot, I added the potato slices, stirred them around a bit, lowered the heat and covered the pan. I stirred them about once every ten minutes until they were mostly cooked through. Then I continued to cook them over higher heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they were lightly browned. When they were finished cooking, I added salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

We had these twice last weekend, once for dinner and once for brunch. The second time I didn't peel them. It saved the work of peeling them, but I had to work harder on cleaning them, so I think it's a toss-up. I didn't notice much difference in the finished product.

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posted by Entangled at 1:14 PM 0 comments