Posts Tagged Kale

Kale and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Anyone who prefers to eat seasonally should probably look away until autumn. July is no time for casseroles, surely. No time for pumpkin and kale, or the heady scent of nutmeg.

Sometimes I’m ready for fall before it’s ready for me. Sometimes you need a deep dish of savory bread pudding, and who cares if it’s 90 degrees outside after dark? Greens are good all year round, and this recipe prefers silky canned pumpkin to the fresh little ones we won’t be able to find at the shops until September, so it can be made anytime.  If you can bear to turn on your oven in this heat, this is the dish to do it for.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1/2 of a baguette, sliced

1 lb kale

4 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups milk

4 oz cheese (I used half Gruyère and half Drunken Goat)

white pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Directions

Trim away the kale stems, tear the leaves into manageable chunks, and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain well.

Arrange the baguette slices in an oval pan or an 8×8 inch brownie pan.

Stuff kale between the slices.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.

Combine the eggs, pumpkin, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.

Mix them together thoroughly.

Pour the mixture over the bread and kale and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.

Wait 5-10 minutes to let the liquid soak completely into the bread. Turn the oven to 375°F while you wait. When ready, bake the bread pudding for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately. This would be good with a light salad, but I had no difficulty eating this on its own and justifying seconds by telling myself it had kale in it, so it’s practically health food.

How could anyone say no to that?

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Stracciatella. . .sort of

Have I mentioned that I don’t eat soup? I just have a problem with food that you drink. That’s not called food, it’s called drinks. I don’t have drinks for dinner, I have them with dinner.

And yes, everyone else thinks I’m crazy, too.

I tried to get out of this one. I called it “tortellini in brodo.” Mr. B. retaliated by eating with a spoon. I insisted it was just a different way of eating pasta. He pointed out the delicate bits of egg and kale that could only be accessed by also eating the liquid. I tried to use a fork. It was too messy. I tried blaming the painkillers, but I haven’t actually been taking them.

So I made this. . . soup. (There, I said it.) Because my teeth have been pulled out, and my mouth hurts, and solid food isn’t completely an option yet.

Because I bought a jar of applesauce when I didn’t feel well enough to make applesauce, and there was mold inside. So clearly, that wasn’t an option, either.

Because I’m tired of mashed potatoes for the first time in my life.

I, the soup-hating corvid, made soup. For dinner, not with dinner.

But I put pasta in it so I could still eat it with a fork.

The pasta kind of hurt the places my teeth aren’t anymore.

The stracciatella? Pretty darn good. Salty and savory and full of things that aren’t supposed to be in stracciatella, because a thin, watery soup isn’t worth looking at, much less drinking. And why shouldn’t a stracciatella have shreds of kale along with egg, and tortellini as well?

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup water

1 large bunch kale

8 oz tortellini or other pasta

about 1/2 cup (1 oz) of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1-2 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine broth and water in a deep pot and bring to a boil.

Remove the ribs from the kale, roll it up, and slice it into 1/4 inch chiffonade.

Grate the Parmesan.

Add the kale and Parmesan to the boiling broth.

Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring well. You don’t want giant Parmesan clumps, if only because that means somewhere in your soup there are cheese-free zones, and that’s just terrible.

Add the tortellini and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes. Fresh pasta doesn’t take long to cook.

Whisk your egg(s) in a small bowl and pour them into the stracciatella in a slow stream, whisking the soup as you pour.

It will look very cloudy briefly, but clarify after just a few seconds.

Serve hot, with crusty bread if your teeth allow it and a few slivers of grated Parmesan over the top.

The best thing about this is that the pasta absorbs a huge amount of flavor from the broth. Even I broke down and ate this with a spoon, because all that rich, eggy liquid could not be allowed to go to waste.

The kale brought its usual bitter tones to to table, making the soup more aromatic and hearty that it would have been. I loved the little shards of cooked egg that kept popping up unexpectedly, and though I only used one egg for this volume, two would have been better.

Now I just need a few more semi-solid meals to get through the next few days before my doctor clears me for people food again!

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Kale and Acorn Squash Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are a compromise of a dish. They’re cheesy and delicious like lasagna, but more filling-oriented and neater to eat, like an overenthusiastic tortellini. (Just pretend the simile makes sense, okay? Thanks.) As far as compromise goes, they’re often the best of both worlds. After all, you could never fit this much squash into one bite of lasagna, and tortellini is finicky to make at home.

These shells are a great weeknight dinner, especially when you’re dealing with a chilly February in Texas. At least the metroplex isn’t iced under and terrified this year–those of us who live in the South have no idea how to handle even small doses of below freezing weather, nor should we have to. It’s the American South. It has a contract with its residents that temperatures will never drop below 50° F, and we’ll all speak in accents the rest of the world can mock. There are rules.

At any rate, even though my pumpkin supply has been tragically cut off for the year, acorn squash is still abundant and we’re a long way still from the summer days when I poke sadly at zucchini and wonder why it still gets to be called squash when it lacks all the good squash qualities. Acorn squash is sweeter than pumpkin, and a bit stringier, but still brilliantly orange and velvety. Combined with tangy goat cheese and bitter, crunchy kale, it makes a perfect filling for the shells.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

18 jumbo shells, cooked

1/2 of an acorn squash

2 T butter

1 bunch kale

4 oz goat cheese

2-3 T marscapone

1/2 lb mozzarella, grated (divided use)

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your squash. These things can be a little intimidating to cut into, as they are quite hard, but if you just give it a really good whack with a nice heavy knife, you’ll be all right. Just use a sturdy cutting board and pretend you’re chopping wood.

Chop it in half and scoop out the tasty, tasty seeds.

Peel it and chop into half-inch dice. Spread the squash in a baking pan and dot with the 2 T of butter and a sprinkling of salt.

Roast at 400° F for 20-30 minutes, until the flesh is translucent and the edges just begin to caramelize. You could alternately cook the squash in a cast iron pan on the stove over high heat for 10-15 minutes, for a lot more browning. I will almost certainly do that next time, as it is both quicker and more flavorful.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Set the squash aside and prepare the kale. Cut the central ribs out of the leaves and lay the leaves on top of each other in a stack.

Roll that stack up tightly and slice it into thin ribbons (this is called chiffonade, for those of you who are interested).

Toss the squash, kale, goat cheese, marscapone, and half of the mozzarella in a bowl and mix well.

Arrange the cooked shells in a buttered baking dish and stuff each one with as much filling as it will hold. Or a little more. I won’t judge.

Top the stuffed shells with the remaining 1/4 pound of mozzarella and a thorough sprinkling of Parmesan.

Wrap the dish snugly in tin foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake another five minutes or so, just to get some nice browning on top.

Serve with steamed broccoli and ciabatta.

This is just as tasty the next day, although the crunchy Parmesan lace is somewhat diminished by microwaving. It’s gooey and salty and just a touch sweet all at once, which makes it the perfect cure for just about any craving you may be having right about now.

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Pumpkin Ravioli with Kale in Swiss Cheese Sauce

Homemade pasta is a thing of beauty.

I’m not suggesting it should be an everyday affair. indeed, unless you have a pasta machine and loads of free time, it shouldn’t be. On the other hand, on the rare occasions when I crave a filled pasta, store-bought ravioli or tortellini simply will not do. I’m told one can buy fresh pasta sheets for these purposes, but I don’t go to the fancy grocery stores so homemade was really the only option. You need something fresh and eggy and delightful to hold in all this pumpkin, you see.

Then you can do one of two things. There’s the healthier option of adding simmering vegetable or beef broth,  or you can do what I did.

Everything’s better with cheese. Drizzle a creamy Swiss cheese sauce over these lovely things and prepare to overeat. The trick is using the right cheese. You want something more than a little bitter, with enough bite to provide a contrast to that lovely sweet pumpkin flesh.

I’ll warn you, this is a multi-stage process, but it’s made easier by the fact that most of it can easily be done ahead. Roast the pumpkin and refrigerate it for a day or two, make the pasta dough (or buy some. I don’t mind.) and toss it in the refrigerator until you’re hungry. Sauce is optional; I had originally planned to serve this in brodo before I realized we had somehow used all the vegetable broth in the apartment.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the roast pumpkin:

1/2 of a 3 to 3 1/2 pound roasting or pie pumpkin

1/4 cup of white wine

2 large sprigs of rosemary

about 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated

salt, to taste

Also, 1 pound of kale

For the ravioli:

2 cups flour

3 eggs

2-3 T olive oil

1 t salt

For the Swiss cheese sauce:

2 T butter

1/4 cup cream

about 3 ounces Swiss cheese

pinch of salt

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

The only real challenge in cooking with fresh pumpkin is chopping said pumpkin into manageable chunks. For almost everything else in my kitchen, I use the incredibly light and viciously sharp ceramic knives. For bread I use a serrated knife, and for pumpkin I use this bad boy.

I found him in standing water in an ill-maintained campus kitchen when I was in college. I’m not sure whether it’s actually a kitchen implement or a Hobbit-sized sword, but this knife probably has enough heft to take out a chunk of the counter if we wanted to. Which we don’t. So, chop your pumpkin in half.

Peel the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds (we’ll talk about roasting the seeds later).

Wrap up one half for later, and chop the other into 1/2 inch cubes.

Pour the wine over the pumpkin bits.

Grate on the nutmeg and add the rosemary.

Sprinkle on some salt.

Toss the pumpkin, wine, and seasoning. Arrange the pumpkin in a layer in a roasting pan and toss it in a 400°F oven.

After 45 minutes, you have roast pumpkin.

Congratulations! Now, while that’s in the oven and you’re snacking because you didn’t start dinner until you were already hungry (please let me believe I’m not the only person who does that, okay?), make some pasta.

Food processors make life almost too easy. It’s why I love them. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them briefly.

Add all three eggs.

Zoom, zoom. Process while drizzling in the oil for about 20-25 seconds.

With well-floured hands, form the dough into a ball on an also-floured countertop.

Divide the dough ball in two halves and roll out one of them as thin as you can. I don’t have a pasta machine, nor do I think it would be worth the space to get one. Just elbow grease and a nice heavy rolling pin, thanks.

Pile little hills of roast pumpkin at two-inch intervals over the dough. I topped mine with grated Swiss cheese, as well.

Roll out the other half of the dough, drape it over the first one, and use a biscuit cutter to form ravioli. Repeat rolling and forming ravioli until you run out of pumpkin or dough. I made 32 ravioli before running out of pumpkin.

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. (Why yes, I do put salt into this recipe four different times. Isn’t it wonderful?)

Boil the ravioli for 3-4 minutes.

Boil a pound or so of kale, too. Kale is delicious and crunchiful.

Divide your ravioli onto serving plates. Now they are finished, and quite tasty, but naked.

Let’s make a quick Swiss cheese sauce. Plop 2 tablespoons of butter into a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Letting the butter brown was an accident, but I don’t regret it. Pour on the cream.

Add the Swiss cheese and stir to melt it.

Add the salt and turn off the heat, stirring quickly to fully incorporate the salt.

Spoon over the ravioli and kale just before serving.

The best thing about this dish is that everything on this plate makes everything else on it that much better. The wine on the roast pumpkin gives it a sour edge that the pumpkin flavor bursts out of. The kale is just bitter enough to contrast the pumpkin, and lends its texture to an otherwise too-soft dish. Bitter, salty cheese keeps everything from being too pumpkin-sweet (think pumpkin pie. No thanks.) and the rosemary does what rosemary does best (it makes everything better, in case you were wondering. Everything.) This is definitely something to make again soon. Even without a pasta machine.

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Kale-Artichoke Casserole

I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make Matzoh palatable. Nutella becomes bland in its presence. A cookie dough dip was too rich and almost sour from the cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but it was nothing like cookie dough. Straight cream cheese with some smoked salmon worked out nicely, and thick slabs of cheddar were likewise a hit this year. So apparently I enjoy my matzoh more with savory toppings than sweet. Why not crumble it into a cheesy vegetable casserole?

I had half a pound of kale and I always have bags of frozen artichoke hearts. However, I highly recommend experimenting here. Eggplant slices, onion, asparagus, and pumpkin all seem like good candidates to add in.

Ingredients

1/2 pound kale (or spinach or mustard greens)

1 eight-ounce bag of frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed and thawed

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T olive oil

2 sheets matzoh. I can’t even call them crackers. crackers aren’t this huge.

1/4 pound havarti, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the kale into bite-sized pieces and discard the ribs. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add the garlic, then toss the kale in it to coat.

Once the smell of frying kale hits you, cover the pan and let it cook about 5 minutes.

Mix the kale with the artichoke hearts and spread them in a layer in a small casserole dish.

Crush the matzoh using your favorite crushing method. I put the sheets in a Ziploc bag and hit them with my rolling pin (one of the many advantages of having a solid Italian rolling pin is the lack of fussy handles. It’s essentially a very smooth club.) Sprinkle the matzoh crumbs over the veggies.

And sprinkle the cheese over the matzoh.  Havarti is very sticky, so I probably should have mixed it with the matzoh crumbs first. As it was, I got a lovely cheese layer on top but no cheese penetrated throughout the casserole. Not bad, but could have been better.

Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden and the smell is driving you mad with hunger.

It is light. It is gorgeous. It is filling yet mostly healthful. delightful little fronds of kale peek up through the cheese and crisp like chips when you bite them. Soft, buttery artichoke hearts take the bite out of the cheese. And throughout is the crunch of matzoh. This is truly the only dish I would say is improved by those horrible, flavorless crackers. Of course, I’ll have to test this out with some butter crackers now that Passover has ended. For the sake of Science.

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Tomato Free Lasagna with Artichokes and Kale

I literally can not remember the last time I had lasagna. The tomato allergy put a lot of really amazing Italian dishes right out of reach for me, so when I started making this last night, I was terrified. Maybe it would be awful. Maybe it would be just fine, but I wouldn’t like it. Maybe some dishes just can’t be adapted to not use tomatoes.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was creamy and complex with a cracker-crisp layer of parmesan over the top and had just enough vegetable to feel like a whole meal in one casserole. This recipe, in other words, rocks. I will confess, I didn’t measure everything. Until I started putting all this stuff on the Internet, I only ever measured for pastry and eyeballed everything else. I like to use as much of something as looks or smells or tastes right. Actually, I feel dough when I bake and add flour or liquid as needed. So my old habits kicked in tonight, and for a few things I’m just going to have to guess how much I used. Use your own judgment if it doesn’t seem right to you. Recipes are meant to be played with!

Ingredients (makes a 9X13 casserole, serves 6-8)

3/4 pound lasagna noodles (15 sheets)*

4 cups carrot sauce (double this recipe)

2 eggs

1 pound mozzarella, grated. I used the cheap stuff. It’s a whole pound of mozzarella, and melting rather improves it.

4-6 leaves of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 eight-ounce bag of frozen artichoke hearts.

some sour cream (We talked about this. I just used a spoon, okay?)

3/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

 

Steam makes any photo look ominous.

 

First make the carrot sauce. If you’re smarter than I am you have some in the fridge, but I tend to make small batches and them wish I had more. So I made the double batch, and discovered that my immersion blender can handle it (Good; that much sauce will not get along with my food processor. Not in one batch, anyway.) Stir the eggs into the carrot sauce and set aside.

 

 

Boil the lasagna noodles until al dente, according to the instructions on the box. This only deserves special mention because of what happens next. Once you drain them, they will try to weld themselves together with an adhesive strength rivalling that of concrete. So I peeled them apart, cursing up a storm as I burned every one of my fingers, and draped them over the sides of my colander. There has got to be a better way.

 

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F and start making lasagna layers. Assembling the lasagna is actually fun for someone as compulsive as I am. First, three noodles to cover the bottom of my dish. Then I spread some sour cream over the noodles with the back of a spoon. I probably used about two teaspoons per layer, but just use as much or as little as you want. This turned out to be my accidental secret ingredient, as I forgot to tell Mr. Blackbird about it and he was obsessing over that one flavor he couldn’t name. Oops.

Then sprinkle about 1/5 of the mozzarella over the pasta, smear about 3/4 of a cup of sauce over that, and layer in some artichoke hearts and kale. I didn’t measure any of this, and it came out great, so please don’t worry if one layer has a whole cup of sauce and the next has too many veggies, because it will all work out. I promise, this turned out to be an incredibly forgiving dish.

That right there, for instance, was a not-enough-kale layer. The next one made up for it. Repeat with all the layers but the top one, where you want the cheese on top for bubbling purposes. The parmesan goes on top of that. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 5-10 to get the top nice and crispy. I actually cranked the oven up to max broil for two minutes and got a thin parmesan cracker over the top of the casserole, which I declared the best part. Mr. Blackbird does not agree. He liked the artichokes best. Serve with wine and a bit of bread, if you like. It really needs no accompaniment. Next time I might throw in some pulled smoked chicken breast, but this dish honestly holds its own without it.

I tried to show the layers here, but I don’t think it comes across. Or maybe it does. Look at how nicely everything just smooshes together into one amazing, savory bite!

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Artichoke Yam Risotto

Whoever thought up risotto was a genius. Sticky gloppy rice with so much depth of flavor I can’t eat it fast if I try, and it keeps me warm in these awful snowstorms that seem determined to find me. Well the joke’s on you, unpredictable Texas weather! Mr. Blackbird already stocked up on groceries for the week, so I’m just going to hide in the warmth of my apartment and make endless cups of hot chocolate! Ha! Well, that and go to work.

Anyway. Risotto!

Ingredients (serves 3, or two plus lunch for one the next day)

2 T butter

about 1/3 of a yam

(1/2 of an onion, diced. Not in this house, though. Yuck, onions!)

some artichoke hearts. I used about 15 (frozen) because I am an artichoke fiend.

3/4 cup arborio rice short or medium grain rice*

3/4 cup white wine. Whatever you’re drinking with dinner is fine.

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese (I used parrono)

Directions 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, slice the yam super thin and then chop the slices so they’re bite size. Now that I think about it, it would have been easier and probably yummier to just grate them on a box grater. Sauté the yam and artichoke in the butter until just beginning to brown. Onions too, if you allow the little beasts into your home.

Now add your rice and sauté until translucent. Use a wooden spoon for risotto, by the way. It seems easier to keep the gloppy stuff from permanently fusing to wood than metal or plastic, I guess because it’s porous.

Turn the heat down to medium and pour the wine in. You’ll want a good book or a good conversation in the kitchen with you for the rest of this, ’cause from here on out you just get to stir for 20 minutes straight.

Stir the risotto until the wine is almost completely absorbed or evaporated. Then add 1/2 cup of broth and stir that until it’s almost gone. Continue doing this until you’ve used all 2 cups of broth. Now taste a bite. Is it soft on the outside with just a touch of crunch in the middle? Does it look fluffy and cooked, like this?

If so, turn off the heat. If not, add another 1/2 cup of broth and stir again. Not all rice is created equal. Once it’s done, stir in your 1/2 cup of grated cheese. It will instantly change the texture and smell of the dish for the better.

I served mine with duck breast and some kale (I forgot to cook the kale–oops!) and the rest of the wine we used in cooking. And that, my friends, is how you keep the winter at bay.

*Okay, so Arborio rice costs $15 for two pounds. Holy crap! My koshihikari (Japanese short grain sticky rice, great for sushi) cost $8 for four and a half pounds, and that already cost four times more by weight than the long grain jasmine rice I get in 50 pound bags. So I decided sticky rice is sticky rice and used the Japanese stuff. And it’s great. I doubt even an Italian grandma would call foul on this.

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