Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summer Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Corn, Sausage & Pecans

I have been enjoying the Tuscan Kale from the farmers' market so much this year.  For many years Tuscan kale (aka Lacinato Kale...Dinosaur Kale...Cavolo Nero....) was not being grown for any of my local markets.  I began reading about it long before I was even able to get my hands on some from the grocery store.  It was longer still before I began finding it from local sources.  Now, most of the farmers at my market are growing it....and this year I have been enjoying a steady and delicious supply since early March.

I have also finally jumped on the kale salad band least in the sense that I occasionally make kale salad at home.  I mentioned my previous lack of enthusiasm for kale salad in a post earlier this year.  I really do like cooked kale.  It is delicious and so very versatile (in tarts, frittatas/tortillas, grain pilafs, and pastas...  on pizza....  in soup...), so I won't be giving it up in its cooked form any time soon. I choose to see my foray into the world of kale salads as an expansion of my kale horizons rather than a surrender to a food trend.....

I mentioned in that post in March that kale salads are best when dressed ahead.  This is true for most raw vegetable salads...  I have recently posted two perfect examples in my summer coleslaw and in a grated carrot salad I shared last winter.  When given a bit of time, salt and acidity...even the to soften the crunch of uncooked vegetables.  For my summer kale salad instead of dressing this salad ahead with the actual vinaigrette, I took my lead from a recipe by Marcus Samuelsson and just massaged some cider vinegar, salt and olive oil into the kale leaves (similar to the way I treat my grated carrot salad and my coleslaw).

When you finish the salad right before serving you may use any favorite, tangy vinaigrette.  I have used a couple of different dressings...both of which I often keep on hand.  One is the mustardy red wine vinaigrette I shared last December.  This one works well for this salad because it goes well with sausage (a prominent component of the salad).  The other is the vinaigrette I posted for a Spring Vegetable Salad in June.  This latter vinaigrette is a good fit because it is tangy enough to stand up to raw vegetables....and as I alluded to above, I think of kale as really being more like a shredded vegetable than a lettuce.

Besides the Italian Sausage, my summer kale salad includes a generous quantity of sweet corn.  I love corn.  From the time the early corn hits the market sometime in late June or early July until the very end of the main crop during the month of September, I always have sweet corn on hand.  Roasted, it makes a substantial and delicious addition to summer salads, sides and pastas.  It was inevitable that I would at some point pair it with kale in a salad (I have already paired it with kale in a pasta!).  Toasted pecans, finely sliced red onions and some nutty shaved Parmesan complete the assembly.

This summer kale salad is surprisingly substantial.  I think it makes a great entrée on a hot summer night.  But if you like, you can omit the sausage and serve it as a side to a big grilled steak or chop...or a nice roast chicken.

Summer Kale Salad with Sweet Corn, Italian Sausage & Pecans

1 small bunch (about 1/3 lb.)
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 t. olive oil
1/4 t. kosher salt
1 link (4 oz.) Italian sausage (hot or you prefer)
1 large ear sweet corn in the husk
1/4 to 1/3 c. pecans
1/2 to 3/4 oz. (1/4 to 1/3 c.) thinly shaved red onion, rinsed under cold running water and blotted dry
3/4 oz Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 3 T. shaved),
A couple of tablespoons of a favorite tangy vinaigrette (see below)

Strip the center ribs away from the kale.  Stack the leaves in manageable bunches and cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips/ribbons.  (You will have about 3 oz. trimmed kale.)  Wash thoroughly in several changes of water and spin dry.  Chill until ready to make the salad. (You can wash the greens up to a day ahead.)

When ready to make the salad, place the kale in a salad bowl.  Add the cider vinegar, oil and salt and massage well.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile place the corn directly on the rack of a preheated 375° oven.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and strip away the husks and silks as soon as the corn is cool enough to handle.  (I typically do this immediately.  I simply work quickly...but you can use towels to grab the husks and silks and pull them away.  The sooner you do this the better since the corn will continue to steam inside the intact husk.)  Cut the corn away from the cob.  You should have about a cup of roasted kernels.  Set aside.

While the corn roasts, cook the sausage and toast the pecans.  Brown the sausage in a small ovenproof sauté pan.  Transfer to the oven to finish (in the sauté pan) to finish the cooking process.  Set aside to rest.

Place the pecans in a small baking dish/pan in the oven alongside the corn and toast until fragrant and beginning to take on a pale golden color (about four or five minutes).  When done, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with kosher salt.  When cool enough to handle, coarsely crumble.

When ready to serve the salad, slice the sausage in quarter-inch thick rounds. Add to the bowl with the kale.  Add the corn, red onion, pecans and Parmesan.  Season with salt & pepper.  Drizzle with enough of your vinaigrette to lightly coat all of the ingredients.  Toss well.  Taste and correct the seasoning...adding more of the vinaigrette if needed.  Divide between plates and serve with some crusty bread.

Serves 2 as an entrée.

Two possible vinaigrettes:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Golden Couscous with Chicken, Carrots, Turnips & Summer Squash

I tend to think of braises and stews as being autumn and winter foods.  But recently as I looked at some of my farmers' market vegetables I realized that I had the makings of a traditional Moroccan-style couscous of chicken and vegetables.  I have always thought it was odd that these stews often feature a combination of what I think of as winter root vegetables (carrots and turnips) and summer squash (or zucchini).  But there they were...young carrots, golden turnips and yellow squash...all in my market basket at the same moment.  And I have to admit that as we sat down to our hot, fragrant and spicy bowl of stew and couscous on a recent rather sultry evening, the food seemed to be a perfect (although unusual for me) match for the day. 

I should say up front that the dish I prepared is by no means an authentic couscous.  An authentic couscous would use dried (as opposed to canned) chickpeas...and it would definitely not use our ubiquitous instant/pre-steamed couscous.  A true Moroccan...or Algerian....couscous is prepared in a special pot called a couscoussière.  The pot is constructed like a double boiler-style steamer.  The bottom portion is a typical stewing pot and the top piece has a perforated bottom so that the couscous (a dried granular, semolina pasta) can steam over the fragrant stew—taking on the perfume of the spices in the stew as it cooks.  The cooking process takes two or three hours and twice during that time the couscous is turned out onto a large pan (like a paella pan) so that it can be hand "fluffed."  I had the pleasure of participating in the making of a traditional Algerian couscous many years ago while I was working in France.  It took the better part of an afternoon, and although I enjoyed myself immensely, when I want to put dinner on the table here at home, I am grateful for our pre-steamed couscous—which only takes about 10 minutes to make (and is pretty much all that one finds at American grocery stores).

The preparation of the "stew" portion of the couscous follows all of the basic rules of braising and stewing.  I wrote a stewing basics post several years ago that goes into all the pertinent details.  If you are a novice to stewing...or aren't happy with the way your stews turn might take a few moments to read that post.  A well made stew or braise is, I think, one of the finest foods around.

When I made our stew, I chose to use all chicken drumsticks.  If you don't like to eat with your hands, drumsticks aren't the best choice.  But if you don't mind, they are perfect...the one end making a convenient little handle.  Just make sure you provide plenty of napkins...or even finger bowls of water.  You can also make it with thighs—which are a bit easier to tackle with knife and fork...or are easily deboned in the kitchen so that people don't have to wrestle with bones at the table at all.  I would discourage the use of white meat for this stew.  You must pull the white meat out when it is just cooked or it will be tough and dry.  The vegetables will then have to go on cooking until they are done.  The vegetables take 50 minutes to an hour to cook.  The dark meat pieces are a perfect match since they will cook to beautiful, flavorful tenderness in just this amount of time.

Finally, the choice of vegetable varieties is up to you.  I happened to bring home some lovely Gold Ball turnips along with my carrots and yellow squash.  The result—when combined with the saffron and turmericwas what I thought was a fantastically beautiful study in yellows, oranges and golds.  But you can obviously make this dish with regular white turnips.  And even though I have lumped the carrots and turnips together in the ingredient list, I would encourage you to use roughly an equal quantity of each.  The stew will be a bit sweet and one dimensional without the turnips..and will tend towards bitterness without the balance of the carrots.  You may also use regular old zucchini instead of the yellow squash.  In the fall, you could make this dish with winter—instead of summer—squash.  Add winter squash 10 minutes after the root vegetables have been simmering for 10 minutes.

Chicken Braised with Carrots, Turnips and Summer Squash

2 1/2 to 3 lbs. chicken drumsticks, thighs or a combination
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 T. butter
1 1/4 lb. carrots and turnips—in any combination that you prefer (see post)—trimmed and peeled
10 to 12 oz. summer squash or zucchini
1 large onion (12 oz.), diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
1/2 t. (slightly mounded) ground ginger
1/4 t. (slightly mounded) turmeric
2 c. chicken stock or no-salt canned chicken broth
Generous pinch of saffron, crumbled
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice...more or less as needed
1/3 c. finely sliced flat leaf parsley
1/3 c. finely sliced cilantro
2 T. Harissa (more or less, to taste)—purchased, or make your own (recipe below)

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.  In a large braising pan (wide enough to hold all the chicken and deep enough to accommodate all of the chicken and vegetables) set over moderate heat melt the butter in 1 T. of the olive oil.  When the butter is melted, increase the heat.  When the butter foam subsides, add the chicken (skin side down if using thighs).  Carefully brown the chicken until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and golden.  Regulate the heat as necessary to maintain and active sizzle without scorching the chicken.  Drumsticks will need to be carefully rotated and will take longer—perhaps 20 to 25 minutes.  Thighs will primarily need to be browned on the skin side with only a quick surface sear on the side without skin and will take less time. 

While the chicken browns, cut the vegetables.  Cut the carrots on a short diagonal into 3/4- to 1-inch chunks.  Cut the turnips into a rough 3/4- to 1-inch dice.  Trim the ends away from the squash.  Cut into 1-inch chunks. 

Remove the browned chicken pieces to a plate.  Add the onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt (and more olive oil if the pan seems dry).  Cook the onions over moderate heat—reducing the heat if they onions start to brown too much—until quite soft...15 minutes or longer, if necessary.  Add the garlic, cinnamon stick, ginger and turmeric and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  

Add the broth and the browned chicken (along with any juices that have been released as the chicken sits) to the pan.  Bring to a simmer.  Crumble in the saffron and season with 3/4 t. kosher salt (less if you have used salted broth).  Add the carrots and turnips and bring to a simmer.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Add the squash...making sure all the vegetables are submerged in the broth...return to a simmer, cover and cook another 20 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, cover and continue to simmer until the vegetables and chicken are tender—another 10 to 20 minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  If the dish seems very sweet...or one dimensional...add a squeeze of lemon.  

Serve with cilantro and parsley scattered over.  Pass Harissa separately so each diner can drizzle it on to taste (or...if you prefer...and you know that everyone will enjoy the heat of Harissa, stir 2 T. of Harissa into the broth prior to serving).  Serve accompanied by Apricot & Pistachio Couscous.

Serves 4 to 6.

Apricot & Pistachio Couscous

1 c. couscous
3/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. sliced dried apricots (75 grams)
2 T. unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 c. pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 t. cinnamon

Place the couscous in a medium sized bowl.  Add the salt and apricots and toss to combine.  Cut the butter into chunks and scatter over the surface.  Bring the water to a boil and pour over, swirling the bowl gently to make sure the water penetrates all of the couscous.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes.  Uncover, add the pistachios and cinnamon and fluff with a fork.  Taste and correct the seasoning.


1 t. cumin seed
1/2 t. coriander seed
1/2 t. caraway seed
4 hot red dried chiles (I use chile de árbol)—about 2 inches in length, stemmed and seeded or you prefer...and rough chopped
2 cloves peeled garlic
3/4 t. coarse salt, or to taste
1 medium red bell pepper—roasted, peeled, and chopped coarse
1 t. tomato paste
1 T. olive oil

Toast whole spices and chiles in a dry skillet until fragrant, then cool.

With an electric spice grinder, a cleaned coffee grinder, or a mortar and pestle, grind seeds and chiles fine. Transfer ground spices to a small food processor and add garlic and salt.  Grind mixture to a paste.  Add roasted pepper, tomato paste, and oil and process until smooth.

The harissa will keep, covered in a jar in the refrigerator, for weeks. It is HOT, savory and delicious.  Serve as a condiment with couscous and tagine. Makes 1/2 cup.

  • I use a rounded measure for each of the spices...and I remove the seeds from half of the chiles. 
  • If using a spice or coffee grinder to grind the spices and chiles, let the grinder sit for a moment or two before opening to allow the spices to settle. If you open it right away some of the spices and more significantly some of the chiles will be airborne—which will irritate your eyes and nose. 

(Harissa recipe courtesy of my friend Chef Nancy Stark)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Rigatoni with Broccolini, Garlic, Lemon & Ricotta

Last Saturday I came home from the farmers' market with a beautiful bunch of broccolini.  Since there are only two of us...and there was enough broccolini to make a side dish for four...or even six...I decided to make it the main event of our evening a pasta (of course).  It was delicious.  And since I noticed that I haven't posted any pastas yet this year(!), I thought I would share this one.

Although it still seems new-ish to me, Broccolini has actually been around for a while now.  Still, it is entirely possible that there are many who have not yet tried it.  Botanically it is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (sometimes called Chinese kale since it is a leafy vegetable with insignificant florets).  Broccolini has smaller florets and more slender stalks than broccoli.  I find that it has a flavor that is similar to broccoli but a bit more pungent—sort of turnip-like, in fact.  But since all of the broccolis, kales and turnips (as well as cabbages) are members of the Brassica (or mustard) family, the peppery quality is a matter of nuance and degree.  Considering this, Broccolini is relatively mild—some even say sweet—and should be well received by anyone who likes broccoli.

The slender stalks of broccolini are tender and cook just as quickly as the florets.  This makes it so that the stalks/spears can be left whole for cooking and be served as an elegant side much the same way one might serve asparagus.  Broccolini was originally called Aspiration...which probably came from a desire to suggest this style of serving (not because it is botanically related to asparagus in any way).

Like broccoli and kale, broccolini is complimented nicely by garlic, heat and lemon.  So with the addition of a little ricotta to add richness, my pasta practically made itself.  If it happens that you have never had broccolini, this pasta would be a great first bite.  And if you want to try it all on its own, just prepare as directed and serve without the noodles and cheese.

Rigatoni with Broccolini, Lemon, Garlic & Ricotta

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed of very thick/tough ends and cut on a long diagonal (about 1/2-inch thick)...florets halved if very fat (trimmed weight about 6 oz./180 g.)
2 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 very fat clove garlic, thinly sliced crosswise (use mandoline)
A generous pinch hot pepper flakes
6 oz./180 g. Rigatoni (or other short, sturdy, tubular pasta)
2 T. pine nuts, lightly toasted
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 to 1 1/2 oz. pecorino, grated medium fine
3 oz. whole milk ricotta

Remove the ricotta from the refrigerator and spread it on a plate so that it will warm to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water (about a teaspoon of salt per quart).

Place 2 T. of oil in a medium sauté pan along with the garlic and pepper flakes and set over medium heat.  When the garlic begins to sizzle, drop the broccolini in the pot of water.  Cook for one minute, scoop out and add to the pan with the oil and garlic (which should be just beginning to turn golden at the edges...if it begins to color before the broccolini is ready, remove from heat and drizzle in some of the cooking water to stop the cooking).  The oil will sputter and pop when the water clinging to the florets hits the pan.  This is fine.  Continue to cook over moderate heat while the pasta cooks, stirring occasionally and letting it sizzle gently and even brown in spots, until cooked to the doneness you desire.  I like it to be tender, but not mushy.  It should still have some texture.  Set aside until the pasta is done.

As soon as you remove the broccolini from the pot, drop the pasta.  Stir to make sure the pasta isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the pasta is al dente.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Return the pan of broccolini to moderate heat and add the pasta.  Scatter the pine nuts and zest over all.  Toss, taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  If the pasta seems dry, add some of the pasta water.  Add most of the Pecorino and toss again.  Add more pasta water if necessary.  Finish with a drizzle of oil.  Toss again. 

To serve, divide the pasta among to plates and dollop small spoonfuls of ricotta over each serving.  Drizzle with olive oil, scatter the remaining Pecorino over and serve. 

Alternatively, dollop spoonfuls of the ricotta over the broccolini and pasta while still in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter the Pecorino over the top.  Serve from the pan.  (Do not stir the ricotta in.)  Serves 2.

Note:  The recipe is easily multiplied to serve four or more.  Choose a sauté pan that is wide enough to hold all the broccolini in a snug single layer.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sweet Corn Coleslaw

I have been enjoying an unusual number of raw (or mostly raw) vegetable salads over the past month. It started with the shaved vegetable salad I posted in early June...and has continued as the local cabbage crop has hit its stride. I can't help but think that this is due in part to the large variety and quality of vegetables that I have been finding at the Brookside Farmers' Market this year. Every week I come home laden with fantastically beautiful produce...produce that is often so fresh and bursting with life that I just want to eat it raw. Lunch time has become an adventure in raw vegetable salads....salads that often don't even include lettuce.

The vegetable salad I'm sharing today is technically a coleslaw (which I learned recently is from the Dutch—koolsla—and simply means "cabbage salad"...).  I have to admit that I have never liked coleslaw very much.  But as has almost always been the case with me, I have found that this was probably due to the fact that I had a bad taste in my mouth from inferior versions—in this case courtesy of fast food and BBQ joints.  Cabbage salad...made with fresh cabbage combined with interesting ingredients and a tangy dressing (creamy...or not) delicious, addictive and oh so versatile.  It can be a side, a garnish...or the main vegetable component of an entrée. 

A couple of weeks ago the first of the sweet corn crop started to trickle into Kansas City's City Market. I make a special trip to my old market just to get corn.... I love sweet corn. And I love it roasted and tossed in a salad. So, inspired by a grilled corn slaw from Yotam Ottolenghi, I decided to add some to a batch of coleslaw. Combined with finely sliced fresh cabbage, grated carrots, julienned kohlrabi (also inspired by Ottolenghi), a tiny hint of shaved red onion...and doused with a generous quantity of a freshly made tangy & herby ranch made a fantastic and slightly sweet coleslaw (without having to add any sugar). We enjoyed it with a pork chop....and also with a pan-seared chicken cutlet. I know it would be equally good with a grilled burger...or some classic Kansas City style barbeque.

It was my intention to have this recipe posted in time for Independence Day. And I suppose it is technically in time... But I imagine most people already have their menus set for their celebrations. But if you do not...and you have access to delicious local cabbage and corn (and kohlrabi and carrots!) most certainly have time to add this to your menu—it comes together in a snap. If, on the other hand your plans are set, you should definitely make plans to make this slaw sometime soon. Corn...and cabbage...season has just begun. And even if you think you don't like should give this salad a might just change your mind.

Market Coleslaw with Sweet Corn, Kohlrabi & Carrots

1/4 of a 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lb. head of green/white cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 4 to 5 oz. trimmed weight)
1 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into a scant 1/8-inch julienne (about 3 to 4 oz. trimmed weight)
1/3 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely grated (about 4 oz. net)
1/2 oz./1/4 c. very thinly sliced red onion (use a mandolin)—rinsed under cold running water (in a sieve) and well drained
1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/2 t. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 large ears sweet corn, roasted and cooled
1 recipe Ranch Dressing, made with 2 T. lime juice, 2 T, minced parsley, 1 T. chopped dill and 1 T. minced mint (see note)
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl and add a half tablespoon of lemon juice and a half teaspoon of kosher salt.  Toss to distribute the salt and lemon.  Set aside for an hour (refrigerating if the room is warm).

Cut the kernels away from the corn cobs. Run the back of your knife down the length of each cob, going all the way around, releasing the "milk" and residual bits of corn. Add these scrapings to the kernels. You should have about 2 cups of cut corn.

Add the corn to the bowl of shredded vegetables and toss to combine.

Drizzle in about 2/3 to 3/4 of the dressing and toss to coat. Add as much of the remaining dressing as is necessary to coat everything and make a moderately creamy slaw. Taste and correct the seasoning with kosher salt, black pepper and lemon juice. If you like a very sweet slaw, you might need to add a drizzle of honey...but I find that the corn and carrots add plenty of sweetness without additional sugar.

If not serving immediately, chill. This slaw keeps well for 3 or 4 days. Serves 6 generously as a side.

Note: You may of course vary the herbs as you prefer. More dill will give a tangier impression...more mint a sweeter flavor profile.

Printable Recipe (for salad)
Printable Recipe (for dressing)