Saturday, May 31, 2008

Raw Kale Salad with Tamari-Roasted Almonds

We're on a mission this week: to consume one bunch of kale every day. Half of today's bunch went into this invigorating salad, in which raw kale mellows and marinates in an aggressive dressing and comes to the table sprinkled with addictive, salty tamari-roasted almonds. If you don't have tamari-roasted almonds in your bulk section, make your own!

Make sure the kale is sliced as thinly as possible, and try to use the freshest kale you can find.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons mirin
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
12 leaves lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into very thin ribbons
1/4 cup tamari-roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Whisk together olive oil, mirin, tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, maple syrup and ginger and pour over kale in a large salad bowl. Marinate for at least an hour. When you're ready to serve, sprinkle with the tamari-roasted almonds.

Tamari-Roasted Almonds

Roast raw almonds in a hot dry skillet, stirring frequently, until they start to brown. Pour in a few tablespoons of tamari and stir until the tamari is stuck to the almonds. These will stay raw inside (which the store-bought ones don't), which makes them even tastier and more complex!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Swiss Chard Fritters with Creamy Mint Dipping Sauce

These fritters, called krefsiyeh, are from Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews by Poopa Dweck. This encyclopedic guide is full of childhood favorites (including a mouthwatering full-page photo of mjeddra), but also includes a lot of interesting dishes that are totally new to me, such as this recipe. (Also, the one for calf brains, which is interesting on a completely different, thanks-for-not-making-that-Grandma level). The classic Syrian flavorings of allspice, cinnamon and fried onions are delicious with the sweet chard, and we didn't modify the seasonings for these fritters at all. We did dairy it up with a sour cream-based dipping sauce that's totally optional for the lactose-intolerant reader, but a smashing addition if you want to throw these on your Shavuot menu.

Recipe notes: we used peanut oil (best for high-heat frying), and you'll want to drain the chard really well so your batter doesn't end up watery--try pushing down on the chard in a mesh strainer over the sink.

Original Recipe from Aromas of Aleppo:

2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed
4 eggs, beaten
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup vegetable oil

In a medium stockpot, bring 1 inch of water to boil. Add the Swiss chard, cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the Swiss chard thoroughly and chop it.

Combine the eggs, onion, allspice, cinnamon and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well and stir in the Swiss chard.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil sizzles upon contact with a droplet of water, drop 1 tablespoon of the egg batter into the pan. Flatten the mound of batter slightly with the back of a spoon. Continue adding as many mounds of the batter mixture as the skillet will allow. Fry for 3 minutes, or until golden, turning once. Drain the fritters on paper towels. Repeat this process with the remaining batter, and if necessary, add more oil.

Optional Dipping Sauce from Aromas of Kale-eppo

1 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Stir together and dollop on fritters!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Licorice-Scented Loquat Salad

Events contributing to the birth of this salad include:

(1) It's been way too hot out to make anything other than salad.
(2) There was some fennel in the fridge and Mark Bittman's fennel with olive oil dipping sauce looked like the way to handle it, but we're out of garlic .
(3) The loquat tree outside our kitchen window is finally bearing gorgeous, ripe fruit.

So, the loquats ended up in a salad with two licorice accents: fennel and tarragon. If you live in a loquat-less climate, don't cry. You can substitute apricots or even just leave them out.

2 cups pitted, chopped loquats or apricots
1 bulb fennel, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped mint
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

Mix. Eat.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gorgonzola and Black Bean Polenta Squares

When we were in college, our dining hall used to make a meal that consisted of a vat of soft polenta, a vat of black bean puree and a vat of gorgonzola sauce. The flavors were good, but the mushy texture was unappealing. Since we're not going to five-year reunion at the end of this month (dude, we're old), we decided to bring a little bit of college dining to our California kitchen. In this version, whole black beans are mixed into the polenta, which is chilled to achieve a nice firm texture, topped with gorgonzola and broiled until bubbly.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarse-ground polenta
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium-sized cast-iron skillet on high heat. Add onions and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown, then add black beans and stir for another five minutes, so the black beans pick up the sweet onion flavor.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the vegetable stock and salt to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking as you go. Turn the heat down to low, fold in the black bean mixture and remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, and stir frequently for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes, then spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Top with crumbled gorgonzola and refrigerate for an hour to firm up.

When polenta is firm, cut into squares and place on a greased cookie sheet. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, until cheese is starting to brown.