Friday, April 24, 2009

South Indian Asparagus

It's springtime again, and that means another season of asparagus dishes! This year, it's found a home in our South Indian repertoire, brought to life by the usual suspects of mustard seeds, shallots, turmeric and chiles. Once again, if you can't find curry leaves or urad dal, just leave them out.

1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 teaspo0n mustard seeds
2 shallots, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon urad dal
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 dried red chile, broken into three pieces
1 sprig curry leaves
1 bunch asparagus (about 30 stalks), cut into 1.5 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a wok over medium high-heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds and the urad dal. Stand back and allow them to fruy until the dal takes on a toasted color, about two minutes. Add the shallots and stir for another minute or two, only until the shallots are no longer raw. Stir in the turmeric, chile and curry leaves. As soon as the curry leaves begin to crackle, toss in the asparagus, salt and a tablespoon of water. Stir continuously, still over medium-high heat, adding a few more sprinkles of water if the asparagus gets dry. Once the asparagus is tender-crisp (5-10 minutes), remove from heat and serve immediately.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yogurt Cheese with Za'atar

Lebneh is one of our favorite party treats: rich balls of oil-drizzled whole-milk yogurt, perfect for spreading on bread and crackers. Add some olives and a bowl of dates and you have yourself the beginnings of an awesome spread.

is a Middle Eastern spice blend that usually includes sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Once you have some, you'll start sprinkling it on everything--especially your morning toast and scrambled eggs! If you don't have a Middle Eastern grocery store or a Middle Eastern grandma at your disposal, you can make your own or buy it online. Or just skip it!

If you're short on time, this is just as delicious served in a bowl--no need to roll the strained yogurt into individual-sized portions. The quality of the finished product depends a lot on the kind of yogurt you start with--you want a nice creamy one, not too watery. We always make ours with whole-milk yogurt; you're welcome to try it with low-fat, but nonfat might not be creamy enough.

1 quart plain whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Za'atar for sprinkling (optional)
Olive oil for rolling & drizzling

Line a large bowl with a thick layer of cheesecloth. Pour in the yogurt, tie a knot in the cheesecloth and hang it over the bowl, as shown (refrigeration optional). Let it sit for 6-8 hours, until yogurt is very thick. The whey will drip into the bowl--don't throw it out! Add a little salt or sugar to the whey for a refreshing drink.

Transfer yogurt to a bowl and mix in salt. Rub some olive oil on your hands and roll the yogurt into golf-sized balls. Drizzle finished platter of yogurt balls with olive oil and sprinkle generously with za'atar.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another Kale Recipe Roundup & Dehydrated Kale

We know, we know, there's no such thing as too many kale recipes. We hear you, we respect your insatiable need for kale, and we offer the following solutions.

1. Check out our Kale and Friends Tag for easy access to all our kale recipes.

2. Try a kale recipe from our favorite blogs:

101 Cookbooks:
Too many to list, but Heidi has her own Kale tag!

Eggs on Sunday:
Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad
Breakfast Strata with Greens, Gruyere and Sausage
Greens & Beans Over Polenta

Boiled Kale with a Fried Egg and Toast

Wheat Free Meat Free:
Coconut Curry Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Desert Candy:
Tuscan Kale and Black Lentil Soup with Crispy Pita Chips
Kale and Gruyere Panade

Tuscan Kale & Bean Soup
Kale Salami Sandwich with Celeriac Chips

Parsnips Aplenty:
Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic

Raspberry Eggplant:
Israeli Couscous with Kale, Butternut Squash and White Beans
White Bean, Kale and Butternut Squash Pizza

Raw Epicurean:
Winter Nori Roll with Ginger Garlic Dipping Sauce

3. Dehydrate your own kale!
We've gotten several comments from readers who like to make kale chips in the oven. We wholeheartedly endorse their recipes and would like to offer up a dehydrated variation of our own. In this recipe, we've stuck to the 112 degree limit set by raw foodists, so your kale will theoretically retain more of its natural enzymes and vitamins. More nutrition and also, it's tasty.

You can dehydrate kale without dressing of any kind. (We sometimes do this and then run it through the spice grinder to make kale powder.) You could also dehydrate it with your favorite salad dressing, lemon juice or a custom spice mix. Just keep in mind that the kale will reduce in size, but the spices will not. (We ended up with a few batches of burning hot cayenne-flavored chips before we learned our lesson!)

1 bunch kale (for us, that meant 20 leaves of lacinato from Riverdog)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespooon water
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne

Remove the kale stems and roughly chop the leaves. Whisk together all the ingredients except for the kale and then pour the dressing over the kale, massaging well for full coverage. Lay the kale on trays and dehydrate at 11o degrees until crispy and fully dry, about 7 hours.

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can make still make kale chips! Set the oven to 400 degrees and keep a close eye on the kale -- it will be done in about 10 minutes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Date and Ginger Charoset

Another Passover, another bowl of apple-based charoset? Not around here! Syrian charoset is a sweet, gorgeous paste of dates and wine, and we've spiced up Hannah's grandma's recipe with a little ginger juice. If you have some left after your Seder (not likely!), it's fantastic for breakfast, either slathered on matzah with whipped cream cheese or stirred into a bowl of yogurt.

Hope you all have an awesome holiday, and just a reminder: kale is kosher for Passover!

1 lb dates, pitted
1-inch hunk of ginger
2 and 1/2 tablespoons of sweet red wine (Manischewitz Concord Grape being the gold standard)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)

Place the dates in a saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until dates are soft, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the ginger and squeeze over a bowl to extract the juice; discard the pulp. Drain the dates, transfer to a food processor, and add the ginger juice, wine and cinnamon and process until very smooth. (If you're finicky and/or retired, you can also push it through a strainer to remove any fibrous bits of date skin). Top with chopped walnuts and serve.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Kale Thoren

As promised, here is our first kale-bastardized recipe from Kerala! Thoren is a dry curry with coconut and whatever vegetable strikes your fancy. While we were in India, we ate versions that used beets, okra and ivy gourd, and it turns out that thoren is also delicious made with kale--of course!

We learned to make this in Kerala with fresh grated coconut, and since returning home we've been able to find frozen grated coconut at Vik's. If you can't get fresh coconut and need to substitute dried shredded coconut, we'd recommend using less (maybe 1/4 cup) and adding it last, to prevent burning.

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon urad dal
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 sprigs curry leaves
1 dried red chile, broken into thirds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
12 leaves dinosaur kale, stemmed and chopped

Heat the oil in a wok. When it's hot, but not smoking, add the mustard seeds and urad dal. When the seeds have popped and the dal is golden-brown, add the shallots and fry, stirring continuously. Once the shallots are soft and translucent, add the curry leaves, dried chile and turmeric. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the coconut and stir for two minutes. Add the kale and keep stirring! Once the kale is nicely wilted, remove from the heat and serve immediately.