Sauteed Black Kale with Ricotta, Crispy Garlic, and Chilies

Black kale, also know as dinosaur kale, is a gorgeous member of the cabbage family. Like many dark green leafy vegetables, it’s rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folate. It also contains fibre, which gives a feeling of satiety. Beyond its impressive nutrition content, I love black kale for its mild flavour and tender texture. As a bonus, it can be grown locally in BC and it’s easily found in farmers’ markets in the Lower Mainland area during the summer and fall months.

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The recipe is from Mario Batali, one of my favourite celebrity chefs. Its simplicity showcases the natural flavours of the ingredients, and it’s super easy to make for a quick weeknight supper.

I carefully fried thinly sliced garlic and hot chilies to a crisp. This process infuses their flavour into the oil (which permeates the rest of the dish), and provides a texture contrast with the soft kale and ricotta cheese.
Black Kale with Ricotta

Sauteed Black Kale with Ricotta, Crispy Garlic, and Chilies

Recipe from: http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/14247_Mario_Batalis_Black_Kale_with_Ricotta/

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp canola or other neutral flavoured oil (such as sunflower or grape seed)
  • 1/2 red banana pepper, sliced thinly
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 bunch black kale, stems and cores removed, chopped roughly
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method

  1. Add oil to a pan over medium heat, cook chilies until they release their flavour (1-2 minutes), use a slotted spoon to remove the chilies from the oil and reserve in a small bowl for garnish.
  2. Add sliced garlic to the pan and fry until a golden crisp, be careful not to burn the garlic. Reserve in the same bowl as the chili peppers.
  3. Add chopped kale to the pan. Saute for ~10 minutes, or until they’re starting to wilt. Add water to help the kale cook and to prevent burning. Season with salt to taste.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, olive oil, and black pepper.
  5. Dish the cooked kale on a platter. Dollop with ricotta mixture throughout, and top with fried chilies and crispy garlic.

Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce and Poached Egg

Egg Pasta with Creamy Cheese SauceThe first time I tried to make a cheese sauce from scratch, it turned out to be a clumpy mess. Based on my experiences with making Kraft Dinner, I added grated cheese to hot milk and stirred, hoping that the sauce would thicken up. Guess what happened? The cheese and the milk stayed completely separate. In fact, the grated cheese melted slightly and coagulated into little cheese clusters in the hot milk. It was a good learning experience– now I know not to add cheese to hot milk to make cheese sauce, lest I want to end up with cheese ball soup.

The proper way of making a cheese sauce (where, you know, the cheese melts into the sauce) is to first make a béchamel sauce with flour, fat, and milk, then add in grated cheese. For this recipe, I included a bit of shallot and prepared mustard to give the dish some extra bite.

Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce and Poached Egg

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • Water
  • 2 tsp light-coloured vinegar (apple cider, white, or rice would work)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp fat (butter tastes better, I used oil and it turned out fine)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp all purpose white flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated cheese of your choice, something that melts nicely is good (cheddar, mozzarella, harvarti, oka, oxana, or a blend!)
  • 1.5 tsp prepared mustard
  • white pepper to taste
  • Salt
  • ~200 g egg noodles
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

Method

  1. Fill a small sauce pan with 2 inches of water, heat until you see small bubbles rising occasionally to the top. Add vinegar to the water.
  2. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl (or a ladle), bring it very close to the water’s surface, and slide it into the water. Repeat with other 2 eggs.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for ~2 minutes, or until egg whites are coagulated but yolk is still runny. Submerge the poached eggs in a bowl of room-temperature water while you prepare the sauce and pasta.
  4. Microwave the milk until warm.
  5. In a large pot, sauté the shallot in fat over medium heat until translucent. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. The mixture, called a roux, should look like wet sand. If it doesn’t, adjust the amount of oil/flour.
  6. Add the warmed milk slowly, whisk to break up lumps of roux. You may not need all the milk, or may need more, adjust accordingly.
  7. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes, scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.
  8. Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta.
  9. Add cheese, cook and stir the sauce to melt cheese. Once the cheese is melted, cook noodles in the pot of boiling water until soft but not mushy, drain and add to the cheese sauce.
  10. Mix thoroughly, portion into 3 bowls, top with poached egg and basil leaves.

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Butternut Squash Tart

The recipe came from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte, and it is absolutely delicious.

It’s essentially a vegetable quiche pumped full of butternut squash, greens, and cheese. It took my friend and I around two hours to make the recipe from start to finish, so be prepared for the amount of labour and time required. In the end, both of us agreed that the work was well worth it. The sweet squash, savory cheese, and tangy onion (flavoured with vinegar) is a winning combination. The tart looks impressive, tastes delightful, and can be made using readily available local BC ingredients (squash, kale, onion, eggs,…).

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Here’s the original recipe. I made a few minor adjustments with the ingredients I had on hand, but I would suggest sticking with the original. The changes I made were:

  • 4 medium eggs instead of 3 large ones
  • ~4 cups chopped kale instead of Swiss chard
  • cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes (I think I used less too)
  • red onion instead of yellow
  • apple cider instead of balsamic vinegar (I used less than 2 tbsp, but would use the full amount in the future)
  • Havarti cheese instead of Gruyere
  • ~ 1 tsp dried thyme in the crust instead of fresh
  •  used salted butter and omitted the salt in the crust (bad baking technique, I know, but salted butter is so much cheaper!)
  • pressed the dough into the pan instead of rolling it out (looks messier, but easier)
  • whole wheat flour instead of white flour

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Bon appetite!

Hand-Dipped Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Chocolate and coffee is a classic combination, and the flavours of both are outstanding in this cookie. I think this would make a great pairing with any coffee-based beverage, or even a glass of milk.

Chocolate espresso cookie

To prevent a dry and bitter tasting cookie, check on them around 7 minutes, or even earlier if you’ve rolled them out thinner. I decided to dip the cookies in some melted chocolate flavoured with more espresso powder to garnish. An espresso icing, like the one from the source of this recipe, looks great too. Or you could sandwich an espresso buttercream filling between two of these cookies for a twist on an Oreo.

Chocolate espresso cookies

To make rolling out the cookie dough easier, I place it between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. This way, I can see the dough as it’s being rolled out, and it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin or the counter.

Hand-dipped chocolate espresso cookies

Yield: ~20 cookies (~4 cm diameter)

Recipe modified from: http://easybaked.net/2013/08/22/dark-chocolate-espresso-cookies/

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1.5 cup white flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

For dipping

  • ~ 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ~ 1/3 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 tsp espresso powder

Method

  1. Cream together 1/2 cup room temperature butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg and vanilla, beat well.
  2. Sift cocoa, espresso, flour, salt, and baking powder over butter mixture, stir to combine then form into a disk-shaped dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 °F, line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  4. Roll out dough to 3-4 mm thick, cut into desired shapes using a cookie cutter. Gather and re-roll scraps, chill dough as necessary to make it easier to work with.
  5. Bake for 7-10 minutes, allow to cool completely before decorating.
  6. To dip the cookies: in a bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate chips together to melt (do this in 30 second intervals and stir every 30 seconds to prevent burning). Stir in the espresso powder. Dip 1/2 of the cookie into the chocolate, scrape the bottom of the cookie against the edge of the bowl to remove any excess, and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to allow the coating to harden.

Late Summer’s Salad

End of August, the last few days of summer cling onto shorts, ice cream cones, and the outdoor swimming pool. Amidst the goodbye to warm weather and sunny days in Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to say hello to the season’s bounty: farm-fresh vegetables and fruits from local growers.

I’ve made a few variations of this salad already, using yellow bell peppers, chickpeas, eggs, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, bulgur, dried tofu, and yellow wax beans in various combinations with one another. The dressing was kept simple: olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper. Once I used soy sauce, canola oil (sesame, chili, or Sichuan peppercorn oil would be perfect here as well), white pepper, and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-inspired taste.

A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.
A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.

The trick to making this salad quickly is to pre-cook as many of the ingredients as you can ahead of time. For example, I soaked and boiled about 1 cup of dry chickpeas, cooked 3 eggs, and reconstituted 1 cup of dried bulgur all at once when I made this salad the first time a few days ago. Today, I simply pulled the chickpeas, egg, and bulgur out of the fridge, and they were ready to use. This salad came together in no time at all.

Late Summer’s Salad 

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 roma tomato, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 mini cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup bulgur, cooked
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 3 figs, 3/8 inch cubes
  • 1 egg, boiled to your liking, cut into 8 wedges

Dressing

  • 1-1.5 tbsp acid (balsamic vinegar, or rice, red or white wine vinegar, or lemon juice)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Put all ingredients except the egg into a medium-sized bowl, mix well to combine.
  2. When ready to serve, gently lay the egg pieces on top of the salad.

 

To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).
To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).

Beet, Potato, and Radish Salad

Beet, potato, and radish salad dressed with pomegranate molasses, sesame oil, cumin, and garnished with coriander leaves.
Dressed with pomegranate molasses, sesame oil, cumin, and garnished with coriander leaves.

This dish is deeply connected with the land: 1) most of the ingredients used are grown locally on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples; 2) most of the ingredients are in season right now; 3) most of the ingredients are buried in the soil until they’re ready to be dug up, which makes this the most grounded dish I’ve made in a while.

When I bought the beets, potatoes, and radishes, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. But I couldn’t say “no” to the sweet and tender beets, the thin-skinned potatoes, and the bright red radishes with luscious tops. “I’ll figure out a delicious way to eat them somehow!” I vowed. I considered how to best show off the unique flavours and textures of each of these vegetables, and I think this was a pretty decent first attempt. The Middle-Eastern inspired dressing was the perfect complement to these humble and often overlooked vegetables. The richness of the sesame oil takes the edge off of the slight astringency of the pomegranate molasses, and we already know how well cumin and coriander go together (think: guacamole, Indian curries). In the future, I would try to boil the potatoes instead of roasting them to give them a bit of a contrast with the roasted beets.

Potato, Beet, and Radish Salad 

Serves: 3 as a side

Ingredients

  • 4 small new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 3 small- medium red beetroots, washed
  • 1 tbsp oil, and more for greasing baking pans
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided in 2
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, divided in 2
  • 1 bunch radishes, washed
  • 5 sprigs coriander, washed and minced
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F, grease two (2) 9 in. x 9 in. baking pans.
  2. Cut up the potatoes and beetroots into 1/2 in. thick wedges, toss each with 1/2 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper, lay in one layer in separate baking pans.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, turn and bake for another 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  4. Meanwhile, wash the radishes and cut them into quarters.
  5. Make the dressing by mixing the pomegranate molasses, sesame oil, and ground cumin seeds.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the roasted potatoes and beetroots with raw radishes and the dressing mixture.
  7. Garnish with minced coriander and serve.
Beet, potato, and radish salad dressed with pomegranate molasses, sesame oil, cumin, and garnished with coriander leaves.
Beet, potato, and radish salad.

Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

This recipe comes from the cookbook La Dolce Vita by David Rocco. His recipe was entitled “Day at the Beach Tomatoes”, I think he called them that because they’re simple enough to prepare at the beach! But good luck eating these babies down at the beach, a fork and a knife are strongly recommended. 

Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes
Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

This is truly a very simple recipe where the flavours of the ingredients combine perfectly. Creaminess from the mayo, freshness from parsley, and tangyness from brined capers elevate ordinary canned tuna to extraordinary deliciousness. If you are missing an ingredient (especially the capers or parsley), I would strongly recommend that you go to the grocery store and get it for this dish! 

Mix together tuna, mayonnaise, chopped parsley, capers, and black pepper
Taste and add salt only if necessary, capers are very salty
Carefully cut off a thin slice from the top and bottom of the tomato and remove the inner pulp
Carefully spoon the tuna filling into the tomato and serve
Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes 
Serves: 1 
Ingredients 
  • 80 g (~3 oz.) canned tuna (chunks or flakes)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped parsley 
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) roughly chopped capers 
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper 
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) mayonnaise 
  • Salt (optional) 
  • 1 medium sized tomato 
Method 
  1. Mix together tuna, parsley, capers, black pepper, and mayonnaise until well combined. Taste to check for seasonings. Add salt if necessary. 
  2. Cut off the top and a little bit of the bottom of the tomato, then carefully run the edge of a paring knife around the inside of the tomato and scoop out the inner pulp. 
  3. Stuff tomato with tuna and serve.