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Thursday, June 27, 2013

On Trend

I don't get this whole fascination with kale.  I mean, it's good, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it.

That's too bad, because my CSA basket runneth over with kale.  In fact, I have had to incorporate kale into practically everything we eat just to use up my weekly allotment.  Kale is obviously good for you, being dark green and all.  It's also very trendy, so I guess there are worse problems to have than having to figure out new ways to prepare it.

This is actually a really nice salad recipe, and the fact that the greens are kale is just an added bonus.  It has lots of other ingredients I like: pecans, dried cherries, and goat cheese.  The dressing is simple, and you can tenderize the kale by allowing it to marinate in the dressing for a little while before you serve the salad.

I might also just note that Gwyneth Paltrow loves kale, and we all know that if Gwynnie loves something it must be on trend.

Recipe:  Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans
(The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)


For the Salad:
1/2 cup pecans
8 ounces Black Kale, also known as Cavolo Nero, or Lacinato, Dinosaur, or Tuscan Kale
4 ounces radishes, sliced into paper-thin rounds
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

For the Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Optional step: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spread the pecans on a tray. Toast them for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they toast evenly. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

Wash your kale and let it dry on spread-out kitchen or paper towels. Then, with a knife, remove the rib from each stalk, leaving long strips of kale leaves. Stack the leaves in small batches, roll them tightly the long way, and cut the roll crosswise into thin ribbons. Add the kale ribbons to a large salad bowl.

Add the radishes, pecans and cherries. Crumble the goat cheese over top.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small dish, and pour the dressing over the salad.

NOTE: This salad is great to eat right away, but even better after 20 minutes of tenderizing in the dressing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Tisket, A Tasket... It's the CSA Basket

For the past couple of summers, I've thought about joining a CSA.  But that's just the problem.  Thought never turned into doing, so I sat on the sidelines while everyone was cooking up vats of ratatouille from their CSA baskets.

This summer, in a truly remarkable move, I actually stopped thinking about joining a CSA, and actually joined not one, but two.

I didn't set out to join two CSA's.  I signed up for one and ended up on the waiting list.  Fearing that I wouldn't actually end up getting off the alternate list, I signed up for a second one.  Then, after I had already gotten my first basket from the replacement CSA, I got an email from the first guys.

If one CSA is good, doesn't it follow that two CSA's are even better?

No.  Not so much.

I am being overtaken by kale and zucchini.   I have more salad greens than I will ever make salads.  This is complete vegetable overload.

One the flip side, vegetables are good for you, and we should probably eat more of them.  Maybe we could do a Meatless Monday.  Maybe we could eat salad for breakfast.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I'm trying to embrace abundance.  I am learning to love kale and dandelion greens.  There are lots of things you can do with zucchini, and I'm working it.  I'm cooking outside my cooking comfort zone.  This could actually be a good thing.

I am, however, living in fear of tomato season.  I suspect that there may well be quite a lot of ratatouille in my future.

CSA Overload Beans and Greens


1 large bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
1 pound chicken andouille sausage, cut on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large saute pan, with a tight fitting lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add sausage and saute until it's warmed through.  Add onions, garlic, and shallot, and saute until soft.  Add the kale and tomatoes to the pan, and saute lightly.

Increase the heat to high and add the chicken stock.  Deglaze the pan.  Immediately reduce heat to medium and cover pan with the lid.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and the tomatoes have softened.  Add the cannellini beans and saute another minute until the beans are heated through.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Pour into a large serving bowl and serve hot.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Endings and New Beginnings

This has been quite a month.  Kate graduated from high school last week, and Charlie graduated from college over the weekend.  I'm all cried out.

Watching my son walk across the stage to receive his college diploma was one of the most wonderful and moving experiences of my life.  Yes, of my entire life.  Watching the child I potty trained, taught to ride a bike, and (not always) gently guided to this day of commencement, was absolutely overwhelming.  All I could think of was that back in elementary school, he could hardly stay in his seat long enough to finish an assignment. Now here he was, having successfully completed all of his schoolwork.  Time passes so quickly.

Being a parent doesn't come with an instruction manual, and being a good parent isn't always easy.  In fact, I don't think it's ever easy.  I think the hardest part of being a parent is that you actually have to be a parent.  You have to say no (often), and you have to live with knowledge that your kid might not always like you very much. Sometimes being a parent feels like the loneliest profession in the world.  It would be so much easier to be a friend and not a parent. But then you have a day like we had on Saturday, and you see, right in front of you, why you did it, and why it was worth all the sacrifice and sleepless nights.  You see why often it was the right thing to be the meanest mother in the entire world.

I'm not going to pretend that Charlie is fully cooked, even though he's about to embark on the adult portion of his life.  He still has a lot to learn, and hopefully he will be open to at least listening to what we have to say as he navigates these next few years.

As sad as it was for Charlie to say goodbye to Carleton College, his future is so bright.  He is blessed with a good head on his shoulders, and an inquisitive and thoughtful brain in his head.  He is ready to face the challenges of the real world and  I am excited to watch him develop.

Congratulations, Charlie.  Dad and I couldn't be more proud of you.

Okay, you're right.  This is a cooking blog.  We'll be back to the recipes next time.  Thanks for humoring me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Celebrations Abound

This is a big month for our family.  In fact, this is a big summer.  I guess if I'm having a big summer, then maybe it is, indeed, a big year.  I'm an optimist, so I'm going to declare this, 2013, a big year for our family.

Let me explain.  Kate graduated from high school the other night, Charlie graduates from college next weekend, and Ted and I will celebrating (celebrating?) our 25th anniversary in August.  Charlie will be entering the real world and will (finally) be off the family dole.  Kate will be off to college.  Yup.  I think it's a big year.

So, having established that we're on a roll in my house, I thought I might just tell you a little about the first of our many big events: Kate's graduation from high school.

Let me start by saying that it takes a lot to impress me.  Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I am a tough customer.  Well, Kate's graduation was indeed impressive.  In fact, her graduation was an advertisement for why anyone who has daughters should think seriously about sending them to an all girls school.

Kate's graduation was remarkable in that I have never seen a more self confident, engaged, and indeed, happy group of girls.  This was a group who owned their accomplishments, knew who they were, and made no apologies for their intelligence (or the silly hats for that matter).

Ellis girls graduate wearing hats, which Kate has described as "round visors" or "topless hats".  Ellis girls have been wearing this style of hat since the school's founding almost 100 years ago.  Wearing the Ellis hats, they enter carrying bouquets (a gift from Mom and Dad), all dressed in white dresses.  I thought it would be hokey, but you know what?  It wasn't.  It was lovely.  It harkened back to a time of elegance.  And we don't have enough of that these days.

We had three speakers: the student council president, who spoke about peer pressure (and surprisingly why it's a good thing), the class president, who spoke about what Ellis has meant to her, and an outside speaker named Sonali Samarasinghe.  Ms. Samarasinghe, a native of Sri Lanka, is a civil rights journalist who is living in exile in the United States.  She spoke movingly about her own experiences and the need to give a voice to those who don't have one.

The whole graduation was one of the most empowering (and I hate that word) experiences I have ever had.  I can only imagine what it meant to my daughter and the rest of the Ellis girls.

These milestones -- graduations, anniversaries, and the like, are so important.  They are the events by which we can measure our accomplishments both as parents and as people.   I for one, am feeling pretty good these days.  There's a lot to celebrate.  We all have things to celebrate.  We should revel in it.