They’re like doughnuts for rich people

It is getting to be that time of year where we think a lot about food. But let’s be honest, I always think a lot about food. Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us. Please forgive me if I seem a little shallow here, but I have consumed a total of about 372 calories today and so I am thinking about what I am grateful for in terms of things that I like to eat. I am grateful for my sister who introduced me to kale about one year ago. Since she first uttered the words, “kale and pasta,” I have eaten that for dinner approximately 42,000 times. Here is a summary of what she told me that she likes to do:

Throw a couple of glugs of olive oil in a saute pan with some garlic and red pepper flakes. After washing and drying some kale, rip it into bite-size pieces and throw that in the pan, too. Saute it for several minutes (I like mine to get a little crispy) and add some diced canned tomatoes, if you like. Tonight I might add some freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end, instead of the tomatoes. Stir in some whole wheat pasta (I like to use penne) cooked al dente and- if you’ve got it- shred some good parmesan on top. Voila. Yum.

Cooking up some kale last Friday for the 42,001st time

Tonight I am also grateful for my boyfriend who says things like, “They’re like doughnuts for rich people,” when asked to clarify “scones” to a friend of mine on the phone this past weekend (I was in the midst of kneading the dough for the first batch of scones that I ever attempted to make- more on that later). And I am also grateful that Dan- who apparently believes that I am secretly rich- makes pizza once a week on an undisclosed night (sorry dear neighbor, you told me not to tell you which night).

The whole wheat scones, or doughnuts for rich people, that I made this past weekend (I can make things without cheese-what you see on top is butter)

Finally, tonight I am grateful to my parents for many, many reasons, but one of those reasons is the Le Crueset cookware they gave me last year for my birthday. This pot has changed the way that I cook. Everything tastes better when it is cooked in my lovely green enameled dutch oven, including the gratin that I made last night. Before my sister gave me a huge vegetarian cookbook last Christmas, I don’t think I had ever paid attention to gratins, but then I started hearing about gratins everywhere. So, with my new trusty Le Crueset and after much heckling from Dan that I would never actually make a gratin, I have now made this recipe twice. Here is a warning about the following recipe: It is delicious, but it is rich. I recommend saving this one for a day when you have shoveled at least four feet of snow or skiied the Birkebeiner. You have been warned.

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This recipe comes from the cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini.

Root Vegetable Gratin with Cheddar and Horseradish Rye Crumb Crust

1 pound rutabaga, peeled* and cut into chunks

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider or wine

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour**

2 cups whole milk, heated

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons horseradish

4 ounces grated aged cheddar cheese

1/2 cup rye bread crumbs

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread vegetables in large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and cider or wine, scatter on the garlic, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue to roast until vegetables are brown-tipped and tender, 20-35 minutes longer. Meanwhile, make a white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan; stir in flour and cook over low heat several minutes. Whisk in milk, bring to simmer, and cook gently 10 minutes, stirring often. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in nutmeg. Gently fold the sauce into the roasted vegetables. Transfer to a buttered baking dish (or leave in the same dish the vegetables were roasted in). Mix horseradish, cheddar, and bread crumbs with your fingers and scatter the mixture evenly over the vegetables. Continue to bake until bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.***

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*The recipe says to peel the vegetables but I just washed them well (I’m afraid of peeling off all of the good stuff!)

**I used whole wheat flour

***The recipe claims to feed six people, I am telling you that it fed two, but one of us ate A LOT

I served this gratin last night with a mixed green and spinach salad with some sliced onions and yellow peppers. I dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice in an attempt to cut the richness of the dish. This sort of worked.    

 

Delicious root vegetables

 

Bubbly gratin

Tomorrow I am off to lovely Manitowoc County where I will have the opportunity to visit some of the finest establishments that area has to offer. Stay tuned. Until then, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.

The beach in Two Rivers, November 2009

Back that kale up

Howdy. Let’s take a trip back to last Thursday. This idea of starting a blog (from here on out I will be calling it a log, until I come up with something better, because blog sounds so unappealing) has been brewing for awhile but for some reason last Thursday I became highly energized about it. I sat down at my computer and started to write. This is what I wrote: “Sometimes you can find inspiration in the oddest of places. Like bathroom stalls.” I went on to explain that during a break from a three-hour literacy methods course in the Educational Sciences building on the UW campus I would go into the same bathroom and ponder an expression of graffiti that declared something about following your bliss and that the answer was to “ride an f-ing bike.” For some reason I really liked that.

After I went for a nice run outside in the unseasonably warm November evening, I elicited Dan on a mission to Willy Street Co-op for ingredients for a winter kale pasta recipe that I found on 101 cookbooks. I also had a secret mission in mind.

I used kale from the farmer's market, but this is a photo of the lovely kale and swiss chard at the Willy St Co-op

Did you know that the largest consumer of kale in this country is Pizza Hut, but that it isn’t for eating- it is used to decorate the salad bar?!?!? I learned that in my brilliant cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini from the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. C’mon people, it is time to get this superfood off of the ice surrounding the 3-day-old salad mix with all of the life sucked out of it and into our mouths!

Olive bar, I love you
Yummmmm... cheese

After the grocery store we stopped off at Star Liquor for a bottle of wine- I was excited to see that one of my favorite beers is back in season: Sierra Neveda’s Celebration Ale. Thank you Chico, CA for this beer and for Aaron Rodgers!

Celebration Ale has arrived

On the way home we took a detour for my secret mission which was unsuccessful. I wanted to see if the bike graffiti was still on the bathroom wall so that I could take a picture of it but it had been sandblasted or painted over. Ah well, Dan says art is meant to be destroyed.

On to the kale pasta. I followed the recipe but adapted it slightly. Instead of goat cheese I used feta in the sauce and then we shredded Edelweiss Grass-Fed Emmenthaler (I had never heard of this but it was the right price and it looked like a parmesan) for the garnish. We also added some delicious black olives (I’m blanking on what they are actually called but Dan decided they taste like whiskey so they are now “whiskey olives”). Ooh! And add some red pepper flakes. I served it with a baguette from Madison Sourdough Co and some roasted cauliflower.

I was moving fast and panicking a little because the recipe said the kale should only be in the boiling water for 10 seconds!

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This is a recipe from Heidi Swanson and her website, 101 cookbooks.

Winter Pasta

I used penne here, but you can substitute whatever pasta you like. Spinach can be substituted for the kale if you like as well.

4 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 small shallots, peeled
1 small bunch of kale – 1/2 lb / 8 oz, stalks removed, washed well
1/3 cup / 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup / 2 oz goat cheese, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons + hot pasta water
fine grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice – optional
12 oz / 340 g dried penne pasta
fresh thyme – and thyme flowers

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the garlic and shallots. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stir in the kale and cook for another ten seconds. Don’t overcook. Working quickly, use a slotted spoon or strainer to fish the greens, garlic, and shallots from the water. Use a food processor to puree the ingredients along with the olive oil and goat cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water if needed to thin things out if needed. Then season with a touch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Taste. Depending on your goat cheese, you might need a little extra acidic oomph if your sauce is a bit flat. If so, add fresh lemon juice a bit at a time until you’re happy with it the sauce. Set aside.

Reheat the pot of water and boil the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the green sauce. Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme, and more crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 4-6.

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Yum. Thanks for going back in time with me to remember this meal and the beginning of this log.