Elle’s Kale Chip Commandments

I have this friend, Elle, who is kind of my lifestyle guru.

She just knows how to DO things well.

Which is why I should have known that she would teach me how to make kale chips. Her methods are straightforward and must be followed to a “T.”

The result is nothing less than crack cocaine.

And all that you need to do is follow Elle’s commandments:

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1. Thou shalt dry thy kale

Chips abhor moisture. No matter how great your oven is or how fresh your kale is, if the stuff isn’t dry, it ain’t gonna crisp. Elle carefully dries EACH leaf with a paper towel before she declares it good enough to bake.

2. Thou shalt not overlap thy leaves

Because she says that if even a little bit of the leaf is left unexposed to heat, it will stay limp and become mushy, ruining the entire chip. She says that the kale can be touching at the edges but not overlapping. You will have to do several rounds of baking since there’s a lot of shrinkage when they heat up.

3. Thou shalt drizzle, not pour, the olive oil.

Do that little hand back-and-forth hand shaky thing to get a few drops of oil on each leaf, then let it go. You don’t want to drown these puppies in oil.

4. Thou shalt salt well

Kale loves salt and needs it. Salt those suckers, and add some cayenne pepper if you feel frisky.

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5. Thou shalt bake at 350 F until they are almost black and smell delicious

About 20-30 minutes should do it.

6. Thou shalt eat like potato chips that break easily

Because these break all over the place and unless you have a dog to eat the crumbs, you’re going to want to take care.

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7. Thou shalt not save thy leftovers

Kale chips are salty and delicious when hot and soggy and sad when not.

8. Thou shalt make extras for me

Okay, I added that last part.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Corn is good right now. No, I’m sorry. It’s actually great. This is not the time that you want to cream it or mix it with a ton of bacon. This is the time that you want it tos hine on its own. You want to enjoy the last, few, fleeting days of warmth and sunshine. You want a cool soup that isn’t overly heavy and you want the corn to be as sweet and buttery as possible without over seasoning it.

You want this soup.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Ingredients:

4 ears corn, shucked off the cob like this

1 medium russet potato, peeled and sliced thinly

1 onion, diced

1 bunch of celery hearts, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large bunch basil, washed and chopped

Tabasco to taste

1 glug balsamic vinegar (maybe 2 tsp.)

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

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1. Saute the mirepoix (onions, celery, and onions) in the olive oil until the veggies are translucent. This should take about 7 minutes.

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2. Add the corn and all of the corn milk that is with it. Now it looks a horrible frozen mixed veg medley. But, I promise…it’s going to be better than good.

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4. When the corn starts to release its buttery, fragrant scent, add the potato and the stock. Then, cover and let it cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

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5. Taste and add Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bite of the Tabasco has worn off.

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6. Add the basil and vinegar and puree with a stick blender or blender.

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7. Chill overnight (VERY IMPORTANT to let flavors decelop), then taste for seasonings and serve.

I can’t believe summer is over. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to healthy, refreshing meals like this. Not ready to say farewell to sweet summer produce. This is a sweet, a little spicy, and incredibly satisfying with a dollop of goat cheese on top or a grilled cheese sandwich alongside. The basil is a really unexpected fresh, sharp addition that doesn’t overtake the sweet corn. Next soup on the blog will probably be pumpkin something, so make this while you can.

I know I will…as I sob into my sun lamp. Aah, winter, you are coming all too soon.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

I haven’t been eating anything new this week. I cooked a little something new, but y’all have to wait to see that – don’t worry, it’s coming!

In the meanwhile, I thought that I should dust off one of my favorite end of summer recipes.  Enjoy the old fashioned (lack of) formatting and the always scrumptious taste.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

No matter the time of year, it’s always best to cook in season. The food tastes fresher, the cost is often less and it leaves less of a carbon footprint.
And it’s important to care about things like that, because…well I don’t really know WHY but I know that it IS.
And nothing is more seasonal that a Corn and Tomato Bread Salad.
Ingredients:
8 ears corn
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 onion
2 loaves bread, stale if possible
1.5 cups olive oil, plus more for croutons
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp.  mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. First, the corn: Grasp the top of the green husks
 and just strip them away from the cob.
 Be careful to strip all the corn silk away from the cob, too. A few errant strands won’t kill you, but more than that and you might feel like you are eating handful of hair.
2.  Once the cobs are all husked, toss them into a huge pot of boiling water
and boil to taste, JUST until it is tender. You do NOT want to overcook  this corn.
Also, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
 3. Take your tomatoes and cut them in halves, quarters, pieces…any bite-sized pieces will do.
4. Now dice the onion very finely. You want to use a whole sweet Vidalia onion or half of a red onion. The point here is to accent the flavors of the corn and tomatoes, not to add an incredibly biting or abrasive component.
5. Cut the bread into bite size pieces and drizzle additional olive oil over the whole thing before you pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
You want to really pour the olive oil on thickly here, because you want a crispy, slightly greasy crouton.
Greasy in that good way…is there any other way?
6. Now make the dressing with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Taste and adjust or add seasoning as you prefer. 
7. Now combine the tomatoes, onions and dressing in a large bowl and toss.
 8. Now, you are going to stand a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and balance the corn cob on top of the bottom of the small bowl. Scrape a knife down the cob, and all the kernels will fly off into the surrounding bowl. This is absolutely the ONLY way to scrape the kernels off the cob without them flying all over the kitchen.
I speak from experience.
It takes awhile, but you end up with the most fabulous bowl of delicious corn.
9.  Now you add the corn (which should still be slightly warm)
 and the croutons(which should also still be slightly warm) to the salad. Toss and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
 When you are ready to serve it, taste it for salt and pepper, and take a bite of one of the most delicious salads you have ever eaten. The juice from the tomatoes release while the salad marinates and tempers the pungent salad dressing, making it sweet with it’s juices. The corn is milky and toothsome, the tomatoes are soft and sweet, and the onion gives the dish just a touch of bite. The bread is crunchy on the outside but gets wonderfully soft and soaked with that vinaigrette, delightfully creamy yet light from the mustard. This is a perfect side dish for steak or fried chicken, and the best part is…it gets even better as it sits in the fridge.
Not that we ever have any leftovers here.

Pizza Eggplant

I was inspired to make this after seeing a droolworthy recipe on Serious Eats.

Of course, when I look at a recipe, I just generally look at the title and the picture of the final product, then kind of make up all of the in between steps on my own.

This is a GREAT pasta free lasagna type recipe. It’s rich but not greasy and filling but not uber heavy. It’s a great way to use up those late season eggplants and tomatoes.

And it’s especially tasty for a vegetarian crowd.

Pizza Eggplant

2011-07-25 tomatoes aspic and pasta saladIngredients:

3 eggplants, skinned and sliced into thin slices, lengthwise

1 lb or so fresh, low moisture mozzarella

2-3 cups your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

A ton of salt…no, really, a ton of salt.

IMG_13801. Lay your eggplant on a couple layers of paper towel on a sheet pan and salt the hell out of them. No reall…mountains of salt. This isn’t to season the eggplant (thought it does), it’s to both draw out the bitterness and the moisture, so the final dish isn’t too soggy. Do it anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. When you are doing this, there may be droplet of moisture on the tops of the eggplant and the paper towel will become soaked. That’s all okay, full steam head.

IMG_13882. Then, rinse the eggplant WELL and dry it even better. You don’t want it to be a a salt lick and you DON’T want to get hit with water-meets-oil splatters in the next step.

IMG_13893. Preheat the oven to 350 F, then fry the eggplant over medium high heat in a pan with olive oil. You don’t want the eggplant to be brown, the point here is to make it lightly golden and flexible – a minute or 2 per side should do it, and you should do it in batches so they can fry in an even layer.

A word about flying eggplant: eggplant is a sponge. It soaks up moisture immediately. So, use just a little oil at a time – a  few teaspoons at first. If you need more go for it, but just use a little at a time, because you will have to re-oil for each batch.

IMG_14034. Drain the fried eggplant well on a few paper towels - it will be really greasy and you are gonna want to dry them off as well as possible. If they tear a little while you drain them, it’s okay. Now, the layering starts:

IMG_14095. Sauce…

IMG_1411eggplant…

IMG_1420cheese, and repeat until the eggplant is al used up. I threw some tomatoes in there because they were going bad - feel free to use the same. Now, bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted, the dish is bubbling, and you are drooling.

IMG_14216. Let rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute and serve.

Oh, this is gooood. This is big bowl on the couch with comfy pajamas and trash tv good. This is cold for breakfast he next day good. This…is…good. It will seem quite watery when it is first finished, but I promise that the juices get soaked right back up. Though, truth be told, I spooned up those juices and ate them as an appetizer before they even got a chance to redistribute. This is so delicious.

IMG_1423The eggplant is silky but still firm enough to stand up to the tomato sauce, the salty Parmesan, and the stretchy mozzarella. It’s pizza without the dough and lasagna without the ricotta. It’s easy to make (Even though it’s time-consuming), and any meat eater will be shocked that they can feel so satisfied with nary a pork product in sight. Make this stat and thank me tomorrow.

Or don’t. Because you will be too busy stuffing your race with leftovers.

BBQ Oven Fries

Did you know that if you keep potatoes in your fridge, they will last for, like, months?

I’m serious…I found a couple of potatoes in my fridge that I must have bought in 2012. They weren’t shriveled. There were no eyes growing – not one! There were no brown or mushy spots. It was like I had just bought them earlier that week. Wow.

So, I made a recipe that I haven’t ever made for the blog, even though it’s been in my repertoire since I was in elementary school. It was on my kitchen table growing up at least once a week. It’s the kind of homey, comforting food that is perfect for any weeknight meal. It’s not a fast recipe, but it’s almost stupidly easy.

And, oh, I make it with bbq sauce because my husband is WEIRD and doesn’t like ketchup.

BBQ Oven Fries

CollagesIngredients:

2 russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into about 8 long strips

1/2 cup of bbq sauce

2 tsp. olive oil

sprinkling of salt and pepper

IMG_14271. Preheat the oven to 425F. That hot temperature is very important, unless you want to be cooking for 8 days and nights. Drizzle  the potatoes with the olive oi, season lightly, and put them on a baking sheet. Then, pop in the oven for about 40 minutes or…

IMG_14322. Until they are golden brown on the bottom, when flipped over. They should have a nutty, savory aroma, and come on…you know what fries look like, right? Flip them and cook them for another 10 minutes or so, and then…

IMG_14363. Add the bbq sauce. Just pour it on then flip the fries over and pour a little more on those suckers. I like mine pretty saucy. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce caramelizes and gets sticky and then…

IMG_14494. Serve.

Sorry there isn’t another photo, but these were gone in seconds – they always are. And why not? They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are covered in a sticky-sweet sauce that clings to the fries and eradicates the need for any dipping sauce. And…msot of all…they are homemade. Even if you get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a salad in a bag, this is so wholesome and homey that you will feel like you made the whole damned meal from scratch.

Refrigerated potatoes FTW.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

I have been on a carrot streak lately.

Roasting them with hot chile paste. Shredding them into coleslaw mix. Dipping them into blue cheese dressing, au naturel.

And making them into this decidedly un-summery soup. It’s vegetarian and extremely easy to make – in an hour or so, you have a homemade, creamy, comforting soup with zam-pow punch that will knock you off your feet.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

2011-12-18 tsimis brisket liver hummus latkesIngredients:

1 lb. peeled and roughly chopped carrots (yes, I used the baby ones…it’s easy, so kill me.)

1 tbsp. veggie oil

1 onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch celery, chopped

2 tsp. grated ginger, fresh or frozen but not dried

2 tsp-1 tbsp. harissa paste (no tomato in the mix)

2 good glugs of ketchup

2 tbsp. ras el hanout

6 cups chicken stock

cream, salt, and pepper to taste

cilantro to garnish

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1. Get those onions, garlic, and celery, in the olive oil over medium heat. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and start to turn translucent.

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2. Add the carrots, the chicken stock, harissa paste, ras el hanout, and ketchup. Yes, ketchup. Trust me, it’s the secret star ingredient. Stir and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. Check once, halfway through, to make sure that he veggies aren’t burning to the bottom of the pan.

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3. Using an immersion blender, bend the carrots when they are mushy and falling apart. Add some cream and taste for seasonings. I always add a lot of pepper and just a touch of salt.

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4. Garnish with cilantro and serve

This soup will cure what ails you. It takes ginger carrot soup to the next level. Ras el Hanout is a North African spice mixture that includes ginger, cumin, corinader, and many other spices. It’s floral, earthy, and fragrant. It is flavorful but not at all spicy – that’s where the harissa comes in. Just use a little because it’s quite potent! And the ketchup….oh, that’s the ticket. It provides a totally unidentifiable sweet, bright backnote. It’s sweet, bright, and brings  a whole new flavor dimension to the creamy soup. Don’t skimp on the cilantro at the end – I thought it was optional, but then I added it and was like – oh. Yeah. This is very important. Mhm.

And this soup altogether is very important for making my carrot obsession seem totally legit. Mhm.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower is the greatest thing since mashed potatoes.

It’s creamy, it can be as rich or as virtuous as you desire, it’s fast to make, and it’s GENIUS if you are cutting down on carbs.

But you know what I say…lose the carbs, keep the fat.

So here it is…one of my fave mashed cauliflower dishes ever, with a little something healthy mixed in.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

2011-08-25 fritatta and cheatloafIngredients:

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces and cleaned

1.5 cups shredded horseradish cheese

1 bunch scallions, diced

1/3 cup cream cheese

3 tbsp. seasoning (throw some salt in there, too!)

IMG_09041. Toss the kale and cauliflower in a large stockpot filled with water. It’s okay if the veggies almost overflow from the pot – the kale cooks waaaayyy down. Cover the pot and cook for at least 40 minutes at a full rolling boil. I mean, you want that kale WILTED into submission. It should be almost as tender as spinach. You cannot overcook this – cook it longer than you think is necessary.
IMG_09182. When everything is totally limp (that’s what she said), turn off the heat, drain the veggies well, and return it to the pot. IMG_0920 3. Add the cheese, seasoning, scallions, and cream cheese to the pot. The cheese should instantly start to melt. IMG_0923 4. Puree with a hand blender (ie, the best thing on our registry…I LOVE this thing!).IMG_0925 5. Taste for seasonings and serve.

THIS is the way that you get someone to eat kale. This is the way that you get someone to forget that they can’t eat potatoes. This is the way to use up that cauliflower that is about to go bad. This is just awesome. The horseradish really gives a sharp, spicy hit  and the cream cheese makes the dish both buttery and creamy. The scallions make the whole thing taste like loaded mashed potatoes, and – guess what? – you don’t taste the kale. Such a great way to sneak in some roughage. It’s the ideal one-pot meal, especially with the stick blender – serve it right out of the pot, like I do. IMG_0927Then, scrape the remnants with your finger, like I do.

Tomato Sandwich Redux – No Mayo!

When I read about this tomato sandwich on some food forum or other (what, you don’t spend your days trolling sites for restaurant reviews and recipes?), I knew that I had to try it. I have had at least 4,000 tomato sandwiches in my lifetime, but never one like this.

This isn’t your traditional tomato sandwich. 

Why, you ask?

Well, for one, there is no mayonnaise. Now, I LOVE tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, but sometimes, they can be a little too much – too creamy, too goopy, too messy.

Also, there are seasonings beyond salt and pepper. A TRAVESTY in the tomato-sandwich making traditional school of thought.

Also…well, it’s not really tomato season yet. It’s early. The tomatoes are fresh and juicy at the farmer’s market, but they aren’t quite those sweet, dripping with flavor, sun warmed tomatoes that August is sure to bring.

But it was a long winter. And I need some tomato sandwiches NOW. 

So, without further ado…here is the simple way to make a nouveau tomato sandwich.

20140702_074652 1. Take your piece of bread. I had sour rye, but fresh white bread or even some thinly sliced pumpernickel would work well.20140702_074803 2. Spread it thickly with unsalted butter. The butter must be spread thickly and it MUST be unsalted. I always buy unsalted butter because it’s so easy to season your own butter to the saltiness that you prefer, and then you control the sodium. Also, keep that butter at room temperature when you are spreading it so you don’t tear the bread. 20140702_075109 3. Layer on your tomatoes, none too thinly sliced. The heartier the bread is, the thicker the slices must be. Also, the tomatoes aren’t fully flavored yet, so you need thicker slices to taste them fully. Come August, you can use a razor blade to cut those slices and still have the taste burst through. 20140702_0751345. Top with your seasonings of choice – I prefer a spicy lemon pepper seasoning with red pepper flakes, salt, and dried lemon zest. 
20140702_0751436. Eat openfaced, in front of the air conditioner and with an ice old root beer, if possible. 

This sandwich blew me away. The butter seems less important than the mayo is – it really lets the tomato be the star of the show. It is more of a barrier than anything else – it keeps the tomato’s juices from making the bread soggy. The bread was a good choice – a slightly sour bread highlights the tomato’s natural sweetness. And the seasoning was really exciting – tart and spicy and salty enough to make every other flavor sing. I really felt like such a rebel – who puts extra seasoning on their tomato sandwiches?! Who AM I?!

I’m jut a girl who was ready for a freakin tomato sandwich.

And it. was. good.

Lazy Creamy Spinach

I have always loved creamed spinach.

My earliest memories it involve the California institution Lawry’s. I haven’t been back in years and don’t know if I can bear to every visit again. From what I hear, it is an overpriced tourist trap with salty meat and overpriced drinks, but I remember it as my first truly fine dining experience. I loved getting all dressed up and eating prime rib as heavy as I was, a baked potato that came with a cute little poem encouraging me to eat the skin, and  - of course – that creamed spinach.

Lawry’s spinach was dense and rich – it barely tasted of spinach at all, it was really just a vehicle for gallons of cream and loads of butter.

Look, it was so delicious that it upstaged the Yorkshire pudding. How many dishes can say that?

This dish isn’t creamed spinach and it isn’t nearly as delicious as I the version that I recall from Lawry’s.  But, then, I wonder if anything would be as delicious as that memory?

Lazy Creamy Spinach

spinach and meatloaf quesadilla

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 lb. fresh spinach

1 tbsp. butter plus 2 tsp. oil

1/4 cup creme fraiche

a few dashes of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

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1. Sautee the garlic in the butter and oil over medium heat until it is fragrant but not brown – we don’t want any bitter taste here.

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2. Throw in the spinach. Turn it for the next 5 minutes or so. It will wilt down very quickly.

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3. When it is wilted – I mean really wilted – turn off the burner and add the creme fraiche. it will get a little soupy but not too much.

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4. Add seasonings, taste, and serve piping hot.

This is such a great side dish to meatloaf or honey mustard chicken. It’s rich but not super heavy and the creme fraiche adds and unexpected tang along with its creamy richness. You don’t have to boil cream forever or strain out any complicated spices – just sautee, add the creme fraiche, and go. It’s similar to sour cream but with an even denser texture and slightly sweeter taste. Speaking of sweet, if you don’t have fresh nutmeg you can skip it, but it really does add that “je ne sais quoi” - like how orange rind perks up carnitas or a bay leaf enriches chicken stock. This is comforting, savory, and tastes leagues better than the frozen stuff. It isn’t the same as real creamed spinach, but it does the trick.

You can’t go back to your youth, but it doesn’t hurt to update your classic memories. 

Warm Lentil Puree with Shallot Vinaigrette

I love a good twist.

Making Romeo and Juliet into West Side Story – brilliant!

Combining a blanket and a bathrobe into a Snuggie – inspired!

And turning familiar food into something totally new, interesting, and delicious – well that is right up my alley.

Whether it’s deli approved egg rolls or a beef-less fully decked cheeseburger, I am all about the flavors I love in a new and interesting way. That’s where this side dish came from. I took flavors that I love – lentils in a  bright vinaigrette – and it turned into a hearty, soothing side dish.

Warm Lentil Puree with Shallot Vinaigrette

lentils

Ingredients:

1 cup lentils (only use red or yellow lentils – these are the ones that break down. Green or Puy lentils are delicious, but don’t break down and become creamy.)

1 dried bay leaf

2.5 cups veggie or chicken stock

1/2 shallot, finely diced

zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

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1. Put the lentils, bay leaf, and stock in a heavy bottomed pot and simmer (not boil) gently for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are very soft and start to break down.

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Be sure to stir the lentils occasionally or they will stick to the bottom of the pot (if they do, they come off easily when scrubbed so don’t worry.)

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2. Take them off the heat, discard the bay leaf, and add the olive oil, shallots, lemon zest, and seasonings.

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3. Stir and serve

This couldn’t be easier, cheaper, or more delicious. Just one cup makes 2 very large side dish portions. It cooks, prep time included, in half an hour. And the taste is hearty, earthy, and incredibly fresh. The lemon zest lifts it brightens it without being too sour. The flavors here are what you might see in a lentil salad, but because it’s warm those flavors are intensified. The shallots and lemon release their aromas with the heat of the lentils and the olive oil is thick and rich, smoothing out the shallot’s rough edges. Don’t forget plenty of salt, because lentils really need it. With a filet of salmon or some chicken meatballs, this is a filing and unexpected meal from totally expected flavors.

A twist on an old favorite brings a whole new dimension to your dinner.

Like I said…the West Side Story of foods.