Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ideas in Food Cobaya dinner

Ideas in Food is a culinary consulting business run by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot. They've got a blog where they work through the titular ideas and a new cookbook. They're based in Levittown, Penn. but visiting Miami. Only Talbot was there this evening along with Jerimiah Bullfrog and his Podzilla kitchen. Talbot explained that he came down without ingredients or plan and the dinner was a result of improvisations with local ingredients.

The dinner was set up in an art gallery called G.A.B. in Wynwood so we got good lighting for once. Some of the pictures still didn't come out great because they're of small amounts of food deep in narrow serving containers, but most should be clearer than usual.

But enough ado. There were nine courses, starting with...

Surf and Turf--steak tartare, seaweed mayonnaise, bean sprout batons
This didn't wow me at first, although it was pleasant enough. But I grew to appreciate it more as I ate it. The steak was at just the right level of chewiness where it slowly releases its flavor but you aren't working at it. The seaweed in the mayo is a subtle but pleasant accent and the bean sprouts add crunch and freshness. Nothing jumps out at you, but it's very nicely balances and composed.

Clams in Green Sauce--parsley, coconut, garlic-mustard
You can't really see anything in the picture there, other than the puddle of green sauce, and that's a clear representation of the problem here. The sauce is, by itself, intensely parsley-y which works very well with the mustard and with the clam, but there's so much of the sauce the clam is well submerged and the mustard is hidden down at the bottom of the cup so you've half finished before you find it. Just putting the mustard on top would have been a bit improvement. Reducing the amount of green sauce would have helped a lot too. It came very close to working.

Steak and eggs--beef tendon, onsen egg, culantro
Another near miss. The beef tendon is meltingly soft and very mildly flavored so it is entirely overwhelmed by the flavor and texture of the egg yolk. That just leaves the beansprouts as crunch in a cup of goop. That makes it sound worse than it was; It was good goop. I'd cut back the egg to a quail egg (or scale up the rest), add some actual steak for more intense flavor and added texture, and add a bit of heat and/or acid to cut all that fat. A few drops of sriracha would have been a big help.

Kimchi cavatelli--kimchi gravy, torn basil, benton's ham
The idea of the kimchi tinged tomato gravy is a good one. You could see the promise here as the kimchi tinged the sauce's aftertaste. A little more boldness would have improved it. As for the cavatelli, a proper kitchen with a stove on which to boil pots of water was what was called for. However they managed to cook them in the gastropod left them with undercooked-doughiness and overcooked-mushiness simultaneously. I don't know how you do that. I did like how the basil and ham worked with the gravy.

Twice cooked scallop--pumpkin, citron-sriracha, furikake
Twice wasn't enough as my scallop had an unpleasant under-cooked texture. Others were happy with theirs though. Beyond that, the furikake I liked, but the other components never came together for me. It's not even close enough for me to offer tweaks; it didn't make sense to me at all. Lovely presentation, though.

Sweetbreads--green mango, rum raisin, lime vinaigrette
In direct contrast, all the the components of this dish worked together beautifully: the meatiness of the sweetbreads against the tart dressing and slightly sweet mango and raisin. There was a pleasant array of textures too, the crisp top of the sweetbread block worth mention in particular.

Sticky pork belly--cream soda, crunchy turnip, charred scallions
The good pork belly was bland in flavor, limp in texture. The "sticky" and "cream soda" makes me think there was supposed to be a glaze, but it didn't come out. The scallions were rather bitter, but good with the pork when used in moderation. OK, overall, but pork belly really shouldn't be just OK.

Powdered goat cheese--strawberry relish
Like the clam course, this suffered from the presentation. The strawberry was deep in the bottom of the cone where our blunt utensils couldn't quite reach and you scattered the powdered cheese around the tablecloth trying to dig down to it. And since the powder melted back into creamy cheese immediately on the tongue, what was the point? A disk of cheese with a blop of strawberry jam on top would have worked better. I suppose we'd complain about the lack of an idea then, but at least we could get the balance right.

Malted milk custard
There's a reason people make chocolate malteds. Just plain malt doesn't taste very good, at least not at the intense level presented here. Embedding it in a rubbery custard is no help. I saw others eating it with gusto, but I also saw them being boisterously drunk so I don't give that much credit. I couldn't get past one bite myself. Maybe it was supposed to be frozen? Some folks had frost sublimating off their push-pops while mine was barely cold. I don't see how that would help the flavor though. This is the only real failure on the conceptual level, to my mind.

So, overall, some good points, some weak ones. It was certainly an interesting set of dishes, but I think the lack of planning and the unfamiliar kitchen hampered the execution of some good ideas. I wish we could have had the second draft instead.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

CSA week 11 wrap-up, week 12 start-up

Despite the lack of posts about it, I did actually cook with the Week 11 share--the kale, the curry leaves and the honey specifically. I cooked fairly interesting stuff too, so you'll have to wait until I've gotten around to writing them up instead of hearing about them here.

Moving swiftly along to week twelve, the two big items to deal with are the arugula on the left and the yukina savoy on the right. The arugula I'm thinking of using in risotto instead of my usual pasta application. Or maybe not. There's a lot and risotto doesn't store well. Maybe soup? The yukina savoy I want to use in a stir fry. The spring onion could go into either of those.

The strawberries and grape tomatoes are both nice eaten out of hand so that just leaves the green beans. Have I done pickled green beans before? Not successfully, I don't think. That will probably use the dill which is still in the refrigerator somewhere.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fergus Henderson's roast bone marrow and parsley salad redux

It's been three years since I made this recipe to disappointing results and it's taken me this long to try it again. It's highly acclaimed, so I knew it was my fault it turned out poorly, but it took seeing a demo showing exactly what I did wrong to push me to actually getting more marrow bones and giving it another shot. Having a big bunch of CSA parsley on hand didn't hurt. I'm still on week ten's share if anyone's keeping track. Also, that original post is, somehow, still getting hits despite being one of a dozen blog posts about this recipe. I feel kind of obliged to update for those readers.

Here's the recipe again with a few notes on my preparation:
Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad
from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson

- serves four

twelve 3-inch pieces of veal marrowbone [I used two 6-inch beef bones. I had the option to have them cut in half, but I didn't check the recipe first.]
a healthy bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked from the stems
2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 modest handful of capers (extra-fine if possible)

juice of 1 lemon
extra-virgin olive oil
a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
a good supply of toast
coarse salt

Put the marrowbone pieces in an ovenproof frying pan and place in a hot 450 degree (F) oven. The roasting process should take about 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the bone. You are looking for the marrow to be loose and giving, but not melted away, which it will do if left too long (traditionally the ends would be covered to prevent any seepage, but I like the coloring and crispness at the ends). [I went a few minutes too long as the crustiness that developed at the uncovered ends disguised the looseness I was looking for. Probably best for beginners like me to cover.]

Lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it, mix it with the shallots and capers, and at the last moment, dress the salad.

Here is a dish that should not be completely seasoned before leaving the kitchen, rendering a last-minute seasoning unnecessary by the actual eater; this, especially in the case of coarse sea salt, gives texture and uplift at the moment of eating. My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt. [Lacking a marrow spoon, I found a pair of chopsticks worked well to dig the marrow out. I found it easiest to scrape a bone out fully and then spoon a measure of marrow onto each piece of toast. Also, that allowed the toast to soak in a pool of rendered marrow for a little extra unctuousness.] Then a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat. Of course once you have your pile of bones, salad, toast, and salt it is diner’s choice. [I used Hawaiian black sea salt because it was what I had at the level of coarseness I was looking for. It does look nice too, though, don't you think?

As I said up top, I had a much improved experience this time around. Along with the sheer fattiness, the marrow delivered a good bit of meaty flavor. Think of biting into a well-cooked steak and getting that great burst of just-melting fat full of savory flavor. It's kind of like that without the meat part. So, yeah, worth making once in a while.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CSA week ten - Hilda Minter’s spicy escarole

I don't normally do the cut and paste for recipes, but this one was written up quite professionally--more professionally than the version I worked off of--and I don't see how I could do better. Plus it's got a story that adds a lot of character. This is from One Big Table by Molly O’Neill. As always, my comments are in square brackets.

Hilda Minter’s Spicy Escarole

Birmingham, Alabama

In 1988, Hilda Minter’s husband, Joe Minter, a retired construction worker, received a message from God directing him to create a sculpture park depicting the African American spiritual experience in their backyard in the Woodland Park neighborhood of Birmingham. Their property abuts a historic African American cemetery, and the notion of painting the verse from John 3:16 on the tailgate of a pickup truck or His Word Is Real on a defunct movie theater marquee gave her pause. When her husband paid homage to the American workingman by welding giant rusty wrenches to a cross, Mrs. Minter made her favorite spicy escarole. When Mr. Minter was heralded as a visionary genius, she made bigger pots of the escarole for the busloads who began to make pilgrimages to his sculpture park. “We were put here to make things and give them away,” said Mrs. Minter, a retired nurse’s aid. “People don’t expect escarole to be so sweet and spicy. That’s why I like it; it make me think and I like to watch what it does to people too.”

3 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
1⁄4 pound thickly sliced spicy pressed sausage such as pepperoni, chorizo or soppressata, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice [I used some sausage-of-the-week from Whole Foods that I forgot to label. I thought it was Indian and was prepared to adjust the spices to suit, but I couldn't identify it when I tried a piece so I left things as is. It was fresh, not dried as called for here; the version of this recipe I used just said the very vague "chorizo" so I didn't know what was called for.]
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 heads of escarole (2 1⁄2 pounds), dark outer leaves removed, inner leaves coarsely chopped
2 cups diced stewed tomatoes, fresh or high quality canned [I used fire-roasted crushed tomatoes]
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Black pepper to taste
Cider vinegar or lemon juice to taste

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease or olive oil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the spicy sausage and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and stir.

2. Add the escarole in batches and cook. Add the tomatoes and oregano; season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat until the escarole is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

3. Season with additional salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice to taste and serve with cornbread or beans or both. [Or neither.]

Serves 4 to 6

The ten minutes of sitting turns the escarole from tender to a bit limp, but that helps it carry the sauce so that's fine. I do think the recipe might be a bit better using collards, though.

The cider vinegar transforms the sauce from a spicy tomato sauce (which I liked fine) into a sweet, spicy and sour combination that works surprisingly well with the flavor of the escarole. Without the vinegar the flavors work on their own; with it, it's tasty but unbalanced. It needs some ribs or pulled pork to give it some weight. The beans, the recipe calls for, would work just fine too, actually. Still, all in all, not a bad dish and a rare good use for escarole.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CSA week ten wrap-up, week 11 start-up

I made a couple dishes last week not worth a full blog post but worth a mention here: spinach pasta dough and Italian wedding soup.

The spinach pasta dough was a real pain to work with. I kept adding more flour to compensate for the moisture in the spinach, but it stayed sticky and delicate and refused to roll out well in my pasta machine. I ended up using half the dough to make some really tough gnocchi and some noodles that stuck together into a lump and putting the rest in the freezer. It'll probably roll out better half-defrosted, I figure. If it had good spinach flavor, maybe it'd be worth all this trouble, but I could barely taste any. Big waste of some quality spinach.

The Italian wedding soup, on the other hand, was quite good, but it's just adding meatballs and coarsely chopped escarole (or curly endive) to chicken soup and finishing off with egg-drop-soup-style egg threads made out of alfredo sauce. I did make my own meatballs, but not much there to write about.

What's left then? Half a head of escarole, half a head of celery, half a container of grape tomatoes, most of the parsley, the honey and a still-not-ripe canistel. Huh, I thought I had made more of a dent in the share than that. I'll make a frittata or a stew or suchlike to use that up.

If this week's share looks sparse, that's because I left the lettuce behind, as usual, as well as the mizuna. I've got nothing against mizuna, but I'm getting tired of greens at this point, plus I need to limit how many new ingredients I bring in this week. my freezer is completely full and I need to clear out some space so I can make ice cream.

So, the only real non-seasoning ingredient I need to deal with here is the kale. There's a German beer-braised kale recipe that caught my I, but kale has been trendy recently so there are interesting recipes floating around out there. Or maybe I'll just make chips; That's always an option.

For the curry leaves, the trick is using a reasonable amount of them at once. Jamie Oliver has a few recipes that ask for a handful; his fish soup looks pretty good.

I might go Indian again with the dill (as mentioned in the newsletter). I wasn't too impressed with the curry I made with them last April, not while it was fresh, but it improved over time in the freezer and was very tasty when defrosted.

The carrot I've already snacked upon and, as carrots go, it was a good one.

I'll save the pulp from the black sapote when it's ripe and wait for more. It's easier to use in bulk, I've found. I'll probably do the same with the canistel, now that I think about it.

Finally, the green onions are no problem. I use plenty of onions and scallions in my cooking so these should substitute in nicely.

That's still three or four dishes all of which will probably have leftovers. Even if I can pull most of the non-share ingredients out of the freezer, I don't know if I'll be making much progress towards emptying it out. Maybe I'll save the dill and curry leaves. They both freeze well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CSA week ten - Jirou chao qincai

That's chicken and celery stir fry in English.

This recipe comes from Beijing chef Deng Haiyan via the Saveur website (and an article in the paper magazine at some point I presume). It's a pretty basic and straightforward Chinese recipe adjusted to accommodate the American kitchen and further mangled by my own contributions.

2 chicken thighs (or breasts), deskinned, deboned and sliced thin (freezing briefly helps a lot here)
1 egg white
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 leek, halved, cleaned and julienned
5 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
a little more seasoning of your choice. I used 1 Tablespoon chui chow chili oil
3 Tablespoons canola or other high smokepoint oil

1. Mix the chicken, egg white and cornstarch. Let sit 10 minutes. [Doesn't that look tasty?]

2. Meanwhile, while chopping the celery, wince at the fibrous toughness of the stalks, remember why everyone hates celery, say "screw this" and harvest a whole bunch of celery leaves instead.

3. Heat a flat-bottomed wok over high heat until smoking. Heat a while longer. Add 2 Tablespoons oil. Swirl it about then add the chicken along with the egg white mixture. Stir fry until the chicken becomes opaque, approximately 2 minutes. Remove to a plate. [It doesn't look any better cooked, does it?]

4. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil to the wok. Swirl it about then add the ginger and leek. Cook briefly until you can smell the leek as well as the ginger, approximately 30 seconds. Add the celery. Cook until it wilts down and you think, maybe, you can smell celery too, approximately 2 minutes.

5. Return the chicken and add the soy sauce and, as the reviews of this recipe all agreed that it was a little bland, some extra seasoning. If not chili oil, oyster sauce might be nice. Stir fry until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 2 minutes more.

Serve with white rice.

There are two interesting aspects here.

First, the method of cooking the meat in an egg white coating, called velveting, which reputedly keeps the chicken succulent and soaks up flavor. I can't speak for the succulence since I used chicken thighs instead of the originally called for chicken breasts. Thighs don't need the help. It did pick up the flavor from the vegetables and seasonings nicely without covering up the flavor of the chicken, though, so that's a success.

Second, and more importantly for our purposes, does the celery taste both good and like celery? (Some would say that's a contradiction, but let's give it a chance.) One immediate problem; The celery leaves are kale-tough. I didn't expect that so they're still pretty chewy in the finished dish. On the other hand, they release a lot of celery flavor as you chew them so there's a lot of variation of flavor in different bites which I'm going to count as a plus. As for that flavor, I'm going to say, yes, I do like it. The aromatic sharp herbal flavor of the celery floats above the rich savory heat of the soy, chicken and chili oil quite pleasantly. Unless, that is, you get a whole wad of celery to chew through. That's rather too strong and too harsh. Otherwise, I actually like its pairing with the other flavors quite a bit. So, on the whole, yes, this works and I can recommend it this dish.

I'm not sure how I could have kept the leaves from matting up as they wilted, not while keeping this a stir fry. I'll bet if I add another non-leafy ingredient at the same time as the leaves--bamboo shoots maybe--that would have helped. If you try this recipe, try that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

CSA week nine wrap-up, week ten start-up

There was supposed to be a second post this week; I made a slow-cooked kale and beans dish that look promising, but the transition from the oven to the slow cooker didn't go smoothly and, in retrospect, I don't think simmering greens for hours was ever a good idea.

Beyond that fiasco, I made a warm green bean and grape tomato salad that turned out nicely. I simmered the tomatoes in a little red wine until they collapsed and got some really intense flavor out of them. I also made a pasta topping with the dandelion greens and the turnips chopped into tiny dice. I was hoping to get some color on the turnips, but they were fine just cooked through. And I ate the canistel with a little honey. There's a brief window between under-ripe and poisonous and over-ripe and mushy where they're nice to eat without any processing.

That's just the mushrooms left. Usually I use those right away but I never got around to it this week. Maybe today then if they survived all right.

For this week, I should start with the emerald explosion in the middle of the picture. If that's escarole, then the curly endive from last week wasn't. Looks like I fell prey to the same sort of nomenclatural confusion I sorted through with the betel leaves. I'm not going to make Utica greens again to compare and contrast, though. Maybe I'll go the Italian wedding soup route instead.

Just about hidden under the escarole is a small bag of sunflower sprouts. They've got more bulk and more character than your average sprout. I could see using them in sandwiches like watercress or in a soup.

To the left is a big head of celery. I want to do a stir fry. A quick search turns up lots of options, but I'm having a hard time picking out what's most likely to work. Also, what's most likely to use more than just a stalk or two.

On the right is some spinach. Not quite baby spinach, but still too tender to treat too roughly. Maybe creamed?

Above the spinach is a canistel I'll worry about later and some parsley and grape tomatoes I'll worry about not at all.

The honey, on the other hand, I need to deal with. Added to the big bottles of avocado and coffee honey I've got (The first a bit nasty and probably only suited to savory applications; the second really really good and a bit surprising to find local to South Florida.) I now officially have too much honey. It doesn't go bad, of course, but I want to put it to use. An ice cream seems a good choice, but I need to find my own twist on it. Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CSA week nine - Utica greens

The greens in question here are escarole a.k.a. curly endive a.k.a. the stuff from the CSA share this week.

The Utica in question is a town in upstate New York. I'm always pleasantly surprised to find a regional cuisine that I wasn't familiar with. Yes, this is basically Italian-American, but it evolved its own way upstate to create a few dishes you won't find outside the region. There's this, salt potatoes, riggies, snappys (which I knew as Harry's white hots when I visited family in Rochester) and a few others. There's an interesting list here.

This is one of those recipes where every kitchen has its own variation. Only a few of those are up on the Web. I based mine on one by Janet Chanatry of Chanatry's SuperMarket in Utica.

1 1-pound head of escarole, cleaned and chopped into large pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
at least 1 ounce prosciutto, sliced thin and chopped
copious garlic, finely chopped
2 long Italian hot peppers, seeded and sliced thin [I couldn't find the peppers I wanted so I used Anaheims]
1/3 cup hot pickled Italian peppers, sliced thin [I couldn't find what I wanted here either so I picked peppers out of the various mixes at the Fresh Market olive bar.]
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup or more breadcrumbs
1/3 cup pecorino romano, finely grated
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

0. Preheat oven on broil.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add escarole and less salt than if you were making pasta but still a good bit. Simmer 4-6 minutes until the escarole is tender and wilted. Remove to a bowl, add cold water until the greens are cool enough to handle. Squeeze out the water and unwad the resulting wads from your squeezing.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and proscuitto and cook for 2-3 minutes until prosciutto is frizzled and garlic aromatic. Add both sorts of peppers and cook another 2-3 minutes until the raw peppers soften a little but still have some bite to them.

3. Turn off the heat and add escarole and stock to pan. Mix in breadcrumbs and cheese gradually. The goal is to soak up all the stock so be generous with the crumbs. [Chanatry's original recipe called for only 1/2 cup breadcrumbs but I used lots more. She must have meant store-bought dust-dry crumbs. My homemade crumbs absorb a lot less liquid per cup.]

4. When the mixture is no longer soupy, check to see if you used a pan that can survive going under the broiler. If not, move everything to a baking dish. If you used a cast iron pan then you can leave it where it is. Season the mixture to taste, sprinkle some more breadcrumbs on top and drizzle or spray with a little more olive oil. Broil for a few minutes until well browned.

Serve hot. The Delmonico's menu pairs it with steak. I saw another appealing suggestion of using it to top a chicken cutlet sandwich. Basically, it's both vegetable and starch so pair it with a chunk of meat.

With the prosciutto, garlic and peppers, of course this tastes pretty darn good. The question is: how much do the greens contribute to the goodness? Escarole isn't the world's most hearty or flavorful vegetable so it has a hard time standing up to the other flavors in the dish, but it's in there. It's a kinda-spinachy-letucey baseline (not a bass-line, though. No real low notes in this dish. That's why it's a side dish for meat.) the other flavors work off of. It's also the physical bulk of the dish which is important. It contributes to the dish, but it doesn't really contribute to the goodness. I want to try it again after it's fully clotted and the flavors have had time to blend a little. I think it might come together a bit better on reheating.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

CSA week eight wrap-up, week nine start-up plus an important note about the betel leaves

I should follow-up yesterday's post right off the start. I added the mustard-based hot sauce and tried the collard/potato salad cold and it's still mediocre. I still think there's a good idea in there somewhere, though. I'll have to work on it.

Still a lot of greens unaccounted for. I was in a noodly mood this week so I went that way for two out of three. I mixed the peashoots into cold sesame-vinegar noodles after giving them a quick blanch so they had something of a noodle texture too. That was pretty good.

The yukina savoy I cooked way down and mixed into mac and cheese. That worked pretty well, too.

And for the chard, I tried the taco recipe from the newsletter, but I don't think it was nearly as good as the Rick Bayless recipe I made a couple years ago. I had some trouble with it, anyway.

I also made an extra-dilly gravlax so, unless I'm forgetting something, that just leaves the canistel which just got ripe enough to use today. I'll have to see how much flesh I get out of it before figuring out what to do with it.

This week brings plenty more greens even after leaving the lettuce behind. Some other interesting stuff, too, though.

In the upper left corner is curly endive. That's the traditional green used in Italian wedding soup which doesn't sound bad. I thought I might try that.

Below that is kale. Drlindak (Dr. Lindak? D.R. Lindak? Dr. Linda K.?) and have been discussing pairing kale with beans in the comments of last week's start-up post and I'm intrigued enough to give it a try. This isn't actually the proper sort of kale, though, so maybe not this time around.

I'm thinking a green bean/tomato salad for those two, and pairing the mushrooms with the piper betel too.

As for the betel recipe in the newsletter, I came across this quite interesting webpage that strongly warns that betel is the wrong leaf to use. Comparing the photos on that page with what I've seen elsewhere, I'm pretty sure that every time I've had a Thai dish wrapped in a leaf, it's been bai cha plu, not the bai plu we've got. This other page also compares, contrasts and makes the distinction clear, too. Both authors say that bai plu doesn't have any culinary applications; it's used for chewing betel nut and that's about it.

Having tasted it, that sounds about right to me. I'm going to not use mine, and recommend that you don't use yours either. I'm not saying that they're poisonous or anything, just that they taste lousy and you shouldn't ruin a dish by including them. I've made a couple fairly successful dishes using them in previous years, but I'm tired of struggling to make them palatable, particularly starting from the disadvantage of them not actually being food.

Margie, if you're reading this, could you talk to Robert about this? If he's growing and you guys are selling the wrong stuff, that's a problem.

Back from that tangent, there's still the turnips and dandelion greens. Eh, I'll blanch to remove the bitterness and then cook them both up with some fresh pasta and plenty of garlic. Done.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

CSA week seven - Collard potato salad with mustard dressing

This is a somewhat unusual preparation for collards; at least I think it is. When you search for collards and mustard, you get a lot of recipes offering mustard greens as a collards alternative. I scanned through a few pages and didn't see any, but maybe all the mustard dressing recipes are just buried beneath. It's the first time I've tried it anyway, so that's something.

I found this recipe on, but it looks like it's originally from Gourmet magazine, February 1992. I made a change that I thought would help the texture, but it didn't really work out.

1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into equal-sized pieces
1/2 pound collards, stemmed, washed and sliced into 1-inch wide strips
3 slices bacon, cut into lardons
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Cook the bacon in a large pan over low heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Keep the pan warm.

2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and a generous amount of salt and simmer over medium-low heat until tender. [How long this takes will vary depending on the size of your potatoes so use your judgment and check frequently.] Remove to a large bowl filled with cold water and cool until the potatoes and handleable.

3. Turn the heat under the pan of bacon fat to medium and add potatoes, taking care to shake off the excess water before putting them in the pan. Cook for five minutes on one side then turn to brown a second side.

4. Meanwhile, add collards to the boiling pot of water. [Did I tell you to turn the heat off? I did not.] Simmer for ten minutes until tender.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar and olive oil [The original recipe called for a lot more olive oil. Way too much to my mind. I reduced it to a drizzle because I added the bacon fat. If you don't fry the potatoes, add more oil to taste.]

6. When the collards are ready, remove them to the big bowl of cold water. [Did I tell you to dump it out? I did not.] If the potatoes are also ready, remove them a large bowl. When the collards have cooled a bit, squeeze the water out a handful at a time and add to the potatoes taking care to peel the leaves apart. Add the bacon and scallion, top with the dressing and toss until everything is coated.

If you managed to keep the potatoes and bacon crisp despite the humidity from the simmering pot of water, then serve immediately. If, like me, you didn't, serve whenever you'd like.

The result isn't bad. I was hoping for a lot more texturally, but everything is tender. I think I managed to leave a little firmness to both the collards and potatoes, but I was hoping for crispness for contrast too. The flavors aren't a bad match, but it's nothing revelatory either. I might try it again adding a mustard-based hot sauce. That should perk things up. Also, I want to try it cold; I suspect the flavors will work better together that way. I'll add a comment tomorrow to let you know.