Friday, November 21, 2008

End-of-November market: apples, porcini, kale,...

This week's market looks almost like winter - the figs are gone, we still have grapes, but they are almost overripe, falling off the branch when you pick it up; we see the last of the tomatoes; peppers and eggplants are not as abundant as earlier in the season; on the other hand, there are various wild mushrooms, all kinds of cabbages and kales, and apples are at their peak. Oh, yes, and pomergranates, of course, but since I have this tree by the entrance, I am not interested.

So here is an omelette I made with sauteed porcini mushrooms, served with a salad of mixed greens (the stunning green and pink flowering kale is not just a nice accent, it adds taste and texture too) and walnuts. Salad dressing: juice of 1/2 orange, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp EVOO, sea salt, pepper .

Cavolo nero is also known as Tuscan kale. Some recipes suggest cutting the center ribs out of the leaves, I left them in.

Pasta with cavolo nero and prosciutto
for 2 servings

2 Tbsp EVOO

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch cavolo nero, washed, dried, and cut into thin strips

1/2 glass of cheap white wine

1 Tbsp pine nuts, dry roasted in a small skillet for a few minutes

4 slices of prosciutto, torn into pieces

salt, pepper to taste

5 oz spaghetti

grated parmesan, to serve

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sautee pan, add garlic, cook stirring for a few seconds until golden and fragrant, don't let burn. Add cavolo nero, stir for a couple of minutes, add wine, reduce heat to low, cook for about 20 minutes, until soft. Add pine nuts and prosciutto, adjust the seasoning, keep warm.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large amount of salty water (the package usually says how many minutes to al dente). Remove spaghetti into the sauce, increase heat to medium, stir, adding some pasta cooking water if neccesary. Serve very hot, garnished with grated parmesan.
The hanger steak in this photo I marinated with a paste made from EVOO, salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley for two hours, then grilled over very hot gas grill 4 minutes per side, let rest, then sliced very thin and added lemon shallot butter on top.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Braised cabbage + very simple apple tart

Here is what happened with the leftover cabbages from the previous post:
I had 1 baby white cabbage, 1/2 cauliflower, and 1 kohlrabi (without greens) left, and they made a nice large serving of braised cabbage, to eat with Molinari brand Italian sausages, grilled on medium gas grill for about 15 minutes.

If you like crisper bacon, after frying it, remove the pieces with a slotted spoon to a paper towel, leaving the rendered fat in the pan, then add the bacon back at the end of cooking. I didn't bother, and the bacon pieces were soft (but not mushy).

Braised cabbage with bacon and white wine
for 1 serving
2 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 baby white cabbage, cut into 8 segments
1 kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
1/2 cauliflower, separated into florets
1/2 glass cheap white wine
8 dried cherries
3 juniper berries, crushed
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
6-8 sage leaves
salt, pepper to taste
1 Tbsp minced flat-leave parsley, to garnish

Heat a deep sautee pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon pieces, fry until crisp. Reduce heat to medium, add cabbages, sautee in the rendered bacon fat for a few minutes, to color.
Add cherries, juniper berries, caraway seeds, sage, wine, salt and pepper; stir. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the cabbages are tender. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

And a very easy apple tart, made with crab apples from the farmer's market, and store-bought phyllo dough:

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Lightly butter a cookie sheet, line with 6 sheets of phyllo dough, overlapping the sheets, if needed, dot with a little more butter.
Wash apples, cut in halves, remove the centers (with a mellon baller or a teaspoon), slice into thin segments. Arrange the apples on top of the phyllo, leaving 1 inch border, if desired; dot with butter; fold the border over the apples. Bake for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 3 tsp brown sugar and 2 Tbsp hot water in a small saucepan, stir to dissolve, bring to boil. A pinch of ground cinnamon can be added to the syrup, but the apples are so flavorful, really, they don't need anything. Spoon the syrup over the apple filling, reduce the oven heat to 325F, bake for 15 more minutes. Slice with a sharp knife or a pizza slicer, serve with your morning coffee, in the sunny garden.

P.S. I've tasted a few of the olives from today (I've been rinsing them and changing the brine once a week), and the bitterness is almost gone. Now I'll be packing them in jars with herbs, garlic, lemon, wine vinegar and olive oil, in different combinations. If anyone has a nice marinade recipe to share, knows a good way to preserve them, or has any idea how long they can be kept in the refrigerator, I'd appreciate your comments.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another cabbage soup (or stew)

It's becoming really cold and dark here, the time for thick comfortable soups or stews. I don't know which one was this. I ate it with a spoon, so it's more like a soup.
It was inspired by the tiny white cabbages that I found on the market on Sunday.
They are super cute, and taste as sweet as they look. Other ingredients are kohlrabi, that look like green spaceships, and that my mom grows in flowerbeds for decoration (both the greens and the balb are good to eat) and cauliflower, and old favorite. If this were in Central Europe, this soup would deserve an accompanement of a baked pork shank or something similar. We eat light in California, so it's garnished just with bacon pieces and minced parsley. The vegetables were so fresh and naturally tasty that I decided against any spices, to show off these green gems as they were. Since the stock was already made with aromatic vegetables, the soup does not need addition of more than an onion.

Three cabbage soup
(for 2 servings)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
2 kohlrabi, balbs peeled and sliced and leaves thinly chopped
1 small head of cauliflower, separated into florets
2-3 mini cabbages, quartered, or 1/2 head of white cabbage, roughly chopped
2 cups beef stock
salt, pepper
4 strips of bacon, to garnish
1 small bunch of flat parsley, minced, to garnish

Heat oil in a deep sautee pan or a wide soup pot over medium heat, sautee the onion until soft and translucent. Add kohlrabi greens, stir for a few minutes to wilt. Add kohlrabi balbs, cabbage and cauliflower, stir, add the stock, cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until cooked.

On a dry nonstick skillet fry the bacon until crisp, remove to a paper towel and leave to drain the fat. Let cool. Wrap in a paper towel and crush with your hand or with a cutting board to crumble.

Serve the soup sprinkled with the bacon bits and parsley. Any medium-bodied red wine, or a bold Chardonnay, goes well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Grilled Hanger Steak

I was very happy to find a hanger steak, aka onglet, at the farmers market, because this steak, that is similar to skirt steak, but much more flavorful, is never seen in the supermarket. It weighted just over a pound, a perfect size for two servings. The steak is shaped as a long narrow leaf, and has a seam running through the center. I carefully cut the seam out before cooking, using a sharp paring knife - my brother surgeon can be proud of me, I'm not totally hopeless! - and lightly pounded the meat with a rolling pin, to make it more uniform thickness.

There is a couple of tricks to know when cooking the onglet: first, don't overcook, or it can become very tough. This one I seasoned with sea salt and pepper, brushed on some olive oil, and grilled on my gas grill at 500F four minutes per side, then let it rest for some 5 minutes. The other thing is, it has to be sliced thinly against the grain, and the grain runs in a fan pattern from where the central membrane used to be, so you have to change the angle while slicing, and the slices come out different sizes.

Served with new potatoes, sliced, arranged in a buttered baking dish with salt, pepper, heavy cream, and shaved parmesan, and baked at 375F oven for 40 minutes, and a salad of assorted young mustard greens and wild arugula, my homegrown cherry tomatoes and pinenuts, mustard vinaigrette dressing. And a bottle of 2005 Bordeaux, of course.

Here is more stuff from the market, and yes, I have to decide what to do with a pumpkin again. This time it's an acorn squash. Also found tiny crabapples, like the ones that used to grow behind our country house when I was little, grandma would make jam from them, and dad attempted making wine, like with any other fruit. These will go on tartlets. They are firm, sour, and very fragrant.