Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recipe: Savory creamed kale

This recipe is super-simple, though it does take about 20 minutes to cook if you use curly kale. I really don't understand the incredibly intense and deliciously satisfying taste of this recipe. It's nearly addictive, and it's not just because of the cream:

You will need:

1 cup homemade veggie broth
2 large heads kale
1 T good butter
3/4 cup whipping cream

What you do:

Trim the kale, chopping the stems into tiny pieces and shredding the largest pieces of leaf
Heat the broth and add the kale, including stems. Cover for 5 minutes or until the kale is beginning to wilt, then leave the cover off the pot and cook on medium until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the butter, stir, and continue cooking until the liquid is gone.
Lower the heat, add the cream, and heat through, just until the cream is about to simmer. Salt to taste.
Serve in bowls.

Recipe: Rhubarb chutney

I wanted something I could do with rhubarb that didn't have bucketloads of sugar, and that didn't end up being a dessert. The resulting experiment gave us something we call chutney. Whatever the proper name, it goes well on goat cheese and crackers, any other cheese (we've tried many) and crackers, with pork, with lamb, and with Indian dishes. (I served it with something I made that was similar to lamb saag.)

You will need:

6 cups of coarsely chopped cleaned trimmed rhubarb
2 onions chopped into about 1/3-inch dice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1-3 cloves finely chopped garlic, depending on how well you like garlic
2 T finely grated ginger
1/3 cup water
2 T sugar, more or less
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T tamari soy sauce
2 T mirin
2 T good butter
1-2 carrots (depending on size) chopped in 1/4-inch dice - optional

What you do:

Saute the onion in the butter until the onion is beginning to become translucent. Add the rhubarb, ginger and garlic and optional carrots and saute for about 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown. Add the water, raisins and sugar. Let simmer until the rhubarb softens (but stop before it turns to stringy mush). Let this mixture sit until it is no longer very hot. Taste for sweetness and stir in more sugar if you need it. Stir in the vinegar, tamari, and mirin. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more sugar, vinegar, or tamari. Eat warm or cold; pack leftovers into jars and keep in the fridge. Use lavishly with almost anything savory.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe: Rhubarb cream surprise

Last night, an hour or so after dinner, I wanted a bite of something special. The old gray cells started reviewing what we had in the house. This yummy concoction appeared a few minutes later, and it satisfied every tastebud.

Rhubarb, cooked in enough water to cover it about halfway in a pot (not aluminum!). I added about 2 T sugar at the end of the cooking to about 3 1/2 cups of rhubarb and stirred it in. Stir as little as possible to keep the rhubarb chunky.

10 frozen peach slices. We freeze bucketloads of ripe peaches in season by cutting them in about 12ths and laying them on cook sheets, then freezing them till they're hard and packaging them in Ziplocs.

30 frozen blueberries. We freeze bucketloads of blueberries, too, straight from the box, on a cookie sheet. We also package these in Ziplocs.

Half-and-half cream. We use good jersey cream from Bellingham.


In a small attractive dessert dish (we use our Chinese miso bowls), pour in about 1/3 cup of cream. Then lay 5 peach slices in a layer partly submerged in the cream. Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the peaches. Spoon the hot cooked rhubarb on top of the fruit. Use as much as you'd like and include some 'juice'.

So you have a cold layer and a hot layer. The cream wells up around the rhubarb. Eat by digging straight down through the layers. It should be delightfully hot and cold. By the last spoonful the flavors will have blended delightfully.

You can have seconds if you want - it's that good, and that healthy. Nothing bad in it!

Let me know if you try it. We enjoyed this over the Mariners game - it almost compensated for the loss.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Opinion: Irksome yogurt!

I always check labels! But the other day I grabbed some yogurt and didn't look. I think it's a brand I used to use that met my standards of no thickeners, no sweeteners, just milk. 

I know why this happened. My usual brand, Nancy's, had been on sale for a couple of months, but now it was back to the regular price of $5.29 a half gallon. I had been paying a dollar less. So when I saw something nearby on sale, I grabbed it. It was whole milk plain yogurt, and only $4 for 2 quart tubs. Good price.

I use yogurt in my breakfast smoothie every morning. The first day it seemed a little foamy and pasty. The second too. And I didn't like a certain discomfort in gave me after I drank it. So I checked the label. It had as its second ingredient cornstarch! 

I had succumbed to the temptation to go with price over quality, not intentionally but carelessly. 

And what I got wasn't yogurt. True yogurt doesn't need thickeners, which is what the cornstarch is. As is the tapioca in other brands, or the gelatin. 

If the right bacteria are present for the right amount of time, milk will turn into thick yogurt and no other thickener is needed.

Nicely, bacteria also convert sugar into acid, lactose into lactic acid in the case of yogurt. You can read about it here.

So you have helpful bacteria, the kind that coexist inside of us and help us convert food to nutrients, working to ferment milk and convert its difficult-to-digest sugar lactose into lactic acid, which thickens the milk, separating the liquid part from the protein part, whey and curds, through fermentation. 

The result is more digestible milk with less sugar.

Along comes the food industry. In the name of something I can't imagine, it 'improves' on the process and instead gives us a milk product so inadequately fermented that it has to add cornstarch and then to make up for lost sugars, adds sweeteners.

Most yogurts come with added sweeteners, but the label PLAIN helps us avoid those. Nothing on the label helps us avoid the adulterants. For that we need to turn the tub over and squint at the list of ingredients. If it has more than milk and bacteria in it, it's not yogurt. Or not all yogurt.

I confess to being overly influenced by price, even though I realize that good food always costs more than bad. (Fresh spinach costs far more per pound than cookies, even if it's not organic spinach.) So in this frugal mindset, I resent paying for cornstarch when I think I'm paying for a milk product.

Corn is in everything. The government subsidizes corn and we have a glut of it. Cows eat corn to make milk (though they shouldn't - it makes them sick). But it's cheaper to skip the cow and just add corn to milk products. 

I don't want to pay for yogurt that has been 'extended' by cornstarch. Or thickened by it. I don't like the texture - pasty, foamy - and I don't like the idea of it. 

There are only one or two yogurts out there now that are made from whole milk and yogurt-making bacteria and nothing else. Good luck finding them at an affordable price!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recipes: Rhubarb dessert creation

I'm gluten-free of necessity, so the usual rhubarb treatments are out. Here's what I came up with for the 2 stalks we just harvested, the first of the season. We're eating it now and it's just GREAT!

2 stalks of rhubarb, trimmed of green parts and chopped into 1-inch chunks
2 T sugar, or more to taste
1 large banana, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Cook the rhubarb in about 1/3 cup of water for about 7-10 minutes or until just barely soft. Stir in the sugar and taste the rhubarb. It should be tart but not too tart. Leave it in the covered pot until it cools.

Stir in the banana and refrigerate until you serve the dessert.

Whip the cream till very stiff, and serve on the rhubarb-banana mix, or stir the cream into the rhubarb mix before serving. Serves 2.