Monday, September 10, 2012

When Life Gives You Kale, Make Kale Chips

Eating: This blog post (it may be a series of posts, depending on what else I think of) was inspired by the bounty of kale from the CSA earlier this summer.  I had never received kale before and didn't know what to do with it.  As with everything I get in the CSA, I first try it, just a nibble to see what it tastes like - bitter, in this case.  So then I consult Big Red (aka Betty Crocker cookbook) to see what Betty has to say about it.  Her preparation suggestion is to steam it with only the water left on it after washing.  So I do this.  Then, my house smells like gym socks.  Yuck.  I try another bite and still find it bitter and not to my taste at all (and I will eat most anything).  So I stick it in the fridge, awaiting some inspiration.  Or until it gets moldy and I throw it out.  There has to be a better way, right?  Then my friend Beth told me about kale chips.  By this time, it was too late for my kale, but when I get it next year, I will be prepared.  Beth eats them like she would potato chips.

Kale Chips (recipe from
1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
2 T. olive oil
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 275.  Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.

This got me thinking about the other things I get loads of all at once and never seem to know what to do with.  Thus the post, which could also have been titled "When life gives you radishes, grill them" or "When life gives you tomatoes, make soup." Here are some tried and true ideas for excesses of many summer veggies.

Refrigerator Pickles (for when life gives you cucumbers) Recipe from
6 C. thinly sliced unpared cucumbers
3 small onions, chopped
2 T. salt
1 C. vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
Combine cucumber slices and onion in ice cream pail or large (non-metal) bowl.  Mix sugar, salt and vinegar.  Pour over cucumbers.  Stir well.  Cover and refrigerate - they will be ready in 3 hours but taste even better if left overnight.  Will keep in fridge 2-3 months. (After we ate the first batch, I reused the juice and just added more cuke slices and onion to it.)

Grilled Radishes (for early summer when life gives you radishes) Recipe adapted from
20 oz radishes, sliced (I always just slice enough until it looks right - you know me and measuring)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. butter, cut into small pieces
Place all ingredients in foil folded to make an envelope.  Seal around the edges.  Place on heated grill and cook until radishes are tender. 

I can only eat so many raw radishes and I add them to salads when I can, but again, can only eat so many.  The grilled radishes are really good.  Even if you think you do not like radishes, you should try them grilled or sauteed.  The flavor is much more mellow.  The other way I started eating them (after realizing I could cook them - duh!) is sliced up and sauteed with a bunch of other veggies.  For lunch on work days, I would just go to the fridge and start chopping and slicing whatever veggies I found, sometimes mixing a scrambled egg in with it for a little protein.  Good combinations with the radishes (mostly because they are ripe at the same time) included carrots, broccoli, onions, green or wax beans, summer squash or zucchini.

Speaking of zucchini, who hasn't had an abundance of zucchini at some point?!  Yikes, this stuff can sure take over your life.  Here are some of my favorite recipes using zucchini, and often also tomatoes or cherry tomatoes which are in season often at the same time.

The first one I am just going to link to here.  Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons and Parsley Brown Butter is easy and so good!  Follow the recipe exactly and you will have super tasty results. As I read some of the comments on the website, I thought, well, duh!  If you take out or substitute a bunch of stuff, of course it is not the same recipe anymore and you can't really complain that it had no flavor or wasn't very good.  That is your own fault.  Brown butter, when cooked as per instructions, has  A LOT of flavor on its own.  As I said in my review of the recipe, "I made this for dinner for a friend and myself. Super easy and very tasty, made following the recipe exactly. Use real butter (a substitute is a poor substitute in my mind, since so much flavor is from the browned butter) and use real fresh grated Parmesan (the stuff in the green can tends to be dry and sucks the flavor out of most dishes). The recipe is a terrific use of zucchini and cherry tomatoes, both of which I tend to have in over-abundance at the same time in the summer. Love it and will make it again and again."

A new zucchini recipe received from Ann at book club is also a soup.  And y'all know how I love soup!  I believe Ann got this recipe from her CSA.  It is prepared similarly to how I make my carrot soup.

Zucchini Basil Soup
2 pounds zucchini/summer squash (reminder to myself to buy a kitchen scale)
3/4 C chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 C olive oil
4 C water, divided (I don't think you need God's intervention to divide or part this amount of water)
1/3 C packed basil leaves
Julienne skin (only) from half of zucchini with slicer; toss with 1/2 tsp. salt and drain in a sieve until wilted, at least 20 minutes (note: I did not do the julienning part of this recipe at all).  Coarsely chop remaining zukes. 
Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3-4 quart heavy saucepan over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped zucchini and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.  Add 3 C. water and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.  Puree soup with basil in small batches in a blender. (Caution: only do small batches and hold onto the lid when you do this - it may explode in a hot shower of soup.  Not fun.)
Bring remaining cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch julienned zucchini 1 minute.  Drain in a sieve set over a bowl (use liquid to thin soup if necessary).  Season soup with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls with julienned zucchini mounded on top (I did not do the julienned part of this.)

And of course, when life gives you tomatoes, make Chicken Pasta Fresca (or whatever this one is called) which is so tasty you will want to lick the bowl clean, or try salsa or soup.  I will post E's Blender Salsa at a later time.  I seem to have misplaced it (just had it this morning...)

Roasted Tomato Soup (This is so good I plan to make several batches and freeze them for use with grilled cheese sandwiches this winter.) - Recipe from Tyler Florence,
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of any kind)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
1/2 C olive oil (I found this to be way more than I needed - drizzle to cover tomatoes, maybe about 1/4 C)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 T. butter
1/2 C chopped fresh basil leaves (optional - I used as much basil as I could harvest off my little plant, about 1/4 C)
3/4 C heavy cream, optional (I will not add this before freezing but will stir in some cream when reheating)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (I used a slotted spoon so I didn't scoop all the excess oil in as well). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock (in other words, 3 cups), bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth (if you don't have an immersion blender, puree in small batches in a regular blender.  Remember SMALL batches, and hold on to the cover to avoid a scalding soup shower). Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Just last night at book club, someone asked what to do with eggplant.  Ann suggested roasting it.  I suggested ratatouille.  I love it because it uses a bunch of veggies which are all ready and abundant at the same time.  Here is the easiest recipe I have for it.

Ratatouille - Recipe from Betty Crocker cookbook
1 medium eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds, washed, pared if desired, and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 small zucchini, about 1/2 pound, washed, cut off stem and blossom end, cube or slice
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 C)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, each cut into eighths
1/4 C olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
Cook all ingredients in large skillet (I use my wok) over medium heat 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender.  Serve warm or cold.  (I freeze portions of this for eating all winter long.  Also would be good over pasta.)

That is all for now.  Enjoy the bounties of the season and may we never have moldy kale again!

Until we eat again,

1 comment:

Joanne Haagenson said...

I love kale! We get it in the U-Pick areas of the farm we buy from... I'll chop it up and put it in soups or pasta salad, eggs... anything that takes "a bunch of chopped up vegetables." :)

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