Monday, February 17, 2014

Shaved Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad

Using seasonal vegetables is a great thing, and the even better news is that there are such things as winter vegetables. Perhaps the variety isn't as great, and the colors aren't as flashy as those vegetables in other seasons, but they do exist.

As it so happens, vegetables belonging to the cabbage family fit the bill.
Those cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale...) can certainly be grown year-round, but are sweeter in flavor when harvested during cooler months.

Things like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts definitely have a solid place in the winter vegetable canon, there's no denying it.

Semi-conversely, I'm not so sure about Brussels sprouts in July- they just don't sound as appetizing (yes, we're all aware that some would say they never sound appetizing).
The same goes for that dark green, plastic/rubbery looking leaf that's so wonderfully put to use by caterers to beautify trays and in buffets (it hides the crushed ice so well). Yes, it's kale, and it is edible- unless it really is the faux kale and truly made of plastic (officially inedible, or at least not very good for you).

The raw texture of kale and Brussels sprouts is hearty, not delicate, and they can withstand some strong flavor combinations well without being overpowered themselves.

Bite from mustard, zip from lemon, fruity green from good olive oil, while the vegetables are more of an earthy green- especially when raw.
Parmesan adds a bit of creamy nuttiness.

One really nice feature about this particular recipe is that the salad can be made in advance. In fact, it's good the day after it's put together. How many salads can you say that about?

I didn't toss them in this last time, but I think I would really enjoy this salad with a nice handful of toasted pine nuts.

If looking to make this a complete meal, perhaps consider adding a poached or hardboiled egg.

Raw Shaved Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad
based on a Saveur recipe
serves 6

1 lb (about 450 g) Brussels sprouts
1 bunch lacinato kale (maybe 15 leaves)
1 medium garlic clove, minced
finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
4 T (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T (27 g) whole-grain mustard
1/2 c (120 ml) good extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt (maybe kosher or grey salt)
freshly ground black pepper
fresh Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Wash the kale and brussels sprouts. 
Remove the stem from the center of each leaf of kale and cut about 1 cm wide on the diagonal so you have rough ribbons. Place the kale in a large bowl and set aside. 
Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts (with mandolin or a knife) from top to bottom, holding each sprout by the stem end. Discard the stems and place the sliced Brussels sprouts in the bowl along with the kale ribbons. 

Make garlic paste by sprinkling a moderate pinch of coarse salt over the minced garlic on a cutting board. Using broad knife, smash and scrape the garlic and salt, dragging the side of the knife across it several times with some force until you have achieved a uniform paste. 
Place the garlic paste in a large bowl along with the lemon zest and juice and mustard. Whisk to combine. While whisking continuously, add the olive oil in a slow stream until all has been added and the dressing is emulsified. 

To the dressing bowl, add the shaved greens. Toss several times to coat with the mustard dressing then taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired, toss again thoroughly and taste again (and season again as necessary). 

Mound the salads on individual plates and sprinkle with shards of shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Pantry

This is something I started a while back, and it's been written because one of my sisters asked me to do so.
Apparently she was trying to look up what should be included in a well-stocked pantry, but could only find lists of things she deemed "weird" and "random."
I guess we're talking basics here- things you want around and not have to run out to the store to purchase, but I don't know how basic I'll actually be.
Maybe it's reality for some people, though others might say they have no use for something I think important.
In that case, maybe it's an example of well-stocked for Natalie's purposes.
Frankly, I don't believe anyone's going to print out this list and take it to the store with them, and I don't think there are many out there building a pantry from scratch.

These things I list should last a while shelf-life wise, and at least a week for those that expire (and for that you would check out the expiration date on the milk to be sure).
Fill in with things that you should be purchased closer to the dates they're used: meats, salad greens, many fruits and vegetables other than those I have listed.
I'm not saying anyone needs to really stock up on the perishables. Those weeks you NEED three gallons of heavy cream are probably few and far between in a home kitchen (and then the issue of economy can come up once it's gone bad and you've used less than a half gallon).  A pint, however, is a more appropriate amount.
And there's the question, what are five ingredients you always have in your shopping cart? Mine would probably be fresh garlic, fresh lemons, kosher salt, whole black peppercorns (to grind), and wedge of real Parmesan cheese (no green shakers). But then if I start thinking about other things, I wonder about whether I need to substitute good olive oil for something.... and are the salt and pepper understood, or do they have to stay on the five-things-only list? I'll keep thyme in the garden, so that's not an expense to worry about.

Then again, the whole idea could make a good challenge: you will have a plain chicken breast, salt, and pepper. You may have 4 other things to make up a completed dish. What will you do?
My only other comment is to buy the best you are able. Assume the word "good" precedes each item. You generally pay for quality. If organic is important to you, please buy it. If small businesses are important to you (and small and/or local farmers trying to eek out a living), please support them.
And if you're partial to Wal-Mart, I don't really want to hear about it. But if that's what you can afford, that's fine.
One other little thing: beet sugar and cane sugar are not the same thing (and a sugar beet is not the same as the commonly known beet root). They may have the same chemical makeup, but they don't behave the same way, and cane sugar is the winner in comparative tastes of finished products. I would rather not listen to the salesmen on the subject, but instead to the people who use mass quantities of it every day.
Plus, think of all the happy children in Hawaii who benefit from your purchase of pure cane sugar.

sugar (raw if you can)
brown sugar
golden syrup (mmmmm)
real maple syrup

Parmesan cheese
heavy cream
whole milk
plain yogurt
butter (both salted and unsalted)
large eggs

Grains/Nuts/Seeds/Dried Beans
basmati or jasmine rice
arborio rice
whole oats
raw almonds
sesame seeds
several varieties of dried beans (black, lentils, split peas, cannellini, etc.)

Oils and Vinegars
olive oil
sunflower oil
white wine vinegar
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
sherry vinegar

Spice Cabinet
kosher salt (plus grey salt, fleur de sel, and maybe another type or two if it's up to me)
whole black peppercorns or a blend (and a pepper grinder)
dried thyme
dried oregano
bay leaves
cayenne pepper
curry powder
whole nutmeg
whole cardamom
whole cloves
real vanilla or vanilla beans (if not real, I'd personally not want anything)

chicken broth
vegetable broth
whole tomatoes (in a glass jar or lined can)
a variety of beans
Dijon mustard

AP flour (if you use it, and/or  a variety of GF flours if you're using them)
aluminum-free baking powder
baking soda (bicarbonate)
cocoa powder
dark chocolate


dried cranberries
dried apricots
shredded coconut

fresh parsley
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme
fresh ginger root