Thursday Night Nicoise Salad

Thursday Night Nicoise Salad
Allow all of your salad stars to shine on their own. Dress each component of your salad individually and pile onto a platter. Simple food is just so darn pretty. Make something like this whatever you have on hand!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's Not Hard to Love CHARD


I know what you’re thinking.
I should have been a rapper cuz I’m a rhymer. 

CHARD. Beta vulgaris, cicla (huh? what? vulgar beets?) Beta vulgaris is the common beet. Adding “cicla” from sicula, referring to both SIcily and a beet variety grown there, you have CHARD!  If you like spinach, you’ll love chard. Next time you reach for the fresh spinach at your favorite produce market, try the chard instead, just for a change of pace. It is not only super-nutritious, but it’s so damn delicious!!! Buy some. Wash it. Cook it. For first-timers, just try this: Cut the stems from the leaves with a sharp knife. Roughly chop the leaves and simply toss them into a simmering pot of chicken soup or broth. In a few minutes, when it’s tender, enjoy! That alone would make me happy. 

It is so gorgeous, it might just call to you from the produce shelf. It’s dark green, sturdy, shiny leaves are vibrant and scream GOOD HEALTH! You can hear them! The stalks are either white, red or rainbow colored. Rainbow Chard is astoundingly beautiful with multi-colored stalks of yellow, orange, purple, pink, red and more. Just amazing! Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more about great seeds from the creator of the award winning chard cultivar known as “Bright Lights”:  http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-50-swiss-chard.aspx

Chard is something that we grew up eating. My mom would just kind of saute’~braise it with a little olive oil, kosher salt and maybe a hint of garlic and a fresh hot chile or crushed red pepper flakes. Maybe a bit of water or broth. Of course, the stalks were chopped and cooked along with the leaves because you know, it would be a sin to waste any of the vegetable. Italians use it all, my friends. So, when you use both, it makes sense to cook the chopped stalks first until almost tender and then toss in the leaves and finish cooking.I think Americans tend to eat the leaves and not the stalks and the French tend to eat the stalks and not the leaves. Italians - all of it!

Here’s my own simple recipe for Swiss Chard Risotto. I used only the chard leaves in this recipe but next time, I’ll use "the whole nine". Risotto is rich, creamy, warming and fabulous.  It’s a great dish in which you can showcase your favorite vegetables! And, since I’m on a chard kick, here ya go:

Delicious Swiss Chard Risotto

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of olive oil 
1 tablespoon of butter
2 large shallots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups of good quality risotto rice ~ Recommended: Carnaroli
 or Arborio or Vialone Nano 
1 cup of dry white wine (not sweet, something crisp and dry with good acidity) ~
 Recommended: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio 
5 to 6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth*
2 bunches of Swiss Chard, washed, stems removed,
 leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup or more of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 more tablespoon of butter, for finishing

It’s true. Risotto is hands on. Probably a good twenty minutes of adding broth, cooking and stirring. Pour yourself a glass of wine (just drink the wine that you’re using in the risotto), turn on some great music, and if you’re like me, you will thoroughly enjoy standing there, stirring and sipping. It’s not just the destination, right? It’s the journey. Especially when cooking risotto. 

The Process

  1. Heat the broth to a simmer in a medium pot and keep it hot on the stovetop. 
  2. In another medium, heavy pot, heat the oil and butter.  Add the shallot and onion.
  3. Saute and stir on medium-high heat for a few minutes until slightly tender. 
  4. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, pepper and rice. Stir to coat the rice well and continue cooking.
  5. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and cook at a high simmer, while watching and stirring occasionally until all of the wine is absorbed into the rice.
  6. Add about 2 ladles of hot broth to the rice. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and continue cooking and stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process with another ladle of broth. Simmer, cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process and continue adding broth, one ladle at a time, cooking, stirring, etc.
  7. When there are a few ladles of broth remaining, toss all of the chopped chard into the pot and stir into the rice. Continue adding broth and cooking until all of the broth is gone and the rice is tender and creamy, but still al dente. 
  8. Now, the finishing touch. Stir in the freshly grated Parm and the butter.  Taste.  
  9. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt & pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.
*NOTE: If you use all of the broth and the rice is undercooked, don’t fret. Continue the process with another ladle or two of boiling water (or more hot broth if you have it) until the rice is tender. 

This should be enough for four side dish servings for four normal people. Mark and I polished off the whole pot. 

Don’t be barred from chard. Have some today.

Very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Phosphorus and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.



Love, Katie

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cippolini


CIPPOLINI ~ chi poh LEE nee . . . In English, “small onions”. The Italian word for onion is “cippola”. Small onion: “cippoline”. Small onions (plural): “cippolini”. So, then, of course, it bugs me to refer to cippolini as "CIPPOLINI ONIONS" because then, that would be redundant, am I wrong? “No, you’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdoo43sp3ZY tooooooo funny..... sorry about that. I couldn’t help myself. Big Lebowski fans will understand.

Mom & Vito on H.S. Graduation Day
circa 1947
Next up . . . why cippolini remind me of my maternal grandfather,
“Buh-vi-TOOCH”:

Daddy, Mom, Mom's Great Grandma & Papa Detroit
(aka Vito DePalma, aka "Buh-vi-TOOCH"
Cippolini are much loved in my family and are certainly at the top of my onion love list.  The cippolini of my mom’s childhood are onions of a stronger and larger variety. Very flat shape. Very distinct flavor.  My mom has vivid memories of her father, Vito’s, cippolini. Mom remembers these delicious onions and how they ate them with everything. Vito regularly picked them up at “the market” near their home in Detroit. Vito DePalma (fondly known as “Buh-vi-TOOCH”), hailed from Bari, Italy (located in the Puglia region of Italy along the Adriatic Sea). He was an excellent home cook, pan frying cippolini in olive

oil, and known for frying his delectable artichokes (“skar-CHOFE”) while “Nani Detroit” (aka Theresa DePalma) made the pasta. As a testament to Vito being a fearless and adventurous cook, the family woke one morning to Vito’s yelling & ranting about the live snails that had apparently tipped the lid off of the pot in which they were being stored.  They were crawling around on the floor and stairs! Hmmm, ya think they might have known that escargot was on the day’s menu? I’m sure Papa was p.o.’d. Em was crackin’ up laughing when she recounted the story with me on the phone this morning. I have yet to attempt snails. I have never been able to duplicate Vito’s artichokes and I still tend to mutilate them when trying to trim them properly. I want to be sure I have some Vito in me.  At least I know how to make cippolini.

So, there are many easy methods of cooking these onions, from stovetop to oven to grill, but today, I’ll share this really simple method with you. Today’s cippolini can be found at your local supermarket, right near the garlic, shallots and pearl onions in the produce section (“Melissa’s” brand must be rakin’ it in because I never see any other brands at the local stores) although Whole Foods does sell bulk cippolini in the produce section of their stores. Note: Feel free to roast pearl onions if you can't find cipollini . . . shallots are also delicious. 


Sammy demonstrates the process,
using pearl onions (New Year's Eve 2009)

Roasted Cipollini

1 1/2 lbs. of Cippolini (three 8 oz. packages)
A drizzle of olive oil (few tablespoons)
About 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar*
A sprinkle of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs**, whole or torn

*Your choice of balsamic vinegar - I love Honey Ridge Farms award-winning Honey Balsamic Vinegar or a sweet and delicious authentic Italian Balsamic from Modena or a sweet and tangy white or golden balsamic vinegar. Select a vinegar that has a bit of sweetness.

**Fresh thyme and onions are a match made in heaven. Sage is also excellent. Fresh oregano is excellent in season. Fresh rosemary would be delicious. In a pinch, use a bit of dried thyme or oregano if you don’t have any fresh herbs.

Before I explain this, please don’t try and get away with buying one 8 oz. bag of onions. Make it worth your effort. One bag will yield very little. By the time you peel, trim and cook them, you’ll only end up with a teentsy amount. I usually end up with one pint size deli container of roasted onions from 1 1/2 lbs of raw, unpeeled onions. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the onions to the boiling water. Slightly reduce the heat to medium high and let onions boil for a few minutes so that their skin will be easy to remove. Drain in colander. Peel and trim them with a sharp paring knife, leaving onions whole. Seriously, that’s the most tedious task. The rest is a breeze.Toss into a baking dish. You can use an aluminum foil pan or pie plate if you like, for easy cleanup. Add all above ingredients. Stir to coat. Pop into preheated oven on the middle rack for about an hour, stirring once or twice until the onions are nicely coated and glazed. Remove from oven and allow to cool. I keep these stored in the fridge in a plastic deli container (they don’t sit around for long because they’re hard to resist). If chilled, allow to sit and and warm to room temperature before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Cippolini

Tender mixed greens like arugula,
tango, red oak, frisee’ and baby red romaine
(about 10 or 12 ounces)
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
feta cheese 
roasted cippolini (as explained above)

Into a very large mixing bowl, toss in the salad greens. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. More vinegar than oil. I’d say I usually go with a 3 to 1 vinegar to oil ratio. Please don’t ask me how much oil! Don’t overdo it. Vito used to say “...just baptize the greens...” Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently. Taste! If you like it tangier, add more vinegar. Spread tossed and dressed greens onto serving platter. Crumble desired amount of feta cheese onto the salad. Top with cippolini. Add more freshly ground black pepper if you like. Serve immediately. 

KPK Interesting Cipollini Fact:

Did you know that there’s a very colorful, ex-professional-bicyclist by the name of Mario Cipollini? “Mario Small-Onions”. You'll only find it here, in KPK.

"Life 

is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep".                                                                     
Carl Sandburg 

Love, Katie




Mediterranean Fish Stew

Mediterranean Fish Stew
A KPK cross between Spanish style Cod and French Boullabaisse

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup
aka "Got-To-Go" Soup, inspired by Louie

MORE 4 U

From here, you can continue scrolling down to check out some of my favorite dishes and KPK highlights.

For more posts (articles), recipes, stories and pictures, you can scroll up (in the right column under "What You Missed") and click on 2008, 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013. As of June, 2013, there are are total of 139 posts in KPK. You can spend more time here when you know where to look, right?! Another way to enjoy my kitchen is to click on any items of interest in the section entitled "Passion Posts", also up above in the right column.

Love, Katie ~ I am so glad you're here! Stay awhile!

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