Friday, December 11, 2009

Kale, yellow beet and pistachio salad; baby bok choy risotto; seared sea scallops and cauliflower in raisin-caper sauce

Three more members of the Cabbage family round out this week. Kale, bok choy, and cauliflower. All delicious and reasonably easy to find, although I couldn't get locally grown versions. I settled for organic, but imported either from Ontario or the United States. Hardly ideal, but better than nothing. For good measure, I grabbed some local yellow beets that added colour and flavour to the meal.

Kale is something I don't know much about, other than that is a very strongly flavoured and rather tough leafy vegetable. I wanted to use kohlrabi as well, but again couldn't find local varieties (I didn't have time to try the Jean-Talon Market, which has a somewhat larger selection of local vegetables than Atwater). I pulled up this recipe for sautéd kale with kohlrabi, and simply substituted boiled, peeled, and sliced yellow beets for the kohlrabi. This recipe was easy, delicious and very popular with my audience (Andrew and our roommate). The pistachios add some nice texture, but honestly they're not really necessary, and they're pretty expensive. Leave them out or substitute another nut. I have another bunch of kale, so I'll have to try another way of preparing it, but sautéing just wilts the leaves enough so they lose some of their toughness. They retain all of their flavour, most of their shape, and plenty of texture. The simple lemon and olive oil dressing is delicious, easy and can be used on any salad. Both of those ingredients are things that, despite being from far away, I would never give up using in cooking. Just too good. And we use them sparingly, anyway. One thing I did differently from the recipe was that I (inadvertently) didn't remove the stems and center ribs from the kale leaves. They are totally edible, but tough and not very appetizing. I'm of two minds on this, though: I hate to cut pieces of the vegetable off and throw them away if they're edible (broccoli stems, for example, or beet greens), because it seems wasteful; so, I say, follow your conscience, and whether or not you feel like bothering with the extra step. Another thing to note about Kale is that it is super healthy, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. It has tons of beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin K.

Risotto is one of my favourite things to cook. It requires a lot of attention, so you don't get bored or distracted, and it is just so delicious and easy. You start with 4-6 cups of stock (any kind will do). Then, you take a cup or so of finely chopped onion (yellow or red, the latter having more colour but tending to dull in the cooking), and heat it in olive oil (or butter, or whatever fat you have on hand -- this time I used guineafowl fat that had been skimmed off the stock I made) until it is translucent, but not browned. Then, throw in a cup or two of Arborio rice, and quickly stir until the rice is coated in fat. Then, a generous splash of dry white wine, and the cooking has begun. As the liquid cooks down, you must keep stirring so that nothing burns or gets too dry. Once the liquid is beginning to disappear, you just start adding ladlefuls of broth (one or two at a time) to the pan and stirring away until the rice is cooked to your liking (traditionally a bit "al dente" but cooked enough that the dish is very creamy). Then you can do whatever you want. Add vegetables, (cooked) meat, cheese, or whatever else you happen to have around. I chose to put in a few ounces of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (normally I would go with a local imitation, but this is what we had in the fridge) and a bowl of sliced up baby bok choy. Salt and pepper to taste, and you have a perfect meal, side dish or snack. And the leftovers are delicious. You can even mix them with an egg and fry up risotto fritters the next morning.

To go with the risotto I took some Atlantic sea scallops from Nova Scotia (SO expensive--almost $60/kilo at the Poisonnerie Atwater--so I only bought enough for us each to have 3, but they are considered to be sustainable seafood) and seared them (just until they were well browned on the outside, but not cooked through). I did the same to some chopped up cauliflower (less fragile than the scallop; I just threw the lot into the pan with a little oil and sautéd them until they were nicely coloured), and I made a raisin and caper sauce to drizzle on it all. This, I must admit, was an idea I stole from Jean-Georges, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in New York, but of course I wouldn't dare try to recreate their dish exactly--that would just be embarassing to me. I melted a stick of butter in a small saucepan, threw in a handful of capers and a handful of golden raisins, let it all cook for a minute, and ground it up in the food processor. It was unbelievable. Incredibly rich (hello, butter), with a perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and acitity, and a magical flavour that could only be described as, well, capers and raisins. Andrew was eating it with a spoon after the meal. You can't put too much of it on, because it becomes overwhelming, but damn was it tasty.

OK, so I took that photo after I started eating, and the white balance didn't really come out right, so it doesn't look that pretty, but you get the idea.

I'm going to Chicago for the weekend, but next week I'll be back with some more awesome local winter food. Maybe my ingredient of the week will be an animal product? Vegans, look away.

1 comment:

  1. Loving this stuff so far - keep it coming.

    Also, kale goes great in any kind of hearty stew. I especially like a veggie version with lentils.