A Flower by Any Other Name

My current produce obsession is with sprout flowers, a.k.a. kalettes or kale sprouts. This hybrid of Brussels sprouts and kale was introduced to England in 2010; each adorable flower is the size of a sprout with ruffly leaves surrounding a tightly closed bud.

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They grow on stalks like Brussels sprouts but the ruffles give them a completely different appearance, kind of like an exotic tulip. They have a mild, nutty taste that is similar but less strong than kale or sprouts.

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My favorite way to cook them is roasting in a hot oven so they get as crisp as a potato chip with slightly burned edges. They are terrific to eat just like this but also make a great addition to salads, entrees or even as a topper for a creamy soup.

Simply toss the kalettes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. If some are very large, halve them from stem to top. Roast in a 400F/220C oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are browned all over and the edges are crunchy.

For a hearty winter salad, toss the kalettes with the same portion of peeled, cubed sweet potatoes, olive oil to coat, a pinch of chopped rosemary and salt and pepper. Roast at 400F/220C for 15-20 minutes. The last 7 minutes add halved cherry tomatoes to the baking pan and turn the sweet potatoes and sprout flowers. Remove from the oven when the tomatoes are jammy, the sweet potatoes are tender and golden and the kalettes are crisp and browned. Allow to cool slightly then toss with a garlicky balsamic dressing, a handful of torn fresh basil leaves and some toasted hazelnuts.

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For brunch or light supper, render the fat from some chopped cooking chorizo in a medium saute pan over medium low heat. Add layers of finely sliced potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Allow the potatoes to cook without moving until they get crusty and golden then turn them over and repeat on the other side. Meanwhile, roast the sprout flowers as per the main recipe above. Once the potatoes are nicely browned and tender, make a couple indentations in the layers and crack in eggs (1 per person). Cook to desired doneness then put ample portions of potatoes on each plate along with the crispy kalettes and top it all with an egg.

For a sprout flower salad with an Italian accent, blanch cauliflower florets, trimmed green beans and slices of carrot until tender. Cool to room temperature. Make a creamy dressing with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, top-quality mayonnaise and chopped fresh basil. Toss the cooked vegetables with roasted kale flowers, thinly sliced radicchio and enough dressing to just coat all the ingredients.

Sprout flowers aren’t readily available at typical supermarkets. I get mine from a vendor at the local farmers market here in my neighborhood; ask your green grocer or farmers market if they have them. Their season ends in April so try and get your hands on some before it’s too late.

 

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PERSIMMONS: THE FRUIT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

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This time of year in Northern California, you can walk around in neighborhoods and see big trees that have lost their leaves but are full of beautiful orange fruit. These are persimmons and they are prolific trees that produce with abundance each year.

There are two major kinds: fuyu, which are eaten when they are hard like an apple, and hachiya, which need to get very very soft to be used. The trees are beautiful but the fruit doesn’t have as many fans as you might think. Generally, people aren’t sure what to do with persimmons.

A friend dropped by a bag of fuyus for me the other day so I got to experimenting in the kitchen.

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They are terrific with cheese on an appetizer plate. Here they are paired them with pomegranate seeds and a triple creme cheese – delicious!

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Salads are another place for persimmons to star. Toss one thinly sliced fuyu with butter lettuce, candied walnuts and creamy goat cheese in a lemon vinaigrette.

They are also good in this double kale salad – use your favorite roasted kale recipe to create the crisp shards for the topping.

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DOUBLE KALE SALAD

5 leaves of fresh dino kale, sliced very thinly into ribbons

1 fuyu persimmon, julienned

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

1/2 cup of roasted kale chips

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DRESSING

1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

2 1/2 tablespoons orange infused olive oil – such as O Clementine Olive Oil

1 1/2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper

 

1.Toss fresh kale, cranberries and persimmons in a large bowl until mixed.

2. Make dressing: put vinegar in a small bowl and gradually whisk in oils. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Toss salad with just enough dressing to coat all the pieces. Distribute salad between 4 plates and top with the kale chips. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SO MANY LEFTOVERS, SO LITTLE TIME!!!

Just in case you’re wondering what to do with all that leftover food crowding your fridge, check out my latest article on Zester Daily:

http://zesterdaily.com/recipe/nine-fresh-ideas-for-memorable-thanksgiving-leftovers/

There are recipes for soup, salad and several main courses with creative ideas on how to reinvent the turkey and trimmings into something new and tasty.

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PEACHY KEEN

We are on the downhill slope towards the end of peach season, so I’ve been experimenting lots with this fruit. I have a pot of spicy red peppers going crazy and wanted to use them with peaches somehow.

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My sister-in-law, Anne, made a delicious salad for a recent family get-together that inspired me to pick the peppers, get some peaches and head to the kitchen. Here is my attempt at her creation.

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SPICY PEACH SALAD WITH CUCUMBERS

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
1 softball-sized peach, cut in bite sized pieces
1-2 hot fresh chiles, minced (use the amount based on your taste)
Juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon honey
pinch salt

Mix the cukes, peaches and chiles in a bowl. Drizzle with the lime juice, honey and salt and toss gently together to meld flavors. Set aside for 10 minutes then serve.

Yield: 2-3 servings

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PLEASE READ MORE ABOUT WHAT I HAVE TO SAY ON PEACHES IN A RECENT ARTICLE ON ZESTER DAILY:

http://zesterdaily.com/?p=49248

TOMAYTO TOMOTTO

Look at these volunteer tomato plants that came up with my beans this year:

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I transplanted a couple into a spot in one of the garden beds and they are doing great. There are even a couple flowers on the plants:

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Volunteers from the compost pile that come up in other parts of the garden have worked really well for me. They have produced hearty plants that flourish with an abundant harvest.

So, in anticipation of the boatload of tomatoes in my near future (and yours!), here are a few global ideas for tomato platters. If you are inspired, you can always buy some at the market now. There are tasty tomatoes from greenhouses, Mexico or southern California available, including heirloom varieties, that are juicy and sweet. Pretty soon, local, vine-ripened ones will be here.

Just Tomatoes: alternate slices of yellow, red, and different colored heirloom tomatoes (such as Green Zebra) on a plate. Scatter halved cherry tomatoes overall. Season with salt and pepper.

The Calabrese: slice ripe, red tomatoes and place in a circular pattern on a plate. Top with halved small balls of fresh mozzarella and slivered fresh basil leaves. Finish with a drizzle of good olive oil, fresh ground pepper and salt.

Summer Garden: scatter blanched corn cut off the cob and chilled, blanched green beans over sliced red tomatoes. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh oregano, olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper.

The New Mexico: alternate slices of peeled cucumber, tomato and cantaloupe. Sprinkle with pure chile powder and squeeze fresh lime juice overall.

French: dab some fresh, soft goat cheese here and there over a plate of sliced tomatoes. Drizzle with a ribbon of pesto and scatter pitted nicoise olives decoratively on top. Finish with salt and pepper.

Spain: make a platter of sliced tomatoes with roasted red peppers that have been cut into thick slices. Shave Manchego cheese over the platter using a vegetable peeler. Splash a garlicky sherry vinaigrette on top and season with salt and pepper. o

A Mouthful of Sunshine

In walking through the San Rafael Farmers Market one recent Sunday, I was captivated by the overwhelming variety of honey carried at the Marshall Farm stall.

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After tasting several types, I settled on a jar of flowery orange blossom, which tasted like eating a warm, sweet ray of sunshine.

Returning home with my bounty, I turned to the book “At Taste of Honey” by Marie Simmons for inspiration. One of the most comprehensive tomes on the subject, Simmons has left no stone unturned in her quest for information on bees and honey. She gives special attention to the different varieties of honey, covering 40 types, and shares pairing notes for cheeses, which drew my attention since another item in my market basket was a large wedge of Pt. Reyes Farmstead’s Bay Blue. The partnership of blue cheese and honey is an uncanny one where the sum definitely exceeds the parts. I had the chance to ask Simmons about this.:

“The salt profile in the cheese perfectly balances the sweet notes in the honey. But layered on salt are the complex deep floral, caramel, mushroomy (umami) spice and a plethora of other flavors that pop up in honey. One important element is to seek out a varietal honey with robust flavor notes that will stand up to the big tastes in the aged (saltier like a Pecorino, Parmigiano, aged goat, blue veined etc.) cheese. My cheese honey epiphany occurred years ago on a trip through northern Italy when I was served a sliver of oozing gorgonzola dolce with a drizzle of chestnut honey and a couple of toasted walnuts on the side. To this day that is the benchmark for a perfect pairing of cheese and honey. Chestnut honey can be very tannic (typical of many tree blossom honey). It is almost bitter and not to everyone’s liking but with the right pairing it can be amazing. To this day 30 years later I keep a bottle of Italian chestnut honey (I have sourced it in CA as well) in my “honey library” for when I come across a perfect gorgonzola dolce”, she said.

With that in mind, I pulled the first fresh apricots of the season from my basket. Following Simmons’ advice and thoughts on what inspired “A Taste of Honey”, I stuffed the apricot halves with a hunk of the blue and wrapped each half with a strip of prosciutto, then finished the dish with a drizzle of honey, glazing the cheese, apricots and prosciutto before popping them in the oven to roast.

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“As a cook, exploring honey used in savory dishes has been most exciting. Ever try finishing a stir fry with a swirl of honey? It tempers the heat of the ginger and pepper and the salt of the soy and compliments the garlic. Gives the entire dish a lovely sheen. Honey balances the acid in a dish as in tomatoes. Try a drizzle on a salad dressed with a bold vinaigrette,” Simmons added.

So while the apricots were roasting, I threw together some fresh salad greens and made a dressing mellowed with more of the honey. The finished dish hit all the right notes with the salt from the cheese and the sweetness of the honey tap dancing on my palate with the tartness of the apricot and the porky, crispy prosciutto. The salad was the perfect backdrop with a zippy balsamic dressing tamed by the addition of honey.

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HONEY ROASTED APRICOTS STUFFED WITH BLUE CHEESE ON SPRING GREENS

Apricots:

3 fresh apricots, halved and pitted

6 walnut-sized nuggets of Bay Blue, or your favorite, semi-firm blue cheese

2 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, each cut lengthwise in 3– 1/2″ strips

1 tablespoon robust honey – I used orange blossom but something darker might compliment better – such as wildflower or avocado

Preheat oven to 400. Stuff each apricot cavity with a cheese nugget then wrap a prosciutto strip around the apricot. Place in a 8″ baking dish. Dab 1/2 teaspoon of honey on the cheese, top of the apricot and the prosciutto. Roast in the oven 5-7 minutes until chess is melty, prosciutto is crisped and apricot is jammy. Set aside to cool slightly.

Salad and dressing:

4 hefty handfuls of washed spring greens, spun dry

1/2 teaspoon of orange blossom or wildflower honey

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place salad greens in a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix the honey and vinegar together then gradually drizzle in the oil until a smooth dressing forms. season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the greens with the dressing.

Assembly

Arrange dressed greens on a platter and place apricot halves decoratively on top. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3-4 salads