Rustica.

I’m going to make this one short and sweet, unlike the recipe below, but I’m all about irony and opposites, so who cares.

I’m going to guess that this is going to be my last post for a while. We are headed to Greece (GREECE!!!!!) on Saturday, and you best believe, I won’t be bloggin’ over there. Plus, I swear I haven’t cooked much of anything lately, and I had to dig into a rough draft of this recipe from like, I dunno, a couple of months ago, to have something to share with you today.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve made some stuff – but typically it’s a piece of toasted bread, a fried egg, some cheese, and a couple of slices of avocado (you don’t need a recipe and pictures for that, right?!) or maybe a throw-together version of the best thing in my life food-wise, chilaquiles.

We even went to Portland the other week, and camping/backpacking again (first time since the Lost Coast!) this past weekend, and I could probably share some pictures with you, but I didn’t take that many.

Man, I’m slack.

But if I had a little time on my hands, a little snippet of a morning where I could plan a little, I’d totally make this pie again. If I had any veggies in my fridge, it would totally be the way to use them all up, but I doubt a bunch of celery would be all that good by itself…

I’m hoping you do have a little more time at home this week to make this, because I promise it’s totally worth a little bit of preparation. When I made this thing ages ago (or at least it seems like ages), I made the dough the day before, and when it came time to roll that stuff out and stuff the pie, I added every little piece of veggie that I had left into that thing. Lots of cheese, too. It was marvelous, and we ate it for three days straight, which might be boring to some of you, but to me, it was just delightful each and every time.

And with that, adio! I promise to take pictures in Greece, and maybe make some baklava again, or in the least, something with a good Greek olive oil ;).

Pizza Rustica
adapted from Cooking Light, April 2012; serves 8

time commitment:  2 hours, 30 minutes (about 1 hour active time, includes refrigeration of dough and baking time)

printable version

ingredients
crust
7 3/4 oz all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups), divided
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c water

torta
2 medium red bell peppers
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T chopped shallots
2 t minced garlic
2 (8-ounce) packages cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
2 oz fontina cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
1 T fat-free milk

instructions
To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon 7.25 ounces flour (about 1 2/3 cups) into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 7.25 ounces flour, 1/2 t salt, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. With processor on, slowly add oil mixture through food chute, and process just until dough begins to form a ball (dough will be crumbly). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 3 minutes; add enough of the remaining 2 tablespoons flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Press each portion into a 5-inch circle on plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes.
To prepare torta, preheat broiler to high. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a ziploc bag and seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 1 minute or until greens begin to wilt. Place kale and bell peppers in a large bowl. Return pan to medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place mushroom mixture and kale mixture in a fine sieve; let drain 5 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add ricotta and next 7 ingredients (through egg white) to vegetable mixture, stirring to combine.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp surface. Unwrap one dough portion, and place on plastic wrap. Cover dough with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into an 11-inch circle. Place the dough in freezer for 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can be easily removed. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap; fit dough, plastic wrap side up, into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Spoon vegetable mixture into prepared pie plate.
Repeat with remaining dough and then place over vegetable mixture. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Press the edges of dough together. Fold edges under, and flute. Brush top of dough with milk. Cut several slits in top of dough to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

decadence, defined

Do you ever get a thought stuck in your noggin’ and you can’t for the life of you let go of it? No matter what you do, no matter what else you think about, that one thought just stays there, following you like those ghosts on Pac-man. I hate those ghosts, and I was never all that good at pac-man anyway.

So instead of running, this particular thought was faced head-on. I made Beef Wellington.

I’ve only “made” beef Wellington once, and by “made” I mean that I assisted as sous chef. My friend, Caroline, made it once at a dinner party that I helped with (I do miss those, C!) and I remember thinking about how lucky those folks were to be eating such a fine fine meal. We, of course, partook in quite a few “scraps” and yeah, it was good stuff.

But for some reason, the idea of making beef Wellington this past weekend was something I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was the weekend of our 6 year wedding anniversary (!), and we’d decided to stay home and take it easy, so a nice, decadent meal seemed like the right thing to do.

Chris and I did burn a few calories on the bikes, anyway, so we had a little extra room for some butter-laden dough, prosciutto, and of course, beef. We finished up our trip through Golden Gate Park, stopped off at Whole Foods, and loaded up on our ingredients as well as some cheese and crackers to tide us over until dinner.

I decided we didn’t quite need to do an entire recipe of beef Wellington, so I made some adjustments to one of “T-Flo’s” recipes, and came up with the most ginormous “individual” portions I’d ever seen.

I’m sure on most days I could have eaten it all then and there, but with the mountain of cheese we ate beforehand, this ended up being a 4-serving dish instead of 2. Which is to say that we managed to drag out the decadence for another night. And it was good, my friends, good indeed. Perfect for a special night in, a dinner party perhaps, or even a holiday dish to replace all of that turkey we folks eat all the dang time.

I guess, also, you could make it on a regular ol’ Tuesday night, too. But that just sounds crazy, and we are sane as can be over here.

“Individual” Beef Wellingtons
Adapted, loosely, from Tyler Florence via The Food Network, serves 2-4

time commitment: less than 2 hours from start to finish

printable version

ingredients
mushrooms, aka “duxelles” & kale
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c fresh kale

beef
2 6 oz portions of filet mignon, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (truffle salt, if you have it)
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T Dijon mustard
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
10-12 oz puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
1 large egg, lightly beaten

green peppercorn sauce
1 T olive oil
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 c sherry
2 c beef stock
1 c heavy cream
1 T grainy mustard
3 T green peppercorns

instructions
make the duxelles and kale:
add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for ~6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. add kale to pan and sauté until cooked throughout, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

beef:
drizzle filets with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes total. Meanwhile set out 2 slices of prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap on top of your cutting board. Layer the 2 slices of prosciutto onto the plastic wrap. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with 1/2 of the duxelle mixture. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Add 1/2 of the kale next. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap and repeat with the other filet. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the sheet in half, using each half for each filet. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set 1 beef filet in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining filet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting in half. Garnish with thyme and sea salt, and serve with green peppercorn sauce, if using.

Make green peppercorn sauce (while beef is cooking):
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add sherry and flambe using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns. Serve alongside beef.

It Ain’t Grilled

If you asked me what the most difficult dietary restriction was, I’d be at an entire loss.

My first answer would be gluten-free – I’m not sure how life would go on without a nice, toasted piece of french bread, or a whole-wheat pizza, or even croutons. But given my love for making things from scratch, from making things myself, I’d be willing to bet I’d adapt pretty quickly, and with all the amazing gluten-free-ers blogging these days, I probably wouldn’t go without nearly as often as I think I would.

So then I think about the diabetics. No sugar? That doesn’t seem like a life worth living, either. Days without chocolate? Caramel? Ice cream? But again, there are a thousand sugar-substitutes available, and maybe I’d adapt to that, too. Maybe I’d get used to using Spenda or Truvia or whatever all the time. I mean, I use them a decent amount now by choice, so how bad could it be if my doctor told me to cut the sugar?

Which brings me to the next one – lactose. Oh, my. No cheese? No milk? But I suppose I could have it all if I just battled a little indigestion and upset stomach for a bit, right? And maybe I could take Lactase and it would be all better. Something tells me it isn’t that easy. And rice cheese? I’m not sure that tastes anything like Manchego or Gouda or Parmesan. I doubt soy ice cream is an ounce as good as whole milk ice cream, but again, if this were my life I’m sure I’d learn to love it, and learn to adjust. People do it all the time, don’t they?

Be that as it may, I absolutely couldn’t imagine life without toasted, cheesy sandwiches. And I could forego the meat as long as the cheese is there, as long as it oozes like this one, and as long as I feel a crunch of crusty, toasted bread between my teeth. Yeah, I don’t need bacon or chicken or any of that.

In fact, I’m quite happy with a large whopping mound of garlic-infused kale. Again, as long as cheese and bread are at the party, too.

Word on the street is that it’s National Grilled Cheese Month. Did you know? I have to thank podcasts and Facebook for this niblet of info, I do. And while I could really get behind a grilled cheese sandwich right about now, I realized I’d made this kale and provolone sandwich (aka grinder to anyone who uses that term. who uses that term, anyway?) a few weeks ago and I think I’d be more than happy to have it again.

Then again, a panini-style samich with sharp cheddar and a fresh tomato would also be pretty awesome. But since tomatoes are quite in season yet, maybe I’d better wait. At the end of the day, eating this one is hardly a sacrifice.

Kale & Provolone Grinders
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; makes 4

time commitment:  ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients
white bean puree
3 T olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans with liquid
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

sandwiches
2 bunches of lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale
Kosher salt
3 T olive oil, divided
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 c arugula or spinach
2 T fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 6″–8″-long French rolls, split lengthwise
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone heese
1 jalapeño, seeded, very thinly sliced

instructions
white bean puree
Heat 1 T oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 2 T oil. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

sandwiches
Cook kale, 1 bunch at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes (return to a boil between batches). Transfer kale to a baking sheet; let cool. Squeeze dry; coarsely chop.

Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 2 T oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add kale and arugula/spinach; cook, stirring often, until stem pieces are just tender, 4–5 minutes. Add remaining T oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more juice, if desired. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool. (you can do this a day early if you’d like)

Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 400 F. Open rolls and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread bean purée on one side of each roll; add greens. Top with cheese, then jalapeño. Toast, rotating pans after 5 minutes, until cheese is melted, 7–10 minutes. Top, slice, and serve.

The Bare Necessities

If you’re living in an eerie space for up to a month’s time, maybe more, what things are necessary for your functioning?

As it turns out, my necessities were primarily kitchen-related. It seems that all those other things lying around our house weren’t that important after all. Although let’s be honest – I do miss my couch, but I couldn’t justify moving that big ol’ thing around.

Yes, I had all my oils and all my spices sent here to our temporary apartment. Don’t judge; it’s hard enough grocery shopping with an empty pantry and fridge, and having at least some of my regular items on hand certainly makes the temporary stay more bearable.

Also, Chris unpacked everything and alphabetized my spices prior to my arrival – he is definitely a keeper.

What else? Oh yes. I will also be lugging my Dutch oven over to San Francisco once our temporary stay is complete. It seems I couldn’t imagine being without it for that long, and that was probably a good decision, what with the 3 pots and pans they have at this apartment. Cheap ones, too.

Prior to packing, I had a flashback to two summers ago in Hilton Head, easily recalling how shabby utensils are in furnished living quarters, and in light of said flashback, I quickly dug my old culinary school roll-up bag from the depths of a closet and loaded it up with all my favorite utensils, including my knife. That was definitely worth it, already. My knife needed sharpening, but thank goodness I packed my quick n’ easy sharpener too!

It seems I also can’t live without wine, because we brought all 3 boxes with us. We claim it’s because we felt more comfortable storing it here rather than a weird warehouse, but I’m not sure who we thought we were kidding when we used that excuse. Regardless of why, we’re already glad the wine is here.

Although the cooking has definitely taken a back burner, per se, having all my ‘necessities’ around has most certainly motivated me to toss a few ingredients together for dinner, especially since dining out nightly isn’t the best idea for these jeans I’ve been wearing every day that might bust at any given moment. So with that, another pasta dish has surfaced, this one loaded with kale, one of my favorite greens and meanwhile, my jeans (and my dignity) have been spared for yet another day.

Rigatoni with Kale, Bacon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted, barely, from Cooking Light, December 2010; serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
8 oz rigatoni
5 c roughly chopped prewashed kale (~2 medium bunches)
2 slices center-cut bacon
1/4 c oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/2 t crushed red pepper
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t salt
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2 T fresh lemon juice

instructions
Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes or until almost tender. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and let dry on a paper towel-lined plate; crumble and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add sun-dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add pasta and kale, reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, black pepper, and salt to pan; toss to combine. Top pasta mixture evenly with bacon and cheese; drizzle evenly with lemon juice.

Little Things

After all’s said and done, it’s the little things in life that make it so worth living – dontcha think? Sure, buying a new house (or maybe a small-ish condo) is a huge feat, and certainly graduating is awesome, no matter how many times you do it. Having a baby? That’s a big thing, no doubt. My friend Caroline just did that and my friend Lindsay will be doing that soon, and I’m pretty excited for both of them.

Me? I’m sorta focused on the little things lately. And there’s a whole bunch of them lying around, waiting to be acknowledged.

One of them is my new (but used and cheap) bike. I wasn’t ready to commit to a big bike purchase, so I procured a cheap bike that rides great and is exactly what I was looking for. Riding that bike has been the highlight of the past couple of weeks, and I’ve begun to notice all sorts of little things since my first venture out on two wheels. For one, I like the wind against my face, even though my too-long, multi-colored bangs blow recklessly to the side, sometimes sticking to my face when it’s sweaty. That actually happens a lot. I like the sound the pedals make when I whiz them backwards while waiting for the light to turn green. I like that there are small hills in the city, so that when those quads are workin’ hard to reach the apex, there’s a sizeable amount of time to breeze on down the other side, and to go fast. I like the view from this side of the city, and I like being part of another sub-culture.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of trips to the new gelateria in town. Gelato in the summer reminds me of Italy, obviously, and just like our trip to Italy many years ago, I hope to eventually try every. single. flavor. I also participated in “free Slurpee day” on 7/11 and, amidst a little rain, Jennifer and I rode from one to the other for some cold slushee goodness. I like that I (sorta) have a tan, too, because that’s a constant reminder that it’s Summer, and hot as hell as it is, I like it.

This CSA-joining has been pretty cool, too. I like getting home and opening emptying my bag; I feel like a pirate might feel when he/she gets to sift through the booty. Ha, booty. I like that word, too. I’ve seen so many posts, articles, recipes discussing kale chips. Kale chips, you read correctly. Baked pieces of kale seemed a little blah to me, really, and I didn’t plan to find out otherwise. But as it turns out, our CSA likes to include kale in their boxes and I like that they like to. I had a burgeoning bunch of it, and figured I’d try my hand at these supposed ‘chips’ with a few of the leaves.

People, if I could sum up that experience in two words I would say this and only this, “make this”. It’s crazy, truly, how torn, leafy pieces of dark green kale are transformed in a 350-degree oven in a matter of moments. Crunchy, burnt in some places (those below in most places), flecks of sea salt dancing on the leaves, kept in place by a ruffle at the edge. Tasty, for sure – a twinge of salt, a smoothness of olive oil, and a suggestion of sweet, eating these things makes you feel guilty almost, but not quite because it’s kale, people! It’s kale.

Like I said, little things.

Kale Chips
makes however much you want..

printable version

ingredients
kale
olive oil
sea salt

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. take out a large baking sheet, or two. tear kale into small, bite-size pieces and toss in a large bowl with a little olive oil (don’t overdo it, just enough to coat the kale). place pieces of kale on baking sheet, making sure to not overlap. sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy.

Footloose & Fancy-free

I’m typically a rather organized, methodical person. Which is not to say that I’m therefore, uptight, because that’s pretty far from the truth. But I do enjoy control, order, and the usual systematic process of time. At least, from time to time I do.

I realize that often, I contradict myself. I like calendars, but I’ve never worn a watch (except when the swatch watches were in style, and I probably wore those way past their prime). I like planning vacations, but I prefer to have a “destination” and go from there, with a limited agenda (this is making the upcoming vacation tricky, I’m finding). I have a list of restaurants to go to, but I hate having to make reservations and would prefer to just show up when I want to eat there (Rick Bayless doesn’t allow that, sadly. I still haven’t planned far enough in advance to go to Frontera.). And when it comes to food, I generally use recipes, but I never measure and I won’t pretend for a second that the recipes are followed very strictly.

So when our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box came in last week, I was cautiously excited. I like to think of myself as an adventurous cook, but I also like to come home from work with an idea in mind of what I’m cooking for that night, and the rest of the week as well. We had a general idea of what was gonna be in the box, but just like a box of chocolates, you never really know what you’re gonna get.

At the same time, I was looking forward to ‘wingin’ it’ which, despite my culinary training, I seldom do. Though I certainly don’t adhere to the ‘anyone can follow a recipe’ mantra (believe me, it’s not true), I own so many cookbooks and read so many food magazines that I find myself feeling the need to use those recipes, at least as a guide.

Unpacking the CSA box reminded me of a story my pops told me the other day, one of many. He boasted proudly about his parents and the first few years of his life in the country, growing up on a farm and in absence of a phone, let alone electricity. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisted of what was available to them that day; bluntly – there was no grocery-shopping, no microwaving, and no Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless, or even Food Network to be inspired by. At first you think about how unfortunate they were to have never tasted a juicy Florida orange, a smooth and buttery California avocado, and for Pete’s sake, a bowl of those sweet Michigan cherries. But then, then, you realize how simple, how coveted, and how organic it all was.

I’ll tell you one thing: it makes that CSA box seem like one step in the right direction. Which, ironically, is backwards.

And while I won’t pretend to be hardcore when it comes to eating locally, I certainly appreciate those who do and with every season that passes and every dish I order, I am more conscious of it. My dad’s story the other day reminded me of how fortunate we are, but how forgetful we are as well.

The box and the meal that followed hit home in more ways than one. To top it all off, I reminded myself that not only can I cook, but I’m also not a bad chef either. So with that, here’s to CSA season, ‘the old days’, and cooking the way Rod Stewart might suggest: footloose and fancy-free.

In the Chicago area and wanna research CSAs? Start here. Summer CSAs are likely full or past joining times, but some have Fall sign-ups.

Linguini with Sausage, Kale, and ‘Shrooms
Inspired by the CSA box; serves 4

printable version

ingredients
8 oz whole wheat linguini*
8 oz spicy pork sausage, sliced into 1/2″ medallions
2 ‘strands’ garlic scape (or 2 garlic cloves), thinly sliced
1 T anchovy paste
8 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed & sliced
1/2 bunch green kale, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 c semi-dry white wine (I used a Michigan Kerner, similar to Riesling)
1 T champagne vinegar
3 T butter
salt and pepper
2 T parmigiano-reggiano cheese

instructions
cook pasta in a large pot according to package directions and drain.

meanwhile, heat large saucepan to med-hi and cook sausage for about 5-7 minutes, flipping to cook evenly. set aside on paper towel-lined plate. in same saucepan, which will have a little oil from sausages, saute scapes with anchovy paste for 1-2 minutes. add mushrooms and most of the lemon juice and cook for about 5 minutes. add kale and cook until kale begins to wilt, about 2 more minutes. add sausage and cooked pasta to pan and toss until heated through and then move contents to large serving dish. add salt and pepper to taste.

add white wine, butter, and champagne vinegar to saucepan. let boil to remove cooked bits and incorporate into sauce. whisk until a smooth mixture forms; pour over dish. season with salt and pepper and any remaining lemon juice. top with cheese.

*can easily use gluten-free, if needed

This is How I Roll

When I told you I was going pescaterian for a month, you didn’t think I was going to talk about super-healthy dishes for the duration of May, did you?

If you did, and it’s ok if you did, I wanted to layeth the smacketh down relatively early, so as not to further confuse anyone. I do not roll that way. And as a matter of fact, not eating meat does not necessarily = eating healthier, per se. Because, quite frankly, you might find yourself loading up on cows and cows worth of cheese instead, and I do love cheese. It is for that reason that I will never, ever understand why a vegan becomes vegan. But I’m not here to understand everybody, that’s for sure.

I am here to report on my recent feelings about eggplant, however. I’ve never been a big fan of meat imitators. I suppose I should retract that statement, since I like tofu and tofu is, by all accounts, a meat imitator. But veggies such as mushrooms and eggplant that make their way between two pieces of bread and are called “burgers” usually come off resembling mush and downright soggy messes. I’ve also never really liked eggplant parmesan, as it is again, too mushy and not reminiscent of the real thing, chicken parmesan, which is far more chewy, and in a good way, than eggplant.

Of course, the fact that I’m spewing this and that about eggplant and all its ickiness may seem strange since you’ve by now noticed that this recipe is all things eggplant. I never said I wasn’t a hypocrit, people. But to rewind a little, I did say that I’ve never been a fan. Never, until now. Or honestly, until our Seattle trip where I ate the crunchiest eggplant fries (fries!) that were flecked with sea salt and honey (honey!); fries that melted in your mouth and made you forget where you were, what your name was, and certainly that you were in fact, eating eggplant.

Those fries, I will perfect one day, but last Friday was not the day. The ones I made were (surprise!) mushy, cut too thickly, and water-logged (still edible though, with the honey on top).

In this case, you get the best of both worlds. You get the eggplant and the parmesan, and with those you get plenty of other goodness – swiss chard, kale, ricotta, and even mint. And instead of thick, spongy eggplant that’s breaded and fried so the oil gets soaked in too, you get baked, thin rolls that when folded up nice and pretty, look and taste a lot like stuffed shells, or lasagna, or something else equally yummy.

And oh yeah, the sliced mozzarella on top really seals the deal. Like I said, where I cut back in beef, I more than make up for it with cheese. It’s a give and take sorta thing – and somehow, I’m still on top.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls w/ Swiss Chard, Kale, & Mint
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2010

this is an easily adaptable dish, honest. the original recipe called for chard and mint, and i added some leftover kale i had frozen away. you could also use spinach, which is probably more traditional, and instead of the mint you could use any other herbs. the tomato sauce here is canned, but you could easily make your own or add spices to the sauce if you so choose. do it up!

printable version

ingredients
2 medium eggplants, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (or as close as you can get it)
kosher salt
evoo
1 bunch red Swiss chard, center ribs removed and stems removed
1 small bunch Tuscan kale (cavolo nero), about 2 c
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce container part skim ricotta cheese
1 c finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 T chopped fresh mint
freshly ground black pepper
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 8-oz ball fresh water-packed mozzarella, drained, thinly sliced

instructions
spread a layer of paper towels on cutting board or other flat surface. place eggplant slices down (1 layer), and sprinkle liberally with salt. let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt; dry thoroughly with paper towels.

position oven rack 5 to 6 inches from heat source and preheat broiler. line a large-rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared baking sheets (will take 2-3 rounds). brush both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil. broil 1 sheet at a time until eggplant slices are tender and beginning to brown, flipping slices once and watching closely, removing eggplant slices as needed if cooking too quickly, 3 to 4 minutes per side. remove baking sheet from oven, repeat as needed, and cool eggplant while preparing filling.

meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. add chard and kale to pot and boil just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. Squeeze chard and kale very dry, then chop coarsely. squeeze chard and kale dry again between paper towels. whisk eggs and pinch of coarse salt in medium bowl. Stir in chopped chard, ricotta cheese, 3/4 c Parmesan, mint, and black pepper to taste (I used close to 1 t).

spray a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. spread half of tomato sauce evenly over bottom of dish. divide chard-kale-ricotta filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 heaping tablespoon filling at short end of each. Starting the short end with the filling, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. spoon remaining tomato sauce over. place mozzarella slices in single layer over rolls. sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. if making in advance, cover with foil and chill until ready to bake.

preheat oven to 350 F. bake eggplant Parmesan rolls, covered with foil, until heated through, about 30 minutes if freshly made or 40 minutes if refrigerated. uncover and bake until brown in spots and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. serve hot.