Eggplant Parmesan

*Or: “When in doubt, spread the blame as much as possible”

I got another eggplant in the Box Of Wonders last week, and decided it was time to pull the trigger on eggplant Parmesan. Now, at this point, you may be thinking, “Gosh Jackie, well done. Way to step outside your comfort zone.  This CSA thing is really making you…” Nope.  I was utterly intimidated by the eggplant and recruited my roommates in order to spread the blame around if we ended up with a mushy, unidentifiable mess. If we failed, at least it would be failure by committee. You know, like Congress.  Unlike Congress, however, we did actually want to do some research and have someone knowledgable to look to for guidance. So, we dug through the cookbook trove and found ourselves an eggplant parm consultant.

Eggplant. Inanimate, yet subtly intimidating

Solanum melongena. Nightshade family.  Inanimate, yet subtly intimidating. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Continue reading

Colcannon

*Or: “The transformative effects of five pounds of butter on a bunch of kale”

I was talking with an Irish friend recently and lamenting the embarrassment of kale I’ve been dealing with, and he asked me if I’d made colcannon yet.
To which I replied, “What in the world is colcannon?”
“So you’re saying you haven’t made it.”
“Yes JP, that’s what I’m saying.”
“You should.”
“Got it. What is it.”
“Look it up and call me when you’ve got a pot of it.”
Well I did and I do and JP doesn’t get any because he was a smart-ass about it. Okay maybe some leftovers since he did point me in this direction, because it’s good. It’s tasty, it’s buttery, it’s hearty, and it would make a nice alternative side dish if you’re a little tired of standard mashed potatoes. Or if you’re me it makes a nice main course. One of the perks of being single is that you can go ahead and have a bunch of colcannon-or chips n’ salsa, or marshmallows- for dinner and nobody cares.

Anyway, I have seen some recipes that add bacon, which would be delicious, but I didn’t have any. I’m not terribly concerned with making “authentic” colcannon here, but apparently there was no bacon in it when Irish peasants were originally whipping this up. There also seems to be some disagreement on if it includes kale or cabbage, but I ate all my cabbage, and I still have plenty of kale (and a few russet potatoes that came in the Box a few weeks back), so I’m coming down on the side of the kale supporters. Continue reading

Green Cabbage and Newton’s Third Law of Motion

*Or: “To every cabbage ingested there is an equal and opposite sausage intake”

Tonight was a weird night from a culinary standpoint. I had just picked up the latest Box of Wonders, and found dandelion greens and kale inside. I am still working through last week’s kale and I had an entire green cabbage staring at me accusingly from the “fresh” drawer in the refrigerator. So many greens. Something had to give. My buddies over at America’s Test Kitchen had a few things to say about cabbage preparation, so I decided to dispatch the cabbage this evening, for better or worse. They had two recipes, one for roasting cabbage and one for grilling it. I looked out the window at the five inches of snow on top of the grill and decided I would try both seasonings, one on each half, and roast it all. Why not.

And while we’re on the subject, if you haven’t checked out America’s Test Kitchen, get there. Watch the show, read the magazine, get the book. Christopher Kimball et al will show you how to not screw up any and every recipe. I actually saw him at my produce market a few months ago and I almost fainted. I was following him at a discrete distance to try and confirm it was him when I saw a woman turn to her husband and start pointing wildly. I ran up  to her and squeaked, “It’s him isn’t it?!” She grabbed me by the shoulders and yelled, “It totally is!” And we proceeded to flip out like two 14-year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert, while her husband and son looked incredulously on and Christopher Kimball walked to the parking lot, none the wiser (Thank goodness. I don’t need a restraining order on my permanent record).

The Man

The Man

Anyway, back to the cabbage. Continue reading

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale Soup)

Ever wonder what the national soup of Portugal is? Me neither. But since we’re on the subject, the national soup of Portugal is Caldo Verde. You’re welcome for any future trivia victories.

This soup is part of the continuing effort to use the kale that keeps showing up in the Box of Wonders. Not every week, but many weeks. It’s not that it can’t get worked into various recipes, it’s just that I get so much of it, and a little of it goes so far, and well, we are looking for full-on, kale-based meals.

And really, I am measuring success in the whole CSA venture by how many actual meals I can get out of a box and how close I can come to living on the contents of the box. So we’re trying to stay away from random side dishes and confections that don’t really contribute to getting me through the week standing up. This game, by the way, has definitely health-ified my diet, which didn’t suck in the first place. It’s just that when you are really trying to use everything before the next Box of Wonders shows up, but you also want to order a pizza, you have a short internal debate that goes like this:

“Ooh, I want to order a pizza. With sausage and mushroom and onion.”

“Yes a pizza would be lovely, but then who’s gonna eat all this kale?”

“Touché.  Kale it is.” Continue reading

Stracciatella alla Romana

*Or: “Things to do in New York City when the OSU-Michigan game is over”

So I got a bunch of rainbow Swiss chard this week, so-named because of the multi-colored stalks.

Very pretty.

Very pretty.

Swiss chard reminds me of kale in that it has huge leaves with lots of kinks and ruffles, so there is a lot of surface area and a little goes a long way. That’s really where the similarity ends though: Swiss chard is mild enough that you can eat it raw, and tender enough that you hardly need to cook it to include it in recipes, whereas kale, lovely green that it is, can be tough and bitter if not prepared properly. These are learnings gained from working chard into three different meals this week. A little really does go a long way.

So as I said, three meals. First up: Stracciatella! As you may know, stracciatella is a flavor of Italian gelato in which layers of shaved chocolate are folded into vanilla gelato.

Stracciatella gelato

Stracciatella gelato

That’s not what we’re making. We are making Stracciatella alla Romana, which is essentially an Italian egg drop soup. Now, at this point you may be asking, “Jackie, what does gelato have in common with soup? Are the pages of your cookbook stuck together again?” Valid questions. Stay with me. It turns out “straccia” just means “shred”. In the case of the gelato, we are talking about shreds of chocolate. In the case of the soup, we are talking about shreds of egg. Continue reading