Sunday, April 25, 2010

Conquering Kale.

On Friday evening after work I picked up my latest CSA share at Silverlake Farms. This week the share included fresh chamomile, celery, red romaine, arugula, kohlrabi, turnips, beets, russian kale, swiss chard, radishes, garlic and some fruit, oranges, tangerines and loquats. I've never had a loquat before and they were super delicious. Best compared to a cross between an asian pear and an apricot, this sweet stone fruit makes delectable jam (or so I'm told) and I think they would be a beautiful addition to any salad with walnuts and crumbled gorgonzola.

So this morning I decided to face one contender in the ring. For quite a while now, I've heard about the extreme benefits of kale and most importantly how many people enjoy the dark, leafy green. My only experience cooking with kale (it was curly kale) didn't turn out so well and I hate to admit it, but I consciously put that green out of my mind.

With a bunch of red russian kale in my CSA share this week, I decided to do a lil' homework and take on this lean mean green! Upon reading through several recipes for kale, I nailed down the key factor as to why my first kale experience didn't turn out as I had hoped - I didn't cook it long enough. Having thumbed through many magazines and books, I opted to turn 1/2 of my kale into a hearty and healthy breakfast. I sauteed some onion in olive oil and added some minced fresh garlic (from my CSA share). Then I added the chopped kale and about 1/2 c. of chicken stock (you could just use water, but I wanted to add as much flavor as possible). I wilted the kale in the poaching liquid until it almost evaporated for about 5-10 minutes, then I added another 1/2 c. of chicken stock. Repeat instructions above and voila - vibrant, sweet and tender kale. While the kale was wilting away in its happy juice, I fried an egg and made a piece of toast. Piled that egg on top of my kale and began my day with super duper Punky GREEN power! No longer afraid of this green, I am excited to see what else I can do with the rest of my stash.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yummy in Your Tummy (A Tribute to Tom Yum Soup)

A couple of weeks ago, I assisted one Jet Tila's L.A. cooking classes at The New School of Cooking in Culver City. The class featured some Wazuzu Bistro's dishes (recipes from Jet's Las Vegas restaurant at Steve Wynn's Encore resort), including Tom Yum Soup, a classic Thai dish. Beloved by L.A. foodies, Jet has that "secret sauce" that you rarely see in a culinary classroom and that secret sauce is passion. As much as Jet is passionate about food, he's also passionate about his students. He goes to great lengths to ensure that students get what they pay for when they sign up to take one of his classes.

I was able to grab an extra copy of the recipes featured in that class and with his permission, I get to share the Tom Yum Soup recipe with you fine readers out there in cyberland. I made the Thai chicken stock on Saturday and it honestly took no time at all (about an hour or so total, give or take). I always enjoy shopping for groceries and picked up the "thai" items at Bangkok Market on Melrose Ave. This basic stock is chock full of Thai yumminess (no pun intended) - galangal, lemongrass, thai chiles, chicken parts, and kaffir lime leaves. Anytime you make your own stock, it requires the attention of a child in the sense that you need to skim off any fat and foam that surfaces to the top throughout the simmering process. I check the stock every 15 minutes or so to see if the stock is ready for skimming. The next day I actually made the soup which included the fabulous stock, shrimp, straw mushrooms, roasted thai chiles, and kaffir lime leaves. A great cure for a cold or a yummy one pot meal on a rainy day, this Tom Yum Soup will definitely make your belly and your heart happy.
copyrighted by Jet Tila (2004)
Thai Chicken Stock
1 to 2 chicken carcasses
8 to 10 cups water
3/4 c. thinly sliced galangal
2 stalks lemongrass, lower portion only, pounded
2 garlic cloves, peeled whole
2 to 4 kaffir lime leaves
2 large shallots, sliced
2 to 4 thai chiles, pounded
Place carcass in stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring bones to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove bones and rinse until sediment is removed. Discard cooking liquid. Transfer bones and roast into a fresh pot and cover with the 1 gallon of fresh water and bring back to a simmer.
** Note - I didn't have a carcass so I used chicken wings (I didn't bother with the bones and discarding portion of the recipe).
Add galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, shallots and chiles to stock and allow to simmer. Skim fat and foam often, continue to simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Skim off any additional fat and strain stock through cheesecloth.
Tom Yum Soup
2 quarts of Thai chicken stock
1 cup shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 15 oz. can straw mushrooms, peeled, drained and rinsed
6 to 8 roasted thai chiles
6 tbs. fish sauce
6 tbs. lime juice
3 tbs. chile paste in soybean oil
4-6 kaffir lime leaves
cilantro springs to garnish
Bring Thai chicken stock to simmer over medium-high heat in a medium pot. Add shrimp, mushrooms and chiles. Cook until shrimp turns pink, about 1 minute. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and chile paste. Garnish with lime leaves and cilantro, serve immediately.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Drum Roll Please.....

Today marks my second CSA share pick up and being the eager beaver that I am - I wanted to share with you dear readers what Farmer John gave us this week! I had to take two photos so you could see all of the goodies I picked up. In no particular order: young romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, arugula with flowers, turnips, golden and red beets, mizuna, 3 avocados, mint, chamomile, spinach, kale, young onion, and radishes.
This weekend I will definitely be making some yummy salads and I'm going to experiment with the turnips. I've never cooked with them before! But it's all good, after watching Disc 1 of Punky Brewster's Season One, I was reminded that I have PUNKY POWER!!!! Keep your eyes peeled for some fantastic posts this coming week!