Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

Kale & Brussels Sprout SaladIt’s probably of little surprise, but thanks to me, our DVR is completely overrun with cooking shows. I will watch almost anything on The Cooking Channel, PBS, and Food Network, save for those ridiculous grocery game shows and anything starring Alton Brown. Alton Brown is seriously the worst. Did you see him on that Thanksgiving Live special where he was hella obnoxious and a misogynistic ass to Giada? Girl…

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I caught the end of one of Food Network’s new shows, Farmhouse Rules, where host Nancy Fuller (who I can only assume is the network’s replacement for Paula Deen, given her aesthetic and cooking style) was preparing a kale salad. As far as I’m concerned, kale salad can do no wrong. I have about four I can make right now that are knock-out good. Trendy super food, whatever, kale is just tasty. Mixed with some kind of vinaigrette, maybe a little something sweet like golden raisins or apple, salty cheese, or smoky spices? Unbelievably good! 

But with this particular kale salad, this new, modern Paula was adding raw brussels sprouts into the same bowl and, admittedly, that gave me a bit of pause. Listen, I will eat brussels sprouts five times a week if you give them to me roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They get all browned, sweet and nutty, and before I know it, I’ve eaten what’s leftover on the baking sheet while cleaning up the kitchen. I love brussels sprouts, but I’d never eaten them raw and along with an already fairly tough raw green, such as kale, I was skeptical.

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

But it turns out, Miss New Paula was on to something and together, the kale and brussels sprouts made a delicious, quite fancy looking salad that even my vegetable-phobic beau ate with great zeal. This one is a total keeper and brings me up to five kale salads I can make with ease and from memory. Am I catch or what?

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
Yields 4-6 servings; Adapted from here.

Ingredients:
1lb. of brussels sprouts
1 bunch of kale
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of diced red onion
1 cup of pecorino romano, grated
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons of dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of orange juice
1/2 teaspoon of honey
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 pistachios, toasted and chopped
Salt & pepper

Directions:
In a medium sized bowl, grate garlic and add dijon mustard, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, salt & pepper. Mix until combined and then drizzle in olive oil while whisking. When all is incorporated, taste for seasoning and then set aside. In a large bowl, shred 1lb of brussels sprouts on a box grater. De-vein kale leaves. Stack kale leaves on top of one another, several at a time, and roll into a tight cigar before slicing into thin ribbons. Add kale to bowl with brussels sprouts and follow with thinly sliced red onion. Add dressing to the vegetables and add cheese. Toss to combine. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes so that kale and brussels sprouts lose some of their toughness and flavors meld. Add in pistachios and toss once more before serving. Delicious cold or at room temperature.

Pasta with Mascarpone, Lemon, Spinach, & Pine Nuts

After all of that complaining I went and did about the length of winter, today the thermometer reached 98°F. In Minneapolis. In May. Normally, such temperatures turn me into a wild beast of a thing, but truth be told, I was only a little bit sorry for today’s heat. While the meows were seeking out cool, dark corners to lay in and Bear was putting in extra screens and moving fans around, I knew that, finally, the time had come to make this pasta dish! I’ve been holding onto the recipe from the Kitchn since it was published last October, waiting for the weather to warm back up and, more importantly, for it to coincide with the sale of mascarpone cheese! The latter seeming, at points, even less likely than spring’s eventual thaw.

Being the lucky lady that I am, I found a sale on a tub of the good stuff last week, though I won’t deny tapping my foot and mulling over whether or not the time was yet nye. Turns out, it was and a sensible purchase was had! When I saw the temperature was going up this week, I knew the time was upon us to indulge.

Have you ever had pasta with a sauce that is heavy on the lemon? If you’re not shy about the idea, try it. You’ll ask yourself why you don’t eat pasta with lemon-something-or-other all the time. Take this sauce, for example. There’s so much brightness from the fresh lemon juice and the lemon zest, but then the mascarpone gets stirred in and it’s creamy, dreamy with just a little bit of sweetness to take away some of that punch from the citrus. The spinach wilts into the hot pasta, so it’s soft and earthy, but again, nestled throughout this smooth, velvety sauce that gets a little kick with some garlic, fresh cracked pepper, and just the right amount of parmesan cheese. The toasted nuts join a little fresh lemon zest on top and another turn of the pepper mill.

Every forkful feels like the perfect bite. It is as elegant a dish as it is easy. The ingredients are few, the method simple (and great for warm days), and the clean-up is virtually effortless. I used one pot, a bowl, and a colander only. Pro-tip: Mix the sauce in the same bowl you’ll serve it in! You’ll have one less bowl to clean and, better yet, your pasta be coated by every last drop!

Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Lemon, Spinach, & Pine Nuts
Serves 4 as a main course; Adapted from here.

Ingredients:
2 lemons, zested & juiced (I used 5 tablespoons of juice)
8-ounces of mascarpone cheese
1lb of spaghetti
1 very large bunch of fresh spinach (approximately 6 cups), chopped
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
Salt & fresh pepper
3/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted

Directions:
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to bubble, prepare the sauce. Combine 3/4 of the lemon zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until fairly smooth. If you have a few lumps, they’ll work their way out when they hit the hot pasta. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to toast your pine nuts while waiting for the water and pasta, as well. Add them to a dry pan and set over medium heat until they’re are lightly browned, giving them a shake every 2-3 minutes. When you can really start to smell them, they’re done.

Cook the pasta. With a minute or so left before the pasta reaches “al dente,” add the spinach. When the pasta is finished, scoop about a cup and a half of pasta water from the pot and then drain the noodles. Add the noodles to the bowl with the sauce and add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir together. Add more pasta water until a creamy consistency is achieved. Top the pasta with the remaining lemon zest, the toasted pine nuts, and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Additional parmesan can be added, if desired.

Bacon Dijon Deviled Eggs

Well, readers, here we are: one day past the week where few could escape the notion, or practice, of hard boiling and dyeing eggs, and one week further into spring where, at least in the Northeast, the days have finally been warming up a little bit. On Saturday, I walked around without my coat on for a solid 30 minutes until the sun ducked behind a cloud and I, miserably, trudged back to the car to get it before resuming the mini antiquing jaunt I took with my mom to a neighboring town. Lion, lamb, I know.

This is all to say that ’tis the season for doing something with hard boiled eggs, which, when I’m faced with, always results in deviled eggs. I resisted deviled eggs until I was about 20, even though my own mother was rumored by family and friends alike to make absolutely delicious ones. When I finally gave in, I realized several things: 1) Everyone loves deviled eggs and I was totally missing out and 2) You can mix almost anything into a standard deviled egg recipe and it only makes them more delicious. So many variations can be born, which brings me to my favorite point about deviled eggs: depending on context even more than ingredients, they can be considered fancy fare or not!

Take these bacon dijon deviled eggs (that even Ollie would, apparently, be interested in eating. Cat bomb!). On that plate up there, with their little pickled onion garnish (I have a whole beautiful quart of these to use, y’all), they look pretty enough for a tea party or some sort of shower. But put them on a table next to some ribs and corn and it’s summer in the backyard being sweaty and lazy with your pals.

Deviled eggs never disappoint and this version is no exception. Who doesn’t want a little smoky, crispy bacon stirred into their eggs alongside the gentle bite of dijon mustard? That sounds like the start of a perfect egg sandwich! I know not everyone will be inspired to go so far as making the pickled onions, but let me just argue for the extra step by simply saying that their addition to these deviled eggs is kismet. The little burst of pickling liquid and onion juice, which so nicely cuts through the richness of egg yolk, mayo, and bacon, is a pairing that shouldn’t be missed. If you do forego the pickled onions, these deviled eggs certainly will not disappoint on their own; though you could always add a little slice or mince of dill pickle to the tops, which would do the job, too.


Bacon Dijon Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions
Yields 24 halves

Ingredients:
1 dozen eggs
1/3 cup of mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons of dijon mustard
4-6 pieces of thick sliced bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1 Tablespoon of minced onion or dehydrated onion flakes
1/8 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
Pickled onions to garnish, optional

Directions:
Several hours before serving, or better yet, the night before, hard boil the eggs. Using eggs purchased at least a week in advance will help with the peeling process later, as older eggs shed their shell much easier.

Put all 12 eggs in a heavy-bottom pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add a pinch of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Once the eggs begin boiling, cover with lid, remove from heat, and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Drain hot water and fill the pot with cold water until the eggs can be handled. After several minutes remove them from the pot (which will eventually turn the water warm again due to residual heat – you don’t want this to happen!) and gently crack the shells a bit all over. Transfer the eggs to a big bowl of cold water and allow to sit until completely cooled. Pre-cracking the shells here will allow them to loosen as they finish cooling in the second bowl of water.

When the eggs are cooled, crack further and peel. I find peeling them under running water in the sink helps remove the shells easily, too. When finished, slice each egg in half lengthwise, putting the yolks in a clean, dry bowl and lay the whites on the plate you plan to serve them on. In the bowl with the yolks, use a fork to crumble all of the egg yolks. Add a small trickle of water, about a teaspoon, to the yolks to help them cream together a bit before adding the remaining ingredients. Add minced onion, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and smoked paprika. Blend until fairly smooth. Fold in the chopped bacon and fill the egg white halves. When finished, garnish each with a slice of pickled onion.

Spicy Sausage & Kale Tortellini Soup

Lucky for you if Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods. In Minneapolis, the snow is still coming down in some accumulation every other day, the wind that blows is still icy rather than cool, and the back parking lot of our apartment building has a covering of ice so thick, you could preserve a dinosaur in it. Please, goddess of all things blogging, let it be our last winter here.

While Minneapolis is a great city and saw me through my grad program with no shortage of laughter or love, the winters are killer and in a way that no New England winter ever was. I will take a Nor’easter over an Alberta Clipper any day. Oh, how I rue the day I was forced to finally learn the meaning of that phrase!

If I thought it’d ever see the light of day when posted on Pinterest, I might even consider naming this recipe Alberta Clipper soup, as it saw us through the tail end of one a week or so ago. With temperatures hovering around -15°F, it was clearly soup weather, but what kind? I wanted something that felt a little exciting, that brought some heat even if just on the palate, something different than the creamy soups of early winter and the clear, chicken-broth based, lighter ones that welcomed in the new year.

When I pulled Italian sausage from the freezer, I nearly ditched soup altogether and made sausage and peppers, but started thinking about roasted red peppers in the jar, how they make such a deep, creamy soup base if you treat them real nice. I remembered I had kale par-boiled and weatherproofed in the freezer just waiting for me to plunge it into something hot – you can certainly use fresh, though, and just plan on cooking it a bit longer until it is wilted. The rest of the soup came together easily: a heavy dose of red pepper flakes to warm the throat and nose, Worcestershire sauce for beefiness, and plump little cheese tortellini simply because they’re delicious.

When the soup is nearly finished (before adding the sausage back in to simmer for a bit, before the tortellini join the party), I took some broth and the veggies that came with it to a separate bowl and gave it all a thorough pureeing with the immersion blender, though you could of course use a blender or food processor too. This resulted in about 2 cups of a thick (think chunky applesauce consistency) broth that when added back to the soup made the body of it all velvety. Our bowls were warm and ample.

This soup goes perfectly with good conversation, a sip or two of dry red wine, and a fireplace. Or, if you’re us, a DVR cached showing of the yule log. On mute.

Spicy Sausage & Kale Tortellini Soup
Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
1lb of sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and broken into 1-inch chunks (you can also roll them like meatballs)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced very finely
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste
4 cups of beef broth
4 cups of chicken broth
2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cups of fresh kale
2 cups of cheese tortellini, cooked separately*

Directions:
In an 8-quart stock pot, add 1 Tablespoon of oil and cook chunks of sausage over medium high until they are cooked through. Remove from the pot and set aside. Assess the bottom of the pot and add another tablespoon of oil if needed in order to sautee onion over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, dried basil, bay leaf, and salt & pepper to the onion mixture and allow to continue cooking for another minute or two being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the 8 cups of broth, the Worcestershire sauce, and put on a lid leaving it slightly ajar. Cook until the soup comes to a low boil. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Next, add the cooked sausage and cook an additional 5 minutes on medium-low. At this point, you can add the cooked tortellini to the soup and serve the whole pot as a meal or add the tortellini to individual bowls and ladle the hot soup on top. As per usual with soup, this is even better the next day!

*Note: I choose to cook my tortellini separately and add it to individual bowls rather than cooking it in the soup or adding it after it’s been cooked and storing it combined because I find pasta loses any texture when kept in the broth in the fridge. If this doesn’t bother you or you prefer your pasta soft, feel free to add it earlier or cook it in the broth.

Italian Wedding Soup

There is something so comforting and yet energizing about Italian Wedding Soup. It’s warm and hearty, but not weighed down with creams and cheeses. Not that there is anything wrong with cream and cheese, of course. This is the kind of food, though, that you feel strengthened by. Dark, leafy spinach – so rich in vitamins – layered throughout clean, flavorful chicken stock. Carrots cut into little jewels, nestled around light, bite-sized pork meatballs. Simple. Bright. Nourishing. Nothing, in fact, like an Italian wedding!* It’s all the things a good end-of-winter soup should be.

I make these little pork meatballs the same way I would meatballs for spaghetti with the exception being that these are made exclusively of ground pork, as opposed to pork and beef, and are studded with fresh tarragon. The latter of which, with parsley too, makes the soup lightly herby in flavor and so aromatic. Usually, I’d suggest cooking the noodles separately and adding them on a bowl-by-bowl basis in order to not have them lose any and all texture as the soup sits, but because I lessen the amount of noodles called for in this recipe and, coupled with the small size of the pasta, this extra step is unnecessary. I promised simple, didn’t I?

*I say this about Italian weddings as a born-and-raised Italian-American femme from New Jersey. My Super Sweet Sixteen happened for all of my cousins out on Long Island and then happened again when they all got married. As a result, you could say I know my way around smoke machines, stretch Humvees, and Venetian tables.


Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding Soup; Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the meatballs
1lb ground pork (feel free to sub ground chicken, turkey, or even beef)
2/3 cup dried Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 Tablespoons milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper

For the soup
2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
10 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup small pasta such as rings, tubetini or stars
12 ounces baby spinach
Lemon zest for serving, if desired

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

For the meatballs, place the ground pork, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, tarragon, parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with your clean hands – this is the best method! Taking a teaspoon of the mixture at a time, form 1 to 1-1/4 inch meatballs and drop onto a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment. You should have about 40 meatballs when you’ve finished. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. If you’d like, you can stop here and finish the soup within 3 days or go on to making it immediately.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until they’ve softened, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add the chicken stock and wine, bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook until the pasta is tender. Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in the spinach, allowing the soup to cook for another 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Check the taste for salt and pepper.

When soup is finished, ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, some additional parmesan, and a light sprinkle of lemon zest. Serve with warm, crusty bread, if desired. As with all soups, this is great on day one and amazing a day or two later, reheated.