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Kale, Three Ways

  • August 9, 2015

 Is there anyone out there who hasn’t eaten kale? Who is still a kale hater? Let me help convert you.

In the last few years, kale seems to have become the poster child for healthy eating.
The benefits of eating kale include not only its high fiber content, but it’s also rich in nutrients and low in calories. Check out more of the health benefits on this website here.
I admit I was late jumping on the kale bandwagon, and the only kale I grow in my garden is the lacinato or Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale), which is called cavolo nero in Italian and is typically used in the Tuscan soup ribollita (recipe here).
This dish of beans, sausage and kale is something I normally make with swiss chard or escarole, but I decided to try it with kale instead. While I still think Swiss chard has a sweeter taste, kale is perfect for this recipe since it stands up well to the longer cooking time required for the beans and it reheats without any loss of flavor. In fact, reheating only improves the taste.
I used these beans I bought from – fagioli del purgatorio – and loved them. These didn’t need presoaking and maintained their shape even after reheating. They’re native to Gradoli, a town in Lazio. The name “purgatory beans” dates back to the end of the 1600s, when they were boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, and eaten as part of a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday, called “pranzo del purgatorio.”
Even though it’s summer here, I’ve made this dish a couple of times because of all the kale growing in my garden. It freezes beautifully too, though, so make some for one of those cold winter nights when you don’t want to cook.
I’ve used my kale in a couple of other ways this summer too.
Maybe I’m the last person on this planet to try kale chips. I was inclined to dislike them, but everyone I served these too (and me too), thought they were delicious. They’re really easy to make and they’re a healthy snack alternative. I used a recipe from Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa.
Pull out the center rib from the kale, then spritz with some good olive oil, a shake of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
They’re crinkly and taste kind of like parmesan cheese. Without the cheese, I’m not sure I’d be sold on kale chips. But this platter disappeared quickly.
The other kale dish that was a hit was this kale salad. You don’t need a bonafide recipe. Just chop some raw kale, add some corn shaved off the kernels (I cooked the cob for about three minutes first ), then I chopped some carrots and parboiled the bits for a few minutes. I added some red onion, toasted hazelnuts and chopped shishito peppers from my garden, but you could use red peppers or any vegetable you like. Parmesan cheese shavings were tossed in too, then the whole thing was mixed with an easy-to-make dressing of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice – an idea I got from my buddy Marie, of Proud Italian Cook.
It made a refreshing lunch and I didn’t have to feel guilty about that piece of cake I ate following the salad.


Kale, Beans and Sausage
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch of lacinato kale chopped (I used approximately eight cups, but you don’t have to be exact)
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 cup dry fagioli del purgatorio beans (or another small, white bean, but you’ll probably have to soak them ahead of time, unlike the fagioli del purgatorio beans)
2 cups water
1 parmesan cheese rind
herbs of your choosing – I used fresh parsley, thyme and oregano
salt, pepper to taste
hot red pepper flakes
roasted red pepper or bits of chopped tomato (optional)
Remove the casings from the sausage and place in a saucepan, covered with water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the sausage and slice, but retain the water for later use. In another pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the kale to the pot and the water leftover from cooking the sausage. Let the kale cook down for about five minutes (with the lid on), then add the beans, the sausage, the water and the parmesan rind to the pot. Don’t add the salt yet, or the beans will toughen, but DO add the pepper, the herbs and the red pepper flakes. I sometimes add a small amount of chopped tomato and/or roasted red peppers. Let everything simmer with the lid on for about one hour, or until the beans are tender. Keep checking and add more water if necessary. When everything is cooked, add the salt. If it’s not “soupy” enough to your liking, add more water.
It’s great served with grilled bread that’s been rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil.

Jersey Shore Clambake

  • July 15, 2014

 First of all, let’s get one thing straight. If you’re from New Jersey or the Philadelphia area, you’re going “down the shore,” NOT “to the beach.” And shore towns in Jersey can vary in character from places that are noted for flashy boardwalk rides (Seaside Heights before Superstorm Sandy) —

photo from
 to quiet shore towns with manicured lawns and multi-million dollar McMansions (Spring Lake) —
Photo by Ron DeCicco
 to shore towns whose streets are lined with old-fashioned “gingerbread” Victorian homes (Cape May).
photo from
But no matter where you go along the Jersey shore, you’ll find great local seafood (OK, so the shrimp aren’t caught here) – perfect for a summer clambake.  We were lucky enough to be invited to one such event at the lovely seaside home of friends – Mary Ellen and Jim –  in Pt. Pleasant.
The lobster-themed table setting was a hint at the feast to come.
Take a closer look at the beautiful, embroidered napkins.
We arrived in time to see the whole process, which starts with an assortment of seafood and small potatoes. The recipe, from Ina Garten, also calls for kielbasa. Mary Ellen left it out and I was glad she did, because I’m not fond of the smoky taste of the sausage either. Throw in corn in you like, but you really don’t need it.
Don’t forget the lobsters — quick, before they get away.

The recipe starts out with a sauté of leeks and onions in good olive oil. Make sure you’ve got a huge pot to contain all the layers. First the potatoes, then the clams.
 Pile on the mussels and shrimp next.
 Finish with the lobsters, pour in some dry white wine and place a lid on top (maybe with a weight as well, to keep those frisky crustaceons from clawing their way out).
 After everything is cooked, remove the lobsters and separate the tail and claws from the main body. Jim snapped off the claws and snipped their tips with kitchen shears to allow water and steam to escape,
You could tell he’d done this many times before, expertly slicing the tails in half before placing them on the platters with the rest of the seafood and potatoes.
 There were four of us at the table, but more than enough food for at least two more. This is only one of the platters. No complaints here, as we dug in with gusto.
This mesmerizing view of the bay (their “back yard”) only added to the enjoyment of the meal. I think I could happily eat hot dogs and beans with a view like this, but I sure was glad to be eating the clambake instead.
Thanks Mary Ellen and Jim, for a fun night of terrific food and friendship.
See you “down the shore.”

Kitchen Clambake
Recipe from Ina Garten
printable recipe here

1 1/2 pounds kielbasa
3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 cups chopped leeks, well cleaned (2 leeks, white parts only)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small potatoes (red or white)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
2 dozen steamer clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, in the shell
3 (1 1/2 pound) lobsters
2 cups good dry white wine

Slice the kielbasa diagonally into 1-inch thick slices. Set aside. Saute the onions and leeks in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 16 to 20 quart stockpot over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the onions start to brown.

Layer the ingredients on top of the onions in the stockpot in this order: first the potatoes, salt, and pepper; then the kielbasa, little neck clams, steamer clams, mussels, shrimp, and lobsters. Pour in the white wine. Cover the pot tightly and cook over medium-high heat until steam just begins to escape from the lid, about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes. The clambake should be done. Test to be sure the potatoes are tender, the lobsters are cooked, and the clams and mussels are open. Remove the lobsters to a wooden board, cut them up, and crack the claws. With large slotted spoons, remove the seafood, potatoes, and sausages to a large bowl and top with the lobsters. Season the broth in the pot to taste, and ladle over the seafood, being very careful to avoid any sand in the bottom.

Spring Pea Soup

  • April 21, 2014

 There isn’t one recipe from Ina Garten, aka “The Barefoot Contessa” that I haven’t loved and this is no exception. I’m not a fan of dried split pea soup. But this green pea soup has a bright, fresh taste that’s just perfect to welcome in this Spring that seemed like it would never arrive. The blast of mint in the soup turned even my “I-don’t-like-peas” daughter into a convert. Leave out the crème fraîche if you want. It’s delicious even without it. 


Ina Garten’s Spring Pea Soup
2 T. unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
(or use vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crème fraiche (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
garlic croutons (optional)
Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the crème fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a dollop of crème fraîche and/or chopped chives.

Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart

  • December 2, 2013

 Ina Garten, aka “The Barefoot Contessa” consistently writes cookbooks that contain delicious recipes that are also fail proof and easy to prepare. This French apple tart is no exception. It’s always a crowd pleaser with its buttery, flaky crust and thinly sliced apples smeared with a glaze of jelly. The recipe calls for apricot jelly, but my new favorite to brush on fruit tarts is quince jelly, since its pale color doesn’t obscure the fruit that’s below. Besides, I love the tart/sweet flavor of quince jelly.

After mixing the pastry, roll it out and cut it to the size of your cookie sheet.
Place the pastry into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or a Silpat), carefully arrange the apple slices and dot with butter (stop counting calories and just enjoy this one, alright?)
When it comes out of the oven, brush some warmed quince jelly on top (or some other light colored jelly – I like orange marmalade here too.) Cut into squares and serve. A scoop of ice cream on top would not be unwelcome. Warning – This tart is highly addictive. Ciao Chow Linda shall not be held responsible if you eat the whole thing.
If you haven’t got company coming, and you’re not so good at portion control, (I wonder who that could be?) freeze most of the dough and make a couple of single serving size tarts instead, assuming you’ve got little tart pans. But even if you haven’t, you can even make them freeform. Follow the same directions, and use the same temperature. This way you might still be able to squeeze into your jeans.


Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart
printable recipe here

For the pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water
For the apples:
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water
the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food
processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to
combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in
small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water
down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come
together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap
in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a
small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan
and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
Peel the apples and
cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a
sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch
thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the
middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of
the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not
to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.)
Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of
the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the
pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the
air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart
will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together
with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with
the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t
stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.