Red (or Green) Kale braised with Apple

Two days ago I harvested some decorative red kale from the little garden at the back of the restaurant. It had been a visual mainstay during the winter in the ornamental but edible garden that my son-in-law, Clyde, of Hungry Gnome, planted. Before it bolted to seed, and before it was overgrown by the snapdragons that were now bursting forth, I turned it into a savory braised vegetable.

Restaurant garden after red kale picked
This is the way I have been preparing kale for some time, in the northern European manner rather than stewed as a Southern US “pot herb” green. The leaves and stems of the kale are cooked just until they become tender and are not stewed. (The decorative variety this time, though very tasty, was tougher and needed a little more cooking to become tender.)

Regular curly green kale works well. But even better is the “Red Russian” variety grown locally around Athens by organic farmers in the colder months.

Using a smoked meat, such as bacon or ham is optional. I generally do not use it if the kale is to accompany a meat or cheese main dish.

The recipe serves six.

2 bunches (about 8 ounces each) kale, ideally locally grown such as “Red Russian”
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/2 of a small onion, minced
1 strip smoked bacon or 1 (1/8-inch) slice smoked deli ham, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil (3 tablespoons if bacon not used)
1/4 teaspoon salt plus to taste
A sprinkle of black pepper
Water as needed
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Rinse kale well in basin of water to eliminate sand or grit. Cut stems, if tender, into 1/2-inch lengths and set aside. Cut leaves in half lengthwise, then cut across into 1 1/2-inch wide strips. Prepare apple and onion.

If using bacon, cut raw strip across very thinly (chill in freezer 5 minutes for easier cutting). For ham, cut into 1-inch wide strips, stack them up and cut across into narrow threads.

Heat large frying pan or pot to medium high. Add oil and bacon or ham, if used, and stir and fry 1 minute. Add apple and onion. Fry, stirring frequently, until they are softened.

Add kale stems, and stir and fry 1 minute. Add kale leaves, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon or so of water. Fry, covered but stirring very frequently, until kale is wilted and tender to the bite, adding a little more water as needed to keep a bit of liquid in pan.

Remove from heat. Taste and add salt, if needed. Stir in vinegar and toss to combine well.


Easy Cauliflower-Cheese Bake

As we suddenly spend lots of isolated home time with the coronavirus everywhere, cooking and eating are one of the freedoms we still have. But to minimize public exposure at supermarkets, we’re using everything in our fridges.

Christina and I were given a slightly old cauliflower by one of our kids in Athens as they headed off to spring break camping ten days ago, back before everything changed in our lives. This evening I quickly turned it into our vegetable dish for dinner, using a simplified cauliflower gratin approach and taking advantage of items on hand.

If I had more interesting cheese available, this could have been even more special. But even using a fairly dull mild cheddar, the dish still turned out very tasty. My “breadcrumbs” were matzoh meal left over from a cooking class (Hanukah latkes in my holiday food class in December). Here’s my impromptu “Cauliflower-Cheese Bake.”

The recipe serves three to four.

1 medium head of cauliflower
1/4 pound or more cheese, grated (Gruyère or sharp cheddar preferred)
Grated nutmeg, optional
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, or matzoh meal
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets and place in a microwaveable dish, such as a glass pie plate or a small casserole. Sprinkle lightly with water and cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Heat in a microwave until cauliflower becomes crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes, testing every two minutes.

Remove waxed paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, plus optionally a little grated nutmeg. Mix well to distribute seasonings. Spread shredded cheese over the cauliflower, then breadcrumbs (etc.) and finally the olive oil.

Bake in a hot oven (375 degrees) until cheese is well melted and cauliflower browns a little on high points.

Serve hot.


Homemade Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Recently at the restaurant I had to make turkey sausage meat to put into a breakfast casserole for a catering order. It turned out to be a more chaotic process than expected, but that story is below.

The sausage itself worked out well. I based it on the pork sausage meat I make for the traditional sausage dressing we prepare every Thanksgiving for customers and family. The main difference with the turkey sausage is that since ground turkey has much less fat than ground pork, I add some olive oil to add that rich juiciness.

I made my first casserole, a breakfast strata with added sausage meat, on an already busy day several days before the early-morning catering. It got over-baked. I was out of the kitchen when the timer went off and no one else mentioned the timer and I was distracted. The flavor of the casserole was fine, but the top and bottom crusts were too crisply baked to send out to a customer. (One of our staff and his family enjoyed it for dinner that evening.) The next day I made another batch of sausage meat and another casserole, and it was looking good. But then the customer cancelled their catered breakfast for the next day since their visitors from the corporate office in Michigan were grounded from flying due to corona virus travel restrictions.

Ah well. I at least had the chance to refine my recipe, and subsequently also made sausage patties from the recipe at home and had them with dinner.

Here’s. It can be made as fried crumbled sausage meat for adding to a casserole or turkey dressing or sprinkled on mashed potatoes or maybe a homemade pizza. Or fry it up as small patties for breakfast sausage.

1-1/8 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed dry red pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground celery seed (not celery salt)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (85% lean)

In a large bowl, mix all seasonings plus olive oil. Add ground turkey and mix well with a fork so the meat is evenly seasoned but not compacted. The mixture can be refrigerated for up to a day at this point, or cooked now.

For crumbled sausage meat, fry in a frying pan, stirring and breaking the meat up into small lumps as it fries. For sausage patties, form into six large or up to 12 smaller patties, and fry over medium heat on both sides, turning several times during frying.

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