Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Braised Kale with Tomatoes

Here is the recipe for the braised kale with tomatoes picture in my last post. Like the black-eyed pea salad and smoked pork I made, it came from Food & Wine magazine. There's nothing innovative about this recipe, but it just worked perfectly. I even had slightly less kale (enough for about 2 1/2 good servings) and it was great even as I roughly scaled it down in my head.

Braised Kale with Tomatoes
Adapted from Food & Wine, Sept. 2010

Serves 4

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 pounds kale,thick ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, season iwth salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook 2 minutes.

Add kale, in 2 batches if necessary, and toss to wilt. Add tomatoes, vinegar and enough water to make a thin layer of liquid in the pot. Partially cover pot and cook until kale is tender, tomatoes are soft, and liquid is most evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creamy Black-eyed Pea Salad

With summer on the wane, we made one of our favorite things: SLOW-roasted pork shoulder. Only this time we also smoked it for an hour on the grill. We followed the procedure outlined in Food & Wine magazine's August issue, adjusting for a smaller, 3 to 4 pound roast. With this vinegary homemade BBQ sauce, it was utterly divine.

For the sides, I ended up making 2 more recipes from that same F&W issue. If you've got a copy that you haven't had the chance to look over thoroughly, go grab it! It's devoted to new Southern cooking, and it's one of the best issues they've done in ages. There are tons of recipes I can actually see myself making, and it's evident that they are consciously trying to provide a lot of healthy options that are just as tempting as any of their other recipes.

This black-eyed pea salad, for instance, is a more nutritious stand-in for obvious barbecue sides like baked beans, potato salad or pasta salad. It has that creamy dressing you might be craving, but all it takes is a small amount of lowfat mayo to achieve. I made some changes to streamline the recipe a bit, while also increasing the quantity. I knew we would enjoy the leftovers.

Creamy Black-eyed Pea Salad
Adapted from this recipe in Food & Wine, August 2010
If you hate mayo, I think you could replace it nicely with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. If you have fresh herbs on hand, fold those in at the end.

Serves 6

1 1/4 cups dried black-eyed peas, rinsed
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper taste
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 tsp dried thyme (or rosemary, or marjoram)
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 to 3 Tbs lowfat mayonnaise
5 scallions, thinly sliced
Hot sauce (such as Tabasco) to taste

Place black-eyed peas in a large pot and add water to cover by about 4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook at a steady simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add carrots and thyme; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, combine black-eyed peas, onion mixture, celery and vinegar. Fold in mayonnaise, scallions and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Healthy Creamy Feta Dressing

We've rediscovered big salads as easy, healthy dinner options. One reason we've made them so often lately is this delicious creamy dressing. It's low in fat and calories, so I'm happy to drench my salad in it. 

The base is Greek yogurt, and buttermilk thins it out and adds more tangy flavor. Of course, the major flavor you'll get is from the Feta, which also gives this lowfat concoction richness and body. Really, it's the same idea behind a basic vinaigrette: emulsify fat with an acid (usually vinegar), then add flavorings. In this case, the fat is flavor-packed cheese and the acid is yogurt/buttermilk.

You can do endless variations on this dressing. I did a version with hot sauce for a buffalo chicken salad. Any cheese you think will blend well is a candidate. You can use sweet onions, as I do here, or opt for scallions or shallots. Mustard, herbs and spices are great too. If you don't tend to have buttermilk in the house, regular milk should work fine.

Healthy Creamy Feta Dressing
Play with the quantities of ingredients to get the flavor and texture you want. The amounts below are a good starting point.

Makes enough for 2 big salads (double or triple as needed)

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion or 3 chopped scallions
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
3-4 Tbs buttermilk
2 oz Feta
Black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree. Thin with additional buttermilk, or thicken with additional yogurt, as desired.

In case you were wondering what's in that huge salad in the picture:
Mixed salad greens
Grilled chicken
Yukon Gold potato, cubed and boiled until just tender
Steamed green beans
Grape tomatoes
Kalamata olives

It started out as a take-off on salad nicoise, only with chicken. Then it morphed into its own delicious thing. At the end of a long day though, one of my favorite salads (also the easiest, no-cook meal) consists of: salad greens, cannellini beans, crumbled Feta, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and tuna from those tetra pak pouches; plus any chopped fresh veggies I have to throw in. That with olive oil and lots of balsamic vinegar never fails to satisfy. Now tell me, what is your favorite salad?