Out of the Box: What I’ve Learned

October 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

When I started getting CSA deliveries of fresh, organic produce last year, I was like a kid on Christmas morning (the kind of kid who didn’t sneak into mom’s closet to see what Santa was bringing). Every delivery was a surprise — with the added bonus that having fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to my door reduced the amount of time I spent in the grocery store every week.

Once I got past the oh-crap-what-am-I-going-do-with-all-this-food stage, I found myself looking forward to the possibilities of trying new flavors (hey, maitake mushroom!), new recipes, and even attempting food preservation projects. Part of this new approach to experiencing food included giving myself a time limit: use or preserve everything from the current box before the next box arrives. Now that I’ve been at it for a year, I’ll admit that I wasn’t successful a couple a few sometimes, but taking this approach taught me which ingredients had to be used within the first week of delivery…and which could hang on for a couple of weeks, or longer. It also made me more conscious of how I was managing food waste at home.

More than anything, the CSA deliveries have challenged my creativity with regard to savory-side cooking — and yet, I am loving this mystery-basket approach to cooking. What do I mean by mystery basket? If you’ve seen Food Network’s “Chopped” or any similar cooking competition show, you’ll be familiar with the mystery-basket concept. Contestants are given a basket or box of ingredients and have to come up with a well-prepared, tasteful dish using everything in the basket. Doing this on national television? Scary. But in the comfort of your own kitchen, with a glass of wine nearby and your favorite music streaming? Fun. (This assumes, of course, that you like cooking or experimenting with food, or both.) And unlike the classic mystery-basket challenge, you don’t have to use everything in the box at once, but you do get to challenge yourself to see which ingredients might work together.

Over time, I’ve come up with a few go-to combinations to add to my repertoire of quick, fresh dishes. My new favorite? Pairing sautéed leafy green vegetables (bok choy, kale, and even radish greens) with roasted orange and red vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, or red peppers). Serve with a baked or grilled protein, and you’ve got a comforting, healthy, and filling meal.

Lacinato kale — the dark-green, bumpy-leafed variety — has been making a regular appearance in my CSA delivery since fall started. I’m really over the kale salad thing, but I’ve been making a savory kale sauté lately that goes with just about everything, including the fresh, pastured eggs I brought back from my Marin County food fest.

For the kale and eggs combo below, I sauté the kale with a bit of garlic and some roasted red pepper, which enhances the kale’s sweet, herbaceous flavor. This savory sauté is tasty with scrambled eggs, but you could also serve it with baked or barbequed wild salmon, grilled chicken, or tofu. Or, you could take the same kale sauté and tweak it for an Asian-style meal. How about this? Sauté the kale with more garlic, add crushed red pepper, finish it with a grating of fresh ginger, and serve over soba noodles tossed in some sesame oil. I’ll leave it to you to come up with other ideas! For now, try eggs with kale for a savory weekend brunch.

Recipe: Savory Kale Sauté with Scrambled Eggs
Yield: Serves 2

Spice up your weekend-morning scrambled eggs with this savory kale sauté. You can add caramelized onions, more garlic, sautéed jalapeños instead of crushed red pepper… you get the idea. Make it to your taste. Cooking for one? Cut the recipe in half! Note that cooking time for the kale takes about five minutes, and you’ll want to serve the dish immediately so that it doesn’t wilt too much. Roasted sweet potatoes are a nice accompaniment.served-up-cropped

Ingredients:

Savory Kale Sauté
2¾ – 3 cups kale, chiffonade (loosely packed; cut first, then measure)
1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (or to your taste)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (again, to your taste)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil, for the pan
Salt and pepper

Scrambled Eggs
2-3 eggs per person
Butter to coat the pan

What you need:

Large sauté or frying pan for the kale
Large frying pan or skillet for the eggs

Four simple ingredients for this dish: lacinato kale, roasted red peppers, garlic.

Four simple ingredients for this dish: lacinato kale, roasted red peppers, garlic, and fresh pastured eggs

How to:

  1. Prepare your eggs for scrambling by whatever method you usually use.
    I beat them in a bowl with a fork until well combined and yellow; no add-ins, nothing fancy.
  2. Heat the egg pan on medium-high and melt the butter, swirling it around the pan to coat the entire cooking surface.
  3. In the other pan (the kale pan), add the olive oil and heat on medium to medium-high heat.
  4. Turn down the heat for the egg pan to medium and add your egg mixture.
    I wish I had more patience to make the fluffy, slow-cooked scrambled eggs that take 20 minutes, but I go with a quicker approach that takes 5-10 minutes. It’s not as pretty or as fluffy, but is just as tasty. You want the eggs and kale to finish cooking at about the same time, so time your eggs accordingly.
  5. When the oil is glistening in the kale pan, add the garlic, and saute for 15-20 seconds.
    You want the garlic to be soft and fragrant, not browned.
  6. Add the kale and roasted red pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the kale is softened, but not completely wilted.
    Cooking briefly will bring out the kale’s sweetness, while keeping an al   dente texture.

    Quick, savory kale saute with garlic and roasted red pepper

    Quick, savory kale sauté with garlic and roasted red pepper

  7. Season the kale and eggs with salt and pepper to your taste and serve immediately.
    I make a nest of kale in the center of the plate and serve the eggs on top, garnished with fresh chives from my garden.

    Weekend brunch indulgence, inspired by this month's CSA deliveries: freshly scrambled eggs over savory kale sauté, served with roasted sweet potatoes

    Weekend brunch indulgence, inspired by this month’s CSA deliveries. Really want to indulge? Serve with grainy bread or rolls and a round of Bloody Marys.

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