Saturday, April 17, 2010

Go Greens!

OK, so I am a bit behind in our food blogging. We've been doing really well actually, for the month of April cooking healthy fresh meals and staying away from eating out. Every time we do I'm reminded how much cooking is sooooo worth the effort. Everything is so fresh, you can use good quality ingredients, know where you food is coming from and season to your own specifications.

Our Organic produce deliveries from Dandelion Organic Delivery continue to be a huge source of inspiration in our kitchen. Nevertheless, with the season opener of the Bellingham Farmer's Market the other week, I decided it couldn't hurt to get out their and check out the competition. The idea of mass fresh foods available with the ability to hand pick my own order was a little intriguing. After parousing the market one Saturday morning in the rain with Don, I am even more impressed by the Dandelion deliveries than I was before. Seeing everything layed out and displayed that is grown here locally, I can see that Dandelion really has done a tremendous job of capturing a very accurate and fair sampling of what is available here, while still getting a great discount on things shipped in for variety. Not only that, but they do a great rotation and with them I am sure to continue to get a balanced variety of root vegetables, leafy greens, colorful veggies, fleshy fruits, citrus, etc. than I would if I were simply driving my own destiny.

It's also been a great way to discover new produce. All winter long we received various forms of hearty greens such as kale, collard greens and swiss chard. I'd never cooked with these items before and just assumed I would not like them. Mostly because they're typically served braised and wilted and I did not think I liked my greens cooked. Since the only thing I had to compare it to was spinach which becomes a limp soggy sludge if heated more than a few seconds, I expected similar results. However, I had no idea that these much sturdier, much hardier vegetables can stand up to the heat, retain their structure and taste and even absorb some amazing flavors without breaking down when cooked correctly.

Boc Choy Raab

And THEN came Spring..... I have discovered Raab. I LOVE Raab. Broccoli Raab, Cabbage Raab, Kale Raab, sooooo many varieties! If you see these little guys at your farmers market grab them! They are so easy to cook with and such a treat. So here's the scoop on Raab. Raab is a part of the Brassica Family, a genus of the Mustard family. These are known as overwintered plants, probably because they harvest at late winter, early spring in March. Beat that April Asparagus! It is most tender right before the little florets begin to sprout into white and yellow pedals. The stems, leaves, and florets are all edible. You can serve it raw in salads, cooked in stir-fries or soups, or simply braised in a little olive oil and garlic. Here are a few recipes that have worked just swell for us that you may want to try.

Bacon & Garlic Infused Kale Raab

1 Slice Bacon, roughly chopped
4 Minced Garlic Cloves
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3-4 Cups Roughly Chopped Kale Raab
Salt and Pepper

Heat nonstick skillet over Medium High Heat. Add Bacon and saute until browned, add Garlic and olive oil and saute 60 seconds stirring frequently being careful not to burn. Add Raab, toss to cover in garlic and bacon and saute a few minutes until tender. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Sweet Onion & Feta Risotto with Braising Kale

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Sweet Onions, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio Rice
4 Cups Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
2/3 Cup Crumbled Feta
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper
2-3 Cups Braising Kale (tender dark green velvety leaves)

Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute one minute. Stir in rice. Mix together chicken broth and wine. Add 1/2 cup of broth mixture at a time, stirring constantly until fully absorbed before adding the next batch of liquid. The whole process will take about 30 to 40 minutes. Once rice reaches the desired consistancy (you may not need all four cups), add cheese, salt & pepper to taste and stir in chopped kale. Remove from heat and serve. Making risotto can be a very labor intensive process but the flavors are amazing. It's well worth the effort if you can spare the time. The leftovers typically hold up quite well too as opposed to other rice dishes.

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