Recipe Chain: Purple Kale with Cream and Bacon

Unlike a hilarious game of telephone, the following recipe has been passed along unadulterated and retaining its original yumminess. I picked it up at the "information" stand at the Borough Hall farmers' market. Each greenmarket seems to have one of these, and they are usually stocked with great recipes for whatever you will find being sold around you. The greenmarket, in turn, took this particular recipe from The 100-Mile Diet: Local Eating for Global Change. I've copied the recipe verbatim, to pass it on its pure form. My notes are in italics.

I have a never satisfied hunger for kale, so that was my "late fall green" of choice. Although, "green" is a misnomer, as the kale I was using was purple -- which, when I went to drain the cooked leaves, temporarily turned the sink violet. Later, the cream in the dish became a soft lavender, lending a bit of whimsy to this veggie heavy dish. Other than the seasonings, every ingredient can be found from a local source. We ate it with roasted sweet potatoes, also available in the market right now.

Casserole of Late Fall Greens
serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side dish

2T unsalted butter (salted butter also worked fine, just reduce salt elsewhere)

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (drop a couple crustless slices in the food processor, and crumb away)

Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled

2.5 ounces of bacon (about 3 strips) (whenever I buy bacon, I immediately repackage it into 3 strip allotments before freezing; this seems to be the perfect amount to add flavoring to greens, potatoes, egg dishes...)

2 cups of cooked winter greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, broccoli raab, etc) (see first step of instructions)

1/3 cup of freshly grated hard cheese (cows milk or sheeps milk would be best) (I got grater-happy and ended up using 1/2 cup; less than that and the cheese's contribution may have been lost.)

To prepare and cook the greens, remove any tough stems and roughly chop. (To yield 2 cups cooked you will need 1 pound of spinach or brocolli raab, 1 3/4 pounds of swiss chard, or 1 1/4 pounds of kale.) Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook until the greens are tender (spinach 30 seconds, swiss chard 1 minute, brocolli raab 2 minutes, and kale 8 minutes). Drain and squeeze to remove excess water.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 4 cup shallow gratin dish. Toss together the breadcrumbs and 1 T of melted butter with a pinch of kosher salt and a little ground pepper and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil over medium-high heat and then turn down the heat and simmer vigorously until the cream is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Take the pan off the heat and remove and discard the garlic cloves. Let the cream cool slightly and then season with 1/4 t of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisped and browned. Drain on a paper towel and remove almost all of the excess fat from the pan. Add the remaining 1T of butter and return the pan to the heat. Add the cooked greens with 1/4 t salt and cook stirring constantly for 1 minute. Evenly spread the warmed greens in the gratin dish.

Crumble the bacon over the greens. Sprinkle on the cheese. Pour the seasoned cream over the greens/bacon/cheese and top with the bread crumbs. Bake in the 400 degree oven until brown and bubbly - about 25 minutes. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

picture via Dreamstime


Pumpkin Patch Pasta

The gifts of Pumpkin Project Day keep on giving…

A recent
dinner popped up after adapting a recipe for “Autumn Pasta” by Ariana Sherlock for Torii Mor Winery. The original recipe calls for butternut squash, not pumpkin, and a couple complications. But this simplified version is not only delicious, it is awfully fun to say. (Five times fast, I dare you!)

Pumpkin Patch Pasta

serves two

3 Tbs olive oil, divided

1 ½ - 2 cups frozen (or roasted fresh) pumpkin chunks, large dice

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 sprigs of fresh sage leaves, chiffonade

salt and pepper

5 cups loosely chopped swiss chard, stems removed

2 servings linguine, cooked al dente in salted water

¼ cup grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts, finely chopped (garnish)

Heat 2 tbs oil in large skillet. Add pumpkin and allow to brown, by avoiding stirring, on at least one side over medium heat (~3-5 minutes.) Add garlic, sage, salt and pepper. Use pasta water to scrape up any yummy charred bits from the pan. Add last tbs of oil to pan and then add the swiss chard. Sauté 4-5 minutes until well wilted. Add pasta and cheese; toss well. Plate and garnish with walnuts.

photo by Susan Law Cain


Farmers and Eaters Robbed by Rain

Quote of the Day

“We were just a couple of frogs short of a Bible story... It was surreal. It just kept raining and raining and raining.”

-- Patrick Horan, a local farmer, on the year's poor growing season that is now coming to a close.

Find the complete NYT story here.

picture via Dreamstime


The Grandchildren of Giraffes: Passing Down the Toxins in Our Food

Nicholas Kristof has joined the bandwagon against BPAs (synthetic estrogen found in hard plastics, cans, etc. ) and he has done a good job summing up the studies that have been flooding recent science journals.

He brushes past the most interesting part though, because his article is more of a warning than a musing on how fascinating our understanding of biology has become. These studies show that our lifestyle habits today may affect the health of our grandchildren -- even if we don't live to meet them.

If that reminds you of a long-discredited theory by the early 19th century biologist Lamarck, you are right. His logic was that traits acquired in a lifetime could be directly passed on to subsequent generations. For example, because a giraffe stretched his neck to reach the top leaves, his offspring were born with long necks.

Darwin, of course, came along and proved Lamarck wrong (although Darwin had some Lamarckisms of his own.) But, scientists are now finding, Lamarck may have been partly correct all along.

(I reported on this new field, called epigenetics, in April. For a great primer on the subject, I highly recommend this video by NOVA.)

Don't want to contribute to your grandkids (or your own) risk of cancer or infertility? Avoid, when possible, canned foods and hard plastics. Easier said than done, I know. I have yet to be able to cut everything out.

But the farmers' market certainly helps.

photo by R. L. Wolverton, via Dreamstime


Eggplant, Addictive?

There are still a few eggplants hanging around the farmers’ market and they are desperately seeking kitchens. I highly recommend taking them home with you. They are great for layered dishes, roasted and mashed with tahini or simply grilled.

And who can resist a plant that comes with trivia?

Saving the best for last:

(1) While the ones at the market are, of course, local, eggplants immigrated from places like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

(2) Eggplant, like its cousin the tomato, is technically a berry. (I can just see eggplant alamode on the next episode of Chopped.)

(3) The tiny seeds running through the flesh, which are slightly and pleasantly bitter, contain trace amounts of nicotine. (Tobacco is a distant relative.)

The below gluten-free version of a pasta standby uses both tomato and eggplant. The saltiness of the tapenade balances out the sweetness of the berry vegetables. (Forgo adding extra salt to your tomato sauce.) But if you are feeling less adventurous or are craving a more classic pairing, replace the tapenade with herbed ricotta.

Tapenade “Ravioli”

Serves 2


2 medium or one large, preferably narrow, eggplant, peeled


olive oil


1 packed cup pitted kalamata olives

4-6 Tbs fresh parsley

1 small can anchovies with capers (optional)

black pepper


1 cup tomato sauce

2-3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 red jalapeño pepper, minced

grated parmesan cheese (garnish)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice peeled eggplant in ¼ inch thick rounds and lightly salt. Set aside to “sweat” 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine olives, parsley, anchovies and pepper to make tapenade filling. Grind into a paste.

Coat a jelly roll pan or well-lipped cookie sheet with 1/8th inch of oil. Pair eggplant slices according to equal sizes. Lay one half of each pair flat on the pan. Spread tapenade “filling” on top. Place matching eggplant slice over tapenade, pressing firmly down. Bake for twenty minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through.

In a small pot, simmer tomato sauce with garlic and red pepper about twenty minutes. When eggplant “ravioli” are done, use spatula to arrange on plates. Top with spoonfuls of tomato sauce and grated parmesan.

photo by Isabel Poulin


Hold the Music: Bands Drive Away Farmers' Market Shoppers

A study analyzing the rapid increase of farmers' markets in Indiana (222 percent between 1994 and 2004) was released from Purdue University yesterday. The researchers looked at what factors increased a market's popularity. The following ranked highest, when all other variables were held stable:

1. Cooking demonstrations brought 200 more people to a market
2. Concession stands attracted 110 more
3. Each additional product/vendor drew in 20 more
4. The presence of WIC (Women Infant & Children Farmers' Market Nutrition Program) attracted 20 more.

Interestingly, live music discouraged people from supporting the market. When music was played at a market, attendance declined by an average of 200 people. This from the press release: "These findings could indicate that customers attend the market to shop, not to be entertained", the researchers explained.

Reminds me of the farmers' market we visited in Montana, desperate to taste some of the local beef we had been watching graze all week. Other than a few stands with arugula and tomatoes, and a table tended by bonnet-bound girls offering chicken and eggs, the market resembled a county fair. There was cotton candy and fudge, kettle corn and pulled pork sandwiches. Knick knacks, handmade and otherwise.

And yes, we left, before they finished setting up for the band.

photo by Jaimie Duplass, via Dreamstime


Mushrooms: “Grey is a color, too!”

With frequent reports reminding us to eat our colors, mushrooms are often under appreciated for the nutritional powerhouses they are. They can bolster the immune system (yes, keeping H1N1 at bay), lower stress and reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses. Because of their hearty texture, they can also be a great way to replace or “stretch” the meat called for in more many recipes. One of my favorite tricks is to mix ground portabellas (just throw them in a food processor) into ground beef and then use to make hamburgers, lasagna, etc. as you usually would. This is particularly good if you are using grass-fed beef that has a normal (aka non-reduced) fat content. The mushrooms help lighten up the meal without losing any valuable Omega 3s.

Last night I made a mushroom and sage sauté and served it over polenta. I used criminis, which also go by the name baby portabellas or, alliteratively, baby bellas. They are the same shape as white button (still America’s favorite), but darker and more flavorful. While each mushroom type seems to have its own expertise in the nutrition game, but criminis are among the best. If you are looking for adventure, however, check out Madura Farms stand (Union Square, Grand Army Plaza, Carroll Park… click here to see if they come to the market near you): they have oyster, shitake, chanterelles, hen of the woods, you name it – all of which are yummy simply sautéed with butter and salt.

Mushroom and Sage Ragu

Serves 2

2-3 Tbs olive oil

8-12 inches of sausage (optional), such as the turkey sausage from DiPaola, cut on the bias into ¼ inch slices

1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thin

Broth (chicken or vegetable) or water

4 cloves garlic (less if you are using non-local garlic), minced or pressed

2 yellow tomatoes, halved and sliced thin

1 pepper (half of a bell, if you want a mild dish, jalapeño or chili pepper if you want to jazz it up; mince spicier pepper, slice into 2 inch sticks for milder peppers)

2 cups crimini mushrooms, quartered

1/3 cup red wine

3 Tbs chopped parsley

2 Tbs chopped fresh sage

kosher salt and black pepper

grated parmesan

Heat skillet and allow oil to coat the pan. Add the sausage, if using. Allow to brown by leaving untouched for about 2 minutes. Flip the sausage slices and repeat. When browned on both sides, remove sausage to plate with slotted spoon. Set aside.

Add onion to same pan over medium heat. While the onion is cooking add a bit of broth to the pan, to deglaze the yummy brown bits left by the sausage. When onion is soft (~4 minutes), add garlic. After two minutes, add tomato and cover. When tomato has broken down (3-5 minutes), add pepper, mushrooms and wine. Cook covered until pepper has softened (3-5 minutes). Stir in parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered until sauce reduces to desired dryness. Serve over polenta (recipe below) and dust with parmesan.


Serve 2 to 3

2 ½ cups chicken broth (recommended) or water

kosher or sea salt

2/3 cups very fine cornmeal (available on Fridays at the Union Square Farmer Market)

4 Tbs half and half or 2 Tbs cream (available from Milk Thistle)

Bring broth and salt to a rolling boil. Stirring constantly to stave off lumps, slowly add cornmeal. When the mixture starts to thicken, stir in half and half. Stirring occasionally, simmer until mixture is desired thickness, 3-20 minutes. (Traditionally, polenta is served very runny but I like mine approaching the consistency of mashed potatoes.)

photo by Photowitch, via Dreamstime