Tofu, Kale & Bacon Stir-Fry

Ordinarily, when stir-frying tofu, I use the drain and freeze technique to prevent it from turning to mush. But I did not have such luxuries on Monday night, so I went for a quick press followed by a slow cook in order to remove the moisture before incorporating other ingredients. A little bacon fat didn’t hurt.

Tofu, Kale & Bacon Stir-Fry

Bring a large skillet up to medium-low heat with a piece of thick-cut bacon. Flip every so often. Meanwhile, place half a block of extra firm tofu on some paper towels to drain, pressing and flipping to extract as much water as possible. Slice a small red onion pole to pole. When the bacon is firm but not overly crisp, remove it to a paper towel. Slice the tofu into thick matchsticks and add to the pan. Drizzle some soy sauce over the top and let sit until the pieces are browned and lightly crusted. Rinse a couple of handfuls of kale, de-stem and chop roughly. Rotate the tofu and continue cooking until quite firm and somewhat leathery. Slide to the side, crank the heat up to medium, and add a little neutral cooking oil along with the onion. Grind a good dose of Szechuan peppercorns over the top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is limp and nicely charred. Slide to the side and add a little more oil, the kale, and a nice pour of soy sauce and chili oil. Slowly incorporate everything together and cook until the kale is crisp-tender. Chop the bacon and sprinkle over the top. Some scallions would be nice if you’ve got ’em. Maybe a little sesame oil.

Tofu Kale Bacon Stir-Fry

Bacon, Egg & Kale Sandwich (with a side of BBQ)

I flew in Wednesday morning from a glorious four days in Austin. The highlight , hands down, was our pilgrimage to Franklin Barbecue. It’s not every friend who, in the midst of a margarita-soaked vacation, will rally at 7:30 in the morning to wait in a three-hour line for barbecue. But Beth was game.

Franklin Barbecue Line

The Texans had fancy folding chairs, card tables and coolers. The New Yorkers had a square of pavement and repurposed water bottles full of pre-batched cocktails. A lovely ponytailed man circulated through the line providing information, encouragement and cold beers. They stopped taking orders for pulled pork a few parties before ours. I was disappointed, but had to admit that the solo woman at the very front of the line toting a giant suitcase and pounding away on a laptop clearly deserved it more than I did. I take my hat off to you, ma’am.

The line started moving right at 11:00 as promised. By 11:30, we were hefting a massive tray of meat onto a picnic table on the porch. Turns out we made the cut for pulled pork (and brisket and ribs and smoked turkey).

Franklin Barbecue

While we made a valiant attempt, Beth and I failed to finish the insane quantity of meat that we ordered. Luckily, there was plenty of butcher paper to wrap our leftovers, which Beth reports that she ate the next morning while waiting for her flight to board. (I told you she was the real deal.)

At some point the line attendant (a.k.a. my new favorite person) stopped by our table to check in. I reported that the brisket was the best I had ever had. And I’ve had a lot of brisket. We talked technique for a while and then he instructed us to hang out near an unmarked door. Ten minutes later, the door swung open and he ushered us into a room full—and I do mean full—of smokers.

Franklin Smokers

The smell was intoxicating and hard to describe. More subtle than the usual woodsmoke, I could swear I detected notes of bay leaf. We chatted with the guy working the smokehouse, who reports that they keep the smokers going 24 hours a day. The room was warm but not overpoweringly so, though I imagine this is different come August. At some point, we stumbled outside and summoned a car to the Barton Springs Pool, where we promptly passed out in the sun.

A day later I was back in frigid New York City and taking a break from meat. By Friday night I had recovered enough to simmer some calypso beans with smoked hog jowl. This morning found me hitting the farmers’ market to drop off a good 20 pounds of compost and pick up some milk, eggs, bacon, bread and kale. I didn’t really have a plan, save for bringing green things back into my diet.

Just as I walked in the door, I got a text from Beth along with a drawing made by her son Benjamin.

Benjamin's Drawing

Benjamin is a boy after my own heart. I have written previously about the wonder that is the egg and cheese on a roll. But today I decided to switch it up a bit.

Bacon, Egg & Kale Sandwich

Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with one slice of thickly cut bacon. (You can’t got wrong with Flying Pigs Farm.) Flip the bacon a couple of times and remove when it reaches your desired crispness. Add a handful of tough winter kale, rinsed and de-stemmed. Let the kale cook until nicely browned around the edges. Meanwhile, bring a small cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with a pat of butter. Flip the kale and brown the other side. Season with salt and pepper and slide to the side of your pan. Add a couple of pieces of your favorite bread (Bread Alone‘s San Francisco Sourdough perhaps) and toast on both sides. Crack an egg into the smaller pan. Flip the egg and cook to your desired doneness. Assemble you sandwich as follows: bread, kale, egg, salt and pepper, bacon, more bread. 

Bacon Egg and Kale Sandwich

Now that was easy.

Corn, Bacon & Beet Greens

Tuesday is CSA pickup day. Farmer Fred excels at growing greens, so a big salad has become part of my weekly ritual. But, as the thermometer climbs, the delicate lettuces are giving way to more heat tolerant crops. This week brought iceberg, which should keep just fine in the salad spinner. Tonight’s haul also included the first of the sweet corn. Now this demanded to be eaten right away.

Corn, Bacon & Beet Greens

  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 spring onion, bulb and greens (or one regular onion and a couple of scallions)
  • 3 ears fresh corn
  • 1 jalapeño (or to taste)
  • 1 bunch beet greens (or other delicate greens such as chard or spinach)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Roughly chop the bacon, add to a cast iron skillet, and bring up to medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until bacon is mostly crisp and rendered. Set bacon aside on a paper towel. Chop and add the onion (but not the greens) and stir regularly until limp and somewhat translucent. Mince the jalapeño. Slice the corn niblets off and freeze the cobs for future chowder. Scoop the onions to the side, crank the heat up to high, and add the corn and jalapeños. Let sit for a few minutes until the corn starts to take on color. Stir and repeat a few times, mixing in the cooked onions as you go. Roughly chop the beet greens and thinly slice the onion greens. Add these and stir until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro and crumbled bacon off the heat.

At this point, you could just grab a fork and dig in. You could also serve it as a side with some fried chicken or even use it to top a salad. I opted to stuff some into a couple of corn tortillas and drizzle with some Tapatio hot sauce and a generous squeeze of lime.

Corn Bacon Beet Greens

Fourth of July weekend I stumbled on a small, nicely-seasoned cast iron skillet in a junk shop up in the Catskills. The remaining corn, bacon and beet greens will make for a most excellent breakfast when topped with a perfectly fried egg.

Perfect Egg Pan

Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

This past weekend’s chilly temperature notwithstanding, Monday’s visit to the Union Square Greenmarket suggests that spring is here to stay. I picked up more young collard greens (color me obsessed), chives, carrots, mint, ramps and dandelion greens. Last night, having worked late, I dined on sautéed collard tacos augmented by half an avocado that had miraculously stayed fresh while I was out of town for a long weekend. Tonight I departed work on time, leaving me with the energy/blood sugar level to swing by my local sustainable seafood shop for a dozen littleneck clams. Half an hour later, dinner was served.

Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

  • 1 ounce hog jowl (or bacon), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 littleneck clams
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Bring a medium-sized pot with a good fitting lid up to medium heat. Add the hog jowl and olive oil and cook stirring occasionally until the pork is partially rendered. Add the onion and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook stirring constantly for two more minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and add the clams. Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until all of your clams have popped open. Stir in the dandelion greens in batches and cook until just wilted. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Watching the clams give way to your bubbling broth is mighty relaxing–particularly if you do so with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.

This would make a killer sauce for linguine. Given that I was cooking for one, I went with a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough, which did a fine job of soaking up the luscious broth.

Steamed Clams with Dandelion Greens and Hog Jowl

Bacon & Onion Bulgur Salad

Today is my first day off in almost a month. It’s been so long since I had a day to myself that I’m a bit paralyzed by the possibilities. I am also seemingly incapable of sleeping in despite being physically and mentally exhausted. By 11:00am I had done a sinkful of dishes, dealt with the alarming garbage and compost situation, tried (and failed) not to check my work email, made and consumed a cup of coffee, watched the final episode of House of Cards, spent an hour or so attempting to identify a movie that would hold my attention, given the cat some much-needed affection, and contemplated a shower.

I also found time to make myself a lovely lunch with whatever ingredients I happened to have on hand.

Bacon & Onion Bulgur Salad

  • 3 strips good quality bacon, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup coarse/large bulgur wheat
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • splash red wine vinegar (optional)

Render the bacon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Scoop your homemade bacon bits into a bowl, leaving as much fat as possible in the pan. Add the onion and cook stirring frequently until soft and starting to caramelize. Scoop the onion into your bowl, add the bulgur to the pan and cook stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. The goal here it to toast your grains in all of that delicious bacon fat. Add a cup and a half of water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Switch off the heat and pop a lid on. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, stir and let sit for another 5 minutes or so until the water is absorbed. Stir in the bacon, onions, scallions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bacon and Onion Bulgur Salad

If you have somehow managed not to consume all of the delicious pickled watermelon radishes that a friend brought over a couple of weeks ago, they would make a great accompaniment. If not, you might want to add a little splash of red wine vinegar to balance the flavors.

Next up for my day of rest? A shower, a pedicure and a long walk capped off with a fancy dinner at Semilla. Tomorrow it’s back to the grindstone.

EAT THIS: Bacon, Kale & Avocado Sandwich

Bacon Kale and Avocado Sandwich

When last night’s birthday dinner somehow morphed into dancing until 4:00am but you still have to get up at a reasonable hour and put in a full day of work (yes, on a Sunday), consider bacon, kale sautéed in the bacon grease and slices of ripe avocado sandwiched between toasted sourdough bread slathered in mayonnaise and harissa

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

Try as I might to plow through Saturday’s beef stew (including toting a container to a holiday party, which made for a rather unconventional hostess gift), I still have two servings left. It is delicious, but I am over it. As luck would have it, the seafood shop in my neighborhood decided to open on a Monday to accommodate holiday shoppers–and those of us that just needed a boost at the end of a cold, dark and drizzly day.

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

  • 1 slice good quality smoky bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pound mussels
  • salt and pepper

Bring a large pot that has a matching lid up to medium heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring frequently, until mostly rendered but not yet crispy. Add the butter, stir until melted, and then add the onion and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for five minutes or so, allowing the onions to soften and brown in places. Stir the kale in until wilted. Turn heat to high. Add the cider, vinegar, a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels, top with the lid and let cook for four minutes. Remove the lid and give a stir. If some of the mussels are still closed, leave the lid off and let boil for a minute or two longer.

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

Serve this in a low bowl with a hunk of Runner & Stone‘s crusty baguette to soak up the luscious broth. Be prepared to fight your increasingly aggressive cat for the last mussel.

Oona the Eater