Rhubarb & Kale Tart

Today was the launch of CSA season. For the next 22 weeks, I will swing by the artists’ studio/garage that serves as home to the Prospect Park CSA each Tuesday night, gleefully anticipating my allotment from Farmer Ted. This week brought green leaf lettuce, Red Russian kale, Happy Rich, Koji, scallions, breakfast radishes and a small pot of Genovese basil (which, my track record notwithstanding, I hope to keep alive long enough to make a few rounds of pesto).

Armed with the knowledge that such a bounty was just three days away, a sensible person would have spent Saturday morning sleeping off Friday night’s rooftop rosé and squid ink pasta with mussels and calamari. Instead, I awoke early and hit the farmers’ market. I told myself that, at the very least, I had to drop off the compost that was making it difficult to shut the freezer.

Squid Ink Pasta with Mussels and Calamari

Naturally, I forgot the compost, leaving plenty of room in my bag for a pound of bacon, half a loaf of French sourdough, a bunch of kale, some collard greens, a handful of garlic scapes, and a whole mess of rhubarb. (This is my version of restraint.)

June Farmers Market Haul

I hoisted my bag over my shoulder and headed toward home, pausing to say hi to Cathy, a fellow food blogger, and her food photographer friend. They asked what I had in mind for the rhubarb protruding awkwardly from my bag. Great question. I mumbled something about a rhubarb vinaigrette or a simple syrup for cocktails, both of which are fine, if limited, applications. But I had clearly purchased A LOT of rhubarb. We bonded over our mutual love or savory over sweet until I felt the siren song of my couch—and the leftover seafood pasta.

That evening found me babysitting my nephews, Wally and Hugo. Wally and I collaborated on a self-portrait, after which he demanded that I document his belly. (Oh, to be four.)

Bedtime was uncharacteristically easy, leaving me with a few hours to explore my sister’s snacks, my brother-in-law’s IPA stash, and the wonders of cable television. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday night, but did nothing to remedy my looming vegetable crisis.

Fortunately, Louis was due for Sunday supper and Monica, Sara and I had failed to polish off that hunk of cheese on Friday night…

Kale and Rhubarb.jpg

Rhubarb & Kale Tart

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3-5 tablespoons ice water
  • 6 big stalks rhubarb
  • 1-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 ounces Saint-André, brie or other soft, rich cheese
  • 1/2 egg
  1. Fill a cup with water and a few ice cubes. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and work it in with a pastry cutter if you have one. (Rumor has it you can use two knives. I made do with a mezzaluna, cleaning it out with a chopstick periodically. A pinching motion with your fingers should also do the trick. The goal here is a pea-sized crumble.) Gradually add the water, mixing the dough with your hands until is just comes together but is not sticky. Scatter some flour onto the counter, work the dough into a ball, and the press it into a disc using the palms of your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Toss the rhubarb with a tablespoon of sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook stirring regularly until they are soft and caramel colored. Taste the rhubarb and, if it seems excessively sour, add a little more sugar. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes to your onions, cook for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the rhubarb and vinegar. Let simmer, stirring regularly, until the rhubarb begins to fall apart and take on a chutney consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Scrape the onions and rhubarb into a bowl, bring the heat up to medium, and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the kale in batches and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Now would be a fine time for a nap.
  4. An hour out from dinner, preheat the oven to 400. Lightly flour the counter and rolling-pin. Roll the dough, flipping and dusting with flour as needed, until it’s the size of a small pizza. (You’re aiming for as thin as will reasonably hold together.) This may seem impossible at first, but give the dough some firm thwacks with the rolling pin and it will start to ease up. Gently transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and return to the refrigerator until your dinner date confirms that he just got off the subway. 
  5. Combine the rhubarb and kale and slather over the dough, leaving an inch or so around the edges. Fold the edges in. (You can get fancy with this by trimming and then crimping, but it won’t taste any different and, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re not a particularly patient person.) Scatter hunks of cheese over the top. Lightly beat the egg and brush it on the exposed dough. Pop this into the oven just as the buzzer sounds.
  6. Crack open a bottle of bubbly. By the time you finish the second glass, the crust should be golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes or so and then use the parchment to gently slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Time to open that second bottle…

Kale and Rhubarb Tart.jpg

EAT THIS: Pea Shoots, Red Onion & Gruyere

Pea Shoots Red Onion Dairyere

You (and your gallbladder) haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself seated across from the ever-so-sweet and astoundingly skilled Billy Durne of Hometown Bar-B-Que as he hand picks the choicest slices of brisket for you. If you have any hope of recovering before next week’s Brisket King 2016, consider a simple salad of red onion quick pickled in lemon juice, olive oil and salt and tossed with Evolutionary Organics‘ pea shoots and Cato Corner Farm‘s incomparable Dairyere.

EAT THIS: Arugala, Radish & Ricotta Salata

Rinse and dry the arugula you picked up in tonight’s CSA share. Toast some walnuts in a cast iron skillet. Thinly slice a radish or two. Shave and then crumble some Ricotta Salata. Whisk up a garlic scape vinaigrette. This is dinner without breaking a sweat, even when it’s 88 degrees and you’re too stubborn to turn on the AC.

Egg & Cheese on a Roll (aka Hangover Helper)

Prior to moving to New York City way back in 1996, I had never encountered egg and cheese on a roll. This dish is a staple of the New York deli–and an essential ingredient when you need to rally the morning after.

I moved into my first roommate-free apartment in 2002. It was a charming mini-loft near the South Street Seaport. Feeling rather fabulous and grown, I decorated my apartment in high bachelor pad style and took up whiskey drinking. Consequently, I spent many a morning lolling about on my retro fabulous couch weighing my desire for an egg and cheese on a roll against my desire to never put on pants again.

And then it dawned on me. Why not treat my aching head and gurgling gut in the comfort of my own home? It is the rare day that I do not have eggs, butter and some sort of cheese in the house. If I could just manage to pick up a bread product on the way home, I should be good to go.

Fry an egg and stick it on a toasted roll with some cheese, right? Alas, this seemingly simple sandwich was not quite as straightforward as I thought. My early efforts yielded cold, hard cheese and bread that was crispy and scraped at the roof of my mouth. Over time I developed a few simple tweaks that helped things along.

But the game changer came when I introduced aluminum foil. The key to that perfect deli version, I discovered, is wrapping your completed dish in foil for a few minutes. This allows the cheese to get a bit melty while the steam softens the roll, yielding a cohesive, gooey and delicious mess of a sandwich.

And so I give you…

Egg & Cheese on a Roll

Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat. Swirl half a tablespoon of butter in the pan. Slice your roll in half and set cut-side down to one side of the skillet, pressing down a bit. Thinly slice an ounce of cheese of your choice. Crack an egg into the other half of your skillet. Tear off a square piece of aluminum foil. (Heavy duty is best.) Flip your roll and allow to toast on the other side. When your egg is mostly set, give it a quick flip to firm up the white. Place one half of the roll on the foil, layer with cheese, scoop the egg on top, add salt and pepper, top with the other half of your roll, and wrap tightly in foil. Allow to sit for a few minute while you get yourself another glass of water, which you probably should have been drinking the night before.

Egg and Cheese on a Roll

While this dish is a godsend after a night of over-imbibing, I am here to attest that it is also a lovely way to reward yourself after skidding across icy sidewalks for a morning yoga class on a cold and rainy Sunday.

Potato Gratin with Mustard & Gruyere

I fly to Florida in six hours for a healthy dose of sunshine and family. But first I’m headed to Christmas dinner with friends, presenting an excellent opportunity to unload some of the potatoes that are piling up from my winter CSA share.

Potato Gratin with Mustard & Gruyere

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 10 white peppercorns, ground
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 pound good quality gruyere, grated
  • 1 small bunch chives, minced
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Whisk the cream, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. (Do not be tempted to use a medium bowl or you will be scraping potato starch and cream off of your counters. Take it from me.) Stir in half the gruyere and all but a tablespoon of the chives.
  2. One by one, peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/8″ disks. (A mandoline will make this task infinitely faster.) Drop the potatoes into the cream mixture as you go, as this will prevent them from browning.
  3. Grease a smallish baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. (If, like me, you never remember to take the butter out to soften, just drop the butter in the dish and pop it in the oven for a minute or two.)
  4. Spread the potatoes in the baking dish, reserving the most uniform slices for the top layer and making sure to scoop out most of the cheese as you go. Give everything a good press to even it out and then arrange your top layer of potatoes artfully. Pour the cream mixture over the top, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and dot with second tablespoon of butter.Pre-Bake Gratin
  5. Pop this in the oven and let cook for an hour or so until the top is a dark, crusty brown and the potatoes are presumably cooked through. (If you want to be exact about it, you could make sure a butter knife slides in easily.) Garnish with the remaining chives. WARNING: Your apartment will smell insanely good.

OK, I haven’t actually tried this yet, as I still have to transport it to Williamsburg along with myself and my suitcase. But, given the ingredients, I have trouble imagining it will not be delicious.

Potato Gratin with Mustard and Gruyere

Grown Folks’ Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Summer reared its head one last time this weekend, with temperatures soaring to the low 80s on Saturday. I kicked off my 40th birthday by taking a funder on a tour of community-run farmers’ markets in East New York and Bushwick and ended the night jubilantly dancing with good friends at Franklin Park. (OK, fine, I ended it at a 24-hour diner, but that was technically the day after my birthday.)

By Wednesday, which was the first day in October, temperatures had dropped to the low 60s. There’s a crispness in the air that I will always associate with the first day of school. The woman at my local coffee shop must be feeling the same deeply ingrained nostalgia. “Have fun. Make new friends!” were the words she sent me off with this morning.

The close of my workday found me meeting the same funder for a cup of tea and a lovely apricot and pistachio tart at one of Maison Kayser‘s New York City outposts. I hadn’t had their addictive pain au cereales since my June study trip to Paris, so I grabbed a loaf before departing.

A couple of blocks away I stumbled upon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which I had been meaning to investigate. Cubes of their signature cheese, Flagship, greeted me just a few steps inside the door. It was everything you want cheddar to be–sharp, creamy and crumbly all at once. My hunch that it would melt beautifully was confirmed by the sweet bearded Macalaster graduate working the counter. I mentioned my grilled cheese vision and he encouraged me to add a little funk to the mix in the form of Alemar Cheese’s Good Thunder. This young man seemed to know his cheese. And so I departed with not one but two precious (and preciously priced) cheeses in my sack.

While I am perfectly capable of eating nothing but a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, I felt compelled to dispatch with some of this week’s CSA share. Boy, am I glad that I did.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small handful cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • splash red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a roasting pan. Rinse the vegetables and slice them in half, making sure to core the peppers. Place everything cut side down in the roasting pan, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and place in the oven.

Veggies Pre-Roast

Let roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and their skins are beginning to char and pull back.

Veggies Roasted

Peel off the skins from the peppers and tomatoes and transfer everything to a food processor. Add a healthy pinch of salt and black pepper and purée until smooth. Continue to run the processor while you slowly add water until you’ve achieved the consistency of your favorite tomato soup. Add the cilantro and purée for a couple of additional minutes. Just before serving, bring soup to a simmer, remove from heat and add a splash of red wine vinegar.

WARNING: This recipe made about two servings of soup. I am seriously bummed to not have more leftovers, as it is quite tasty. As your attorney, I advise you to double it.

I recently read that Gabrielle Hamilton makes her grilled cheese using mayonnaise instead of butter. This is a game changer. Seriously.

Grilled Cheese Ingredients

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

  • 2 slices good quality bread
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 
  • 2 ounces serious cheese – 1 cheddar and 1 a little funkier 

Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat. Spread the mayonnaise on one side of each piece of bread. Place one slice into the skillet, mayonnaise-side down. Layer on your cheese and add the top slice. Let cook until nicely browned, pressing gently with a spatula. Flip and repeat the procedure. Let sit for a minute or two before serving to make sure all of that oozy goodness doesn’t drip right out.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese