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

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

I took today off of work to catch up on the rest of my life. So far I have researched and made a long overdue appointment with an orthopedist, done a sinkful of dishes, written a cranky letter about my expensive and poorly constructed phone case, and given the cat some much-needed love.

My afternoon will be devoted to a gendered analysis of Lucky Peach. But, before tucking into a pile of cooking magazines, I needed a little sustenance. Luckily, I still had some excellent ham on hand from last week’s Easter supper at Sara and Chris’s place. (If you don’t know Heritage Meats USA, you should.)

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces ham, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls kale, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a small nonstick skillet up to medium heat with the oil. Add the ham and cook for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the kale in batches and continue cooking until it’s wilted but still has a little bite. Stir in some salt and pepper, lower the heat and scoot everything to the side of the pan. Crack two eggs directly into the pan and add the butter. Stir continuously, scraping at the sides until the eggs become opaque but are still runny. Add some salt and pepper and, when the eggs are just about done, take off of the heat and mix in with the ham and kale.

Green(s) Eggs Ham

Kale & Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad

My last day off was in February. I am told that yesterday’s conference was a big success, but it’s a bit hard to hear through the haze of exhaustion. I slept 9 1/2 hours last night and woke up achy and somewhat remorseful for last night’s lackluster takeout nachos.

There’s a steady rain thrumming against the window air conditioning unit, making me thankful to be holed up in my apartment in my favorite sweatpants, The Smiths on the stereo and a neglected cat by my side. Lunch was clearly going to have to be assembled from ingredients I had on hand.

Kale & Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad

  1. Hard boil an egg according to your preferred method–or mine. (While you’re at it, why not boil a few more for mid-week breakfasts?) 
  2. Boil a handful of small potatoes in salted water until a butter knife slides in easily.
  3. Rinse and dry a few of handfuls of kale
  4. Whisk the juice of half a lemon with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a healthy pinch of salt, a small pinch of sugar and plenty of black pepper. Gradually whisk in a couple of tablespoons of good quality olive oil. Mince a shallot and add this as well.
  5. Toss the kale with your dressing and let stand while your egg and potatoes cool. (If you don’t have a nasty cut on your forefinger from god-only-knows-what, you might consider using your hands to really massage the dressing into the kale. I opted to use the back of a spoon to get the job done.)
  6. Top the kale with halved potatoes, quartered eggs, an ounce or two of smoked salmon and those olives that have been lurking in the fridge since your blizzard dinner party.

Kale Smoked Salmon Nicoise

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.

Radish, Kale & Shallot Gratin

There comes a moment in every CSA season when you have to admit that the vegetables are winning. I am proud to report that, despite the odds, this is not that moment.

It’s been a solid week since I was home for dinner and the vegetables have been piling up at an alarming rate–particularly given my impending trip to Austin. When I arrived home this evening, half of Saturday’s haul was still spilled across the kitchen counter (where I left it before dashing off to meet friends for some bracing Malaysian soup). And so I sucked it up and dragged everything out in order to reorganize and give the crisper a much-needed scrub.

Root Vegetable Overload

There were a lot of root vegetables, including some radishes that needed serious love. (For perspective, those potatoes are two bags deep.) There was kale that was most definitely not going to wait until my return next week. There was the last of the ricotta I had picked up a couple of weeks ago at the farmers’ market. And there were some desiccated bread heels. Game on.

Radish, Kale & Shallot Gratin

  • a good bit of olive oil
  • 10 or so large radishes, trimmed and quartered
  • 5 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • three pieces very old bread, crumbled/diced
  • a couple of heaping spoons of ricotta cheese
  • a sprinkling of shaved parmesan 

Crank the oven up to 450 with a large cast iron skillet inside. Meanwhile, prep your vegetables. When the oven is just about ready, remove the skillet. Add the olive oil, radishes, shallots, kale, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, ricotta and parmesan over the top and pop the pan back into the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned. 

Radish Kale Shallot Gratin

This would be a lovely companion to roast chicken or pork. I ate it with a side of work emails.

Planes, Trains, Bourbon & Brisket

I am supposed to be in Wisconsin right now.

Three years ago, I spent Rosh Hashanah with Juliet, Phil and their son. It was a lovely visit that ended with promises to do it again next year. Alas, life and a brand new job got in the way, so the past two years’ celebrations have consisted of an apple dipped in honey at my kitchen counter.

Two months ago I purchased a plane ticket. On Friday I awoke early to pack. I hauled a suitcase, an overstuffed purse, and a backpack full of schoolwork (plus some work work) through morning rush hour. The B train was mysteriously out of commission, necessitating two transfers and a whole lot of stairs to get to my meeting near Columbus Circle. I cut out half an hour early and flagged down a taxi to LaGuardia.

Two hours, $100, and a fair amount of screaming later, I found myself at Delta’s Special Services desk shaking with a mixture of frustration, rage, and a very full bladder. There was no way I was making my flight to Madison, though they could get me into Milwaukee for a mere $1,000 change fee. I appealed to the agent’s sense of rationality, explaining that the Grand Central Parkway had been shut down and that my driver refused to listen to my directions. Nothing. I played the damsel in distress. Nada. I pulled a diva trip. This man was a brick wall. Then I did the only other thing I could think of. I hauled my bags to a corner, sat on the floor, and commenced crying. Nobody even noticed.

Half an hour and a couple of weepy phone calls later, I had a plan. I would head upstate for a night or two with Beth and her boys.

It’s a straight shot on the M60 bus to Metro North’s Harlem-125th Street Station. Under normal circumstances, the trip takes about 25 minutes. But, as even the casual reader must know by now, this was no ordinary day. I couldn’t even squeeze onto the first bus that arrived. I boarded at the back of the next bus, which filled up quickly. We inched our way to Manhattan. At each stop, more people clambered aboard. Tensions were high. More than one person screamed obscenities. A fist fight very nearly broke out. The trip lasted 90 minutes.

I managed to squeeze myself and my bags–which seemed to get heavier and heavier–off of the bus when we hit Second Avenue and found the nearest liquor store. I was going to need a little something to take the edge off during the next leg of my journey. I hauled my bags up what I thought would be the final flight of stairs and boarded the 6:22 to Poughkeepsie.

As we pulled out of the station, the conductor announced that the train was an express and that the first stop would be Beacon–the stop after my intended destination. At this point, I decided to skip the plastic cup and swig my wine straight from the bottle.

Jasmine and the Bottle

Seventy minutes later, I lugged my bags up one staircase and down another before tossing them into the back of a taxi that, naturally, had to drop two other people off before delivering me. I arrived at Beth’s doorstep just before 8:30pm. In the time it takes to fly to London, I had managed to make it 55 miles from my starting point.

By 8:45 I was halfway through a Negroni. By two in the morning we’d polished off our second bottle of Prosecco and were headed to bed.

Somehow Beth wrangled the boys and made it to soccer by 9:00am, which is about the time I opened my eyes. I stumbled down the stairs feeling a little worse for the wear. A cup of coffee and two large glasses of water gave me the strength to make breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast, and a glorious orange tomato from Fishkill Farms, where Beth gets her CSA share.

Then I threw on some clothes, grabbed a bag, and headed up the road to the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market. I was eager to see what the Hudson Valley had to offer–and hopeful that I might stumble on a brisket to take the sting out of the previous day’s travel debacle. I picked up purple potatoes, fennel salami, parsley, and canoodling carrots.

Kale Potatoes Carrots

I was about to give up on my brisket plan when I spotted Full Moon Farm‘s stand. Three pounds of grass-fed beef and my backpack was about as heavy as I could conceive given the 30-minute walk back to town. But first, I took a quick stroll through the grounds at Boscobel to admire the view of the Hudson Highlands.

Hudson Highlands

Beth and the boys arrived home a little after me. We spent the early afternoon hydrating and threatening to nap while the brisket defrosted in a bowl of water. Around 2:00 I set to work.

Braised Brisket, More or Less

  1. Get a good piece of meat. Make sure it’s defrosted. Sprinkle with a generous dose of salt and pepper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325.
  3. Bring a large dutch oven up to medium heat with some vegetable oil. Sear the brisket until you get some nice color on it. (Depending on the size of your pot and the size of your brisket, this may require some finagling.)
  4. Remove the meat and add a couple of chopped onions. Cook until soft and starting to color. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
  5. Ransack the spice cabinet and add whatever strikes your fancy. I went with ginger, fennel, brown mustard seeds, thyme and some other stuff I can’t recall. Allow the spices to toast in the fat for a few minutes.
  6. Add a small can of tomato paste and whatever leftover booze you can dig up. A Stella Artois worked just fine for this brisket, but you could do something darker. Red wine is always nice.
  7. Got some chili paste in the fridge? Go for it. Just about any condiment you’re looking to use up will do here. Dried fruit is also awesome.
  8. Bring the pot up to a boil, pop a lid on, and stick it in the oven. Ideally, the meat will be submerged in the liquid, but not to worry if the ends are sticking out.
  9. Now would be a good time for a nap. Or maybe a shower.
  10. After a couple of hours, give the sauce a taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and perhaps a pinch of sugar. Flip the meat and return to the oven. Repeat in another hour or so. 
  11. Some people like to pull the meat out while it is still firm, slice it against the grain, layer it into a pan, cover with the sauce, and continue to cook. This is handy if you’re serving a large crowd or are aiming for something a little more photogenic. Personally, I like to leave the meat whole and continue to simmer until it is pull-apart tender. (Go past this point and you basically have the best beef stew you’ve ever experienced.) A little fresh flat leaf parsley is a nice touch at the end.

Braised Brisket

Cocktail time!

The End of Summer

Add a few cubes of ice to a rocks glass. Slosh in a stiff pour of bourbon. Top with ginger ale. Using a microplane, grate a little fresh ginger in. Garnish with a wheel of lemon. Toast to the end of summer and spend the next couple of rounds reminiscing about sandy sheets and outdoor showers.

Bourbon Ginger Cocktail

Thomas and his two kids joined us for dinner. Dylan and Benjamin concocted an elaborate fantasy involving costumes and camping gear while the older boys disappeared upstairs.

Around 6:00 we sat down to the brisket, accompanied by grilled potatoes and carrots and a kale and pear salad with a maple dijon vinaigrette.

Grilled Carrots and Potatoes

Kale and Pear Salad

In truth, most of the kids had plain tomatoes and hot dogs. But Benjamin, always the iconoclast, embraced this new meat swimming in its mysterious and murky sauce. He ate heartily and then quietly disappeared from the table. A couple of minutes later, he reclaimed his seat and passed me this missive.

I Love Brisket

It was an unconventional Rosh Hashanah, to be sure. But it was also a lovely one. Next year in Madison!