Gemelli with Corn, Tomatoes & Canadian Bacon

Leila and Chris were due for dinner last night. Tuesday looked very different when I extended the invitation the week before, but I am learning that the consulting life comes with an ever-evolving calendar. I texted from a client meeting at 4:30 to suggest that they come around 7:30 and rushed back to my neighborhood to pick up this week’s CSA bounty. I made it home around 6:30, but still didn’t have a clue what I was going to make.

Luckily, I had some Flying Pigs Farm Canadian bacon in the freezer to complement Farmer Ted‘s peak summer vegetables. By the time I had stashed the last of the onions and washed and dried the gorgeous purple lettuce, I’d hatched a plan. This is a meal that comes together fast, so you’ll want to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start sautéing.

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Gemelli with Corn, Tomatoes & Canadian Bacon

  • 1 pound good quality gemelli or other short pasta shape
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic scape, cut into long segments and sliced down the center (or 3 cloves regular garlic)
  • 4 ounces Canadian bacon, cut into 1″ strips
  • 2 ears sweet corn, niblets stripped
  • 2 handfuls roughly chopped kale
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water in your pot is boiling, add the pasta and give it a quick stir. Cook 8 minutes or until just before al dente. (If you game this right, you should be able to transfer the pasta straight from the pot to the pan. If not, no worries. Just be sure to save some of the cooking liquid when you drain the pasta.) Meanwhile, heat a large skillet up to medium with the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring continuously for a few minutes until you pick up the smell of toasted garlic. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the Canadian bacon and cook until most of the fat is released but before it gets crispy. Add the corn and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Add the tomatoes and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the pasta plus about half a cup of the cooking water. Crank the heat up to high and cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil off the heat.

I failed to get a shot of last night’s meal, which included a salad with the aforementioned purple lettuce, yellow tomatoes and crumbled ricotta salata in a classic red wine vinaigrette plus hunks of crusty baguette. But I just polished off this bowl of leftover pasta for lunch and am surprised to report that it was even tastier served cold the next day. (I suspect this has to do with the pig fat having some time to permeate the pasta.)

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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…

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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.