Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Kale with Seaweed and Ginger Recipe

Friday, December 10th, 2010

How to cook Lacinato Kale

I have been experimenting with cooking Kale for a few years now and keep finding it to be one of my favorite green vegetables for side dishes, salads or even stand along dishes like the suddenly popping up everywhere kale chips that are in every health store in town these days. This bitter green seems to be much less common than other standard salad or side counterparts like spinach, arugula or Swiss chard, but is extremely versatile and is very easy to make.

One of my favorite ways to cook Kale is simply boiling it in water with a dash of vinegar and a pinch of salt for no more than 4-5 minutes, as in this kale and seaweed recipe below. Then you can dress it up more or less with anything you like from simple oil and lemon to nuts, chili flakes or anything that you might enjoy.

Kale with seaweed and ginger


1 Bunch of Lacinato Kale

1 Tablespoon of dry Seaweed

few slices of pickled or fresh ginger

Tablespoon of sesame oil

Juice of ½ Meyer Lemon

Optional: Sesame seeds, Chili flakes

Take a tablespoon of dry seaweed, put it in a cup and reconstitute it by pouring boiling hot water over it. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 3-4 qt saucepan bring ½ of a pot of water to boil. Add a dash of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar and add Kale. Boil no longer than 4-5 minutes. Drain in the colander, making sure there is no access water left.  Add reconstituted seaweed and thinly sliced ginger on top and squeeze lemon juice over kale and dress with sesame oil. Additionally, you can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and / or chili flakes over this dish.

Tips & Tricks:

Do not overcook Kale – it will turn rubbery and chewy as well as loose its’ color. You need to use a dash of vinegar in your water and dress with lemon first to prevent kale from discoloration.

You can get dry seaweed in Whole Foods or any local Japanese store. You don’t have to use seaweed – skip it altogether and use olive oil instead of sesame.

I usually serve this for dinner with pan-roasted halibut, salmon or other fish and seafood. It also works very well as a side to a slice of pizza


Grilled Avocado Salad

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Here in California, salads are fun to experiment with because there is such a tremendous availability of fresh vegetables. Let me put it this way – we have it good here: when I lived in Europe the only type of salad you could eat was potato salad.

My main principles for making salad are: use different ingredients every time you make salad (improvise), have fun pairing leaves with other ingredients, understand which textures are similar and which are different and bring both into one bowl, and also be aware of strong flavors and keep those to one or two at most to avoid clashing. Vinaigrette is the soul of your salad – think about what goes there before you make it. (Examples: If it’s an Asian-slaw you are making, you might want to consider a few dashes of toasted sesame oil, if leaves are coarse and crunchy (like romaine) some mustard and fresh herbs would do it good, and if leaves are soft and buttery, then use high quality, peppery green olive oil, etc)

The soul of this salad really lies in the simplicity of its vinaigrette (dressing), and the well thought out textures of the ingredients. Here I pair buttery baby lettuces, toasted pine nuts and the smoky flavors of grilled avocado with rich olive oil and a dash of high quality mandarin flavored balsamic. I add a little crunch to this salad with paper-thin slices of radishes and a few grinds of black pepper. The vinaigrette here (which, as mentioned earlier, gives SOUL to your salad) is primarily olive oil with just a few dashes of high-quality balsamic – a very simple vinaigrette (proportions are important, usually 3 (oil) to 1 (vinegar).


Grilled Avocado ½ per person

Radishes, razor thin sliced

Hearts of Palm, thin sliced

Baby Lettuces

Toasted pine nuts

Artichoke hearts (optional)

Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Grilling Avocado:

Grilled Avocados

Grilled Avocados

Generously brush sliced in half avocado with olive oil and then add it green side down to a well-preheated griddle or grill. Keep on a grill for 4-5 minutes letting avocado brown well. Meanwhile toss leaves, radishes, hearts of palm and pine nuts into a bowl, then gently mix together. Add vinaigrette and toss a few more times. Flip avocado on the other side and keep on the grill for a few more minutes. Plate your salad in small bowls and arrange avocado on the side of the plate. Shave large but thin pieces of Parmesan on the top of your salad. Add a few dashes of balsamic, olive oil and a pinch of salt to avocado. Smoked salt works particularly well.

Tips & Tricks:

Grilling avocado is a must here – that’s where the flavor of this otherwise mellow and gentle salad comes from. Pine nuts are important as well – they add both great texture and flavor. Believe or not, salt really matters when added to avocado.

Vinaigrette is the key: use high quality, rich oil and smooth flavorful balsamic, restrain yourself from adding other stuff to it (like mustard, shallots, etc – other classic vinaigrette favorites) Simplicity is indeed the way to go. (Read Marcus Aurelius if you think I am kidding)


12 Ways to Cook Fennel

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Fennel is a wonderful, versatile aromatic vegetable that could be used in numerous dishes and utilizing many cooking methods. This vegetable is widely used in Italian, French and Mediterranean cooking. I have been experimenting with it for over a few years and keep stumbling on more innovative ways to cook it. From substituting onion with fennel (my wife is allergic to alum family, quite unfortunately), roasting meat on it or adding it to stews; fennel is great in many meals and will add new flavors to your culinary repertoire. There are 3 main parts of fennel: The white bulb, green stalks, and green dill-like herbs. There are also seeds of course, but they are to be bought separately as seeds.

Fresh Fennel

Fresh Fennel

Here are 12 basic ways to cook Fennel.

1. Grill it

Simple and straight forward! Cut it into ½ inch wide rounds (much like you would slice an onion), brush it with olive oil and toss it on your well heated grill, or griddle. Grill on each side about 5 minutes until dark golden ridges appear. Grilling fennel with give it sweet and smoky taste.

2. Sauté it

Sauted Fennel

Sauted Fennel

Same thing as with grilling: cut into either ½ inch rounds, or cut vertically into four triangular shapes, then cut each triangle into half again and sauté until golden brown on each side and soft in a tablespoon of olive oil, or oil and butter mixed together. Add a pinch of salt and pepper or season with other fresh herbs to taste.

3. Add to Soups and Stews

I have been looking for a magic solution to getting around my wife’s allergy to onion for years now. The closest I came up with is using a mixture of fennel and green cabbage in soups and stews. It definitely adds great flavor, otherwise absent without onion and comes pretty damn close in texture as well.
Sauté fennel instead of, or with onion and mirepoux in the beginning of making your soup until soft (about 10 minutes) Use similarly in stews, or cut into thicker cubes and add to slow-cooking braises. Fennel is great in braises, as it will flavor wine while its simmering.

4. Add to Stocks

Here is where you can use these seemingly useless green stalks! I save those stalks (you can freeze them) for when I make broth, cut them up into cubes, much how you would treat celery and add them to variety of stocks I make. Add to stocks together with onions, carrots, celery.

5. Roast with other vegetables

Winter and fall roasts can benefit greatly from an addition of fennel. Simply cut into any shape (I usually quarter fennel for my roasts) add potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, mushrooms, anything else you like roasting, coat with olive oil and your favorite herbs and roast in a Dutch oven or a roasting pan for 45 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees.

6. Use in salads

Great trick to add extra crunch to your salads: Slice very thin (yes that is the trick here), or use a mandolin for best results and add to any salad. I love the addition of fennel to this simple salad:

Simple fall salad:Roasted beets, fresh arugula, shaved fennel & blue cheese.

7. Fennel Gratin

Much like Potato Au Gratin: slice into rounds or triangles, layer in buttered earthenware dish, coat with béchamel sauce (2 tbsp butter + 3 tbsp flour + 2 cups milk, simmered 20 –25 mins), or heavy cream and gruyere & parmesan cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and thyme, repeat the process to create more layers. Generously cover the top layer with cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until soft at 400 degrees. This is a great, traditional Italian dish, often used for Christmas.

8. Use in Sauces

I often infuse my sauces (béchamel or brown sauce for instance) by adding a quarter or a half of fennel pinned with a clove and a bay leaf (this is called piquet). Reduce your stocks with a half a bulb or a few stalks of fennel prior to thickening your sauce.

9. Use as an Aromatic vegetable (to roast meat, chicken, etc with)

Roast (lift up) your meat or chicken on a layer of aromatic vegetables (onions, fennel, carrots, potatoes etc) Then use the fat soaked vegetables as a side dish along the meat. Potatoes are not aromatic actually, but are great because they soak up fat very well.

10. Use in Risotto

Fennel is great in risotto! Sauté finely diced fennel in butter or oil prior to adding rice to the pan, then cook risotto as usual (adding liquid slowly to fat coated rice). I usually add sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts with my fennel risotto (1 ½ cup rice), cooking it in light vegetable broth (4.5 cups) and a cup of white wine (1 cup).

11. Using Herbs in dips (alike dill)

Dice the hell out of green herbs that look much like dill and use to flavor sour cream, crème fraiche, cream sauces, butters, mayonnaise and other cream, egg or yogurt based dips.

12. Using seeds

Fennel seeds are especially flavorful. They could be used to add flavor to beans, stews, roasts, tagine dishes and Indian style dishes, like vegetables or cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas). Usually you add seeds to hot oil until they start popping or turn lightly brown. Make sure not to burn seeds. Then you can add whatever else you might be cooking: onion, beans, vegetables, etc. This method infuses the oil. Whatever you choose to use seeds for need to cook for awhile, making seeds ideal for stewed or slow-roasted dishes.