A long time ago I randomly found a recipe for kale chips and I thought it was a cool idea. I get kale from my farm share, so I decided to try it. I took three leaves and ripped them into little pieces and put olive oil and fleur de sel (schmancy salt) on them. I added some parmesan cheese after they were cooked. I was looking at this recipe, which suggests 15 minutes at 375°F. I put the kale in when my oven had gotten to 300°F and checked on it at 10 minutes, knowing that my oven is a little overzealous. I still thought it was overdone! Maybe I should have used more oil.
Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with the kale chips, although maybe if I had gotten them out earlier they would have been tastier. They just didn’t have a good flavor, except for the big stems. They tasted really good but weren’t quite cooked enough to be easy to eat. So either the bad taste was from being burnt, and the recipe is salvageable, or chips are not how I like my kale.
After a real Italian mom taught me how to make tomato sauce, I realized I can make a million variations on it by putting in whatever vegetables (especially those fruits that we consider vegetables) I have on hand. This time I had carrots and a purple bell pepper from my farmshare. The purple pepper (since the farmshare does measure some things in pecks and I do pick some of the stuff there myself, I really wish I could say I picked a peck of them) turned dark green when it cooked, just like the purple beans (I’d call them green beans, but…they’re not) that we get there do. If anyone knows what pigments are involved and what they’re sensitive to, I’d love to know! Anyway, I sauteed my veggies with a little shallot and olive oil, added my canned diced tomatoes and some wine, simmered that while I cooked my pasta, and voila, or rather, ecco. I grated some parmesan cheese on top, of course. The moral of the story is: don’t be afraid of homemade sauce! You can use canned tomatoes (in fact, I prefer them, because they don’t get mushy), and you don’t have to simmer it all day long. I start heating the pasta water at the same time as I start the sauce, and I finish the sauce at about the same time the pasta is finished. Just remember that it’s better for your sauce to have to wait for your pasta than for your pasta to have to wait for your sauce, since sauceless pasta will start to dry out.
I had some chicken broth to use up after my last batch of risotto, and a bunch of vegetables from this week’s installment of my farm share. Most of the vegetables are leafy, but I did find fennel and carrots. These are aromatics, and I am currently lacking the aromatics (shallots or onions) that I would normally start a risotto with. I must admit, though, that I have never cooked fennel before, so I wasn’t exactly sure how strong it was or how to cook it. I should have paid better attention to Iron Chef America: Battle Fennel last night. I used some of the green stem and some of the white root, and sprinkled some leaves on the top at the end. I learned from Iron Chef that you can eat practically every part of fennel; I love foods like that.
The flavor wasn’t too strong; the risotto came out pretty well, with just a general soft, fresh sweetness to it. Nice. The only problem was that, even though I started cooking the fennel before starting the rice, and then cooked them together the whole time, the fennel was kind of tough. At the very least, I’ll mince it in the future. The internet says that fennel has that problem, and peeling it and cutting it thinly seems to be the general consensus on how to avoid it. Here’s a post on good things to do with fennel, which I am mostly linking to because I love the tagline of the blog: “I wrote you a restaurant review, but I eated it.”
For anyone who doesn’t know how one makes a carrot fennel risotto, the procedure is as follows:
Sweat aromatics in olive oil. Meanwhile, start heating some broth in another pot.
Add arborio rice and cook for a couple minutes.
Add a splash of wine and let it cook off.
Add broth, a ladleful or two at a time, to the rice. Stir.
Add more broth when the last installment is gone. Do this about 3-4 times, until the rice is the texture you want; if you normally like your starches very soft, you may want to cook it slightly less than you think you should, based on a past “adventure” I had with mushy risotto.
Add any other stuff you want to be in your risotto. Parmesan cheese is recommended.
Serve immediately. Yes, for real.
I used about 100g of rice this time, and I think it was just about right. I’m really bad at eyeballing it because it grows so much when it cooks, so I’ve taken to measuring it on my baking scale.