Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Delicata, Leek, Kale & Extra Sharp Cheddar on Sourdough

I know the combination may not induce spontaneous drooling among all the casual pizza-eaters out there, but I know at least someone will understand. This crazy and delicious pie was inspired by a late-day craving for pizza and an overall lack of ingredients, so on went the remains of the fall harvest.

For the dough, I simply kneaded some more flour into a dollop of sourdough starter and let it rise for a bit. The cut rounds of delicata squash was steamed with the sliced leeks in a cast iron while I chopped some frozen kale from the garden and shredded the last of the cheese (I threw some parmesan on there too...I like to sprinkle it last, around the edges so it gets on the exposed crust and crisps up a bit - great effect). The sauce was a more a light umami coating than sauce...a tablespoon or so of tomato paste mixed with a mashed anchovy fillet. Yum.

So, to recap: rolled out sourdough (the thinner the better....I like a cracker-like crispy snap around the edges), umami-tomato-anchovy spread, veggies, cheeses (parmesan on last and coat the bare crust sticking out the sides), some fresh ground pepper, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I do all this on a sheet pan coated with cornmeal and then stick it in a 400 degree oven on the actual bottom of the oven to get the crispiest crust possible. Bake until the crust is a golden brown and serve with some homemade hot sauce. Bam!

I'll go back to what I think I said in a previous post about how food just tastes better when you: (1) know it is good for you: and (2) know the story behind the food. Having known the person or even being somehow connected to the person who harvested almost every part of that meal (including the flour) simply enhances the flavor of the entire dish! People go to restaurants for a reason: the want the experience. People go to Italy to have "the best pasta or the best tomato they have ever had" because it has a story and experience behind it. Likewise, anyone can create a special experience in their own kitchen by developing a story behind the food. This meal was amazing, but I think it would have been even better had I known the fisherman who caught the anchovies, or visited the village where the pepper was produced. These things make a difference in the food experience, which I believe directly translated to the enjoyment and flavor of the food itself. Mmmmm.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Toasty Kale and Sweet Potato Stew

Hobbling and hopping around the kitchen, crutch in one hand and the other filled with random jars and kale, I only wish there was a fly on the wall to see the hilarity of the crippled cook's choreography that has begun to fill my day-to-day life. My dishes have become simpler, excluding things that would require another trip across the chasm that is my 8-foot-wide kitchen and a little hopes of healing this broken ankle as soon as possible. Today's adventure was this kale and sweet potato stew finished with toasted cumin.

I really don't think I could have hoped for a better bowl concocted from bits and pieces of meals past. For the base, I started with a jar dark and creamy black bean juice leftover from some beans I made last week. To that went some chopped onion (don't even bother to sauté it) and the cubed sweet potato. This boiled for a while until the 'taters were tender, then I added just a little parsnip puree that was hiding in the fridge for some extra body. While that was heating back up, the cumin seeds were toasting in a dry cast iron pan over medium heat until the seeds are a nice roasted brown color. You really want to do this slowly, or else you'll get a nasty bitter off-flavor.

Then comes the fun part. Chop up some kale or other greens, toss them in and then grind away at the now-cooled cumin and get it right into soup as well, stirring everything up and then taking the pot off the heat. Those roasted aromatics don't last forever and the more quickly you get them in the stew and on the table, the longer you can sit there with the bowl under your nose, inhaling with content. Yum.