Friday, July 16, 2010

The Chard

If you're ever looking for a good idea for a Hollywood Horror story, I humbly submit the following:

It's pre-dawn. A young woman walks into her backyard, tentatively. She goes to a small, fenced in area. She carefully steps over the knee-length chicken wire, and digs her hands into the dirt.

She grasps the head of a green, leafy thing, and pulls. The object emits a sickening crunch. she does this again, and again. But no matter how much she pulls, she cannot eliminate...

The Chard.

Greens are great, because they are easy to grow, hard to kill, and produce like the dickens. But greens can also be a nuisance because they are easy to grow, hard to kill, and produce like the dickens. They can end up much like weeds if a gardener plants too many of them, and harvests too infrequently.

The best defense against attack of the smothering greens--once you pick them--is to cook them down. A bushel of chard melts down to a fraction of its size once you toss it with some fat and heat in a pan.

To this end, I plucked some chard this week and made Swiss Chard pies. This recipe is adapted from a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe, which can be found here.

I cooked the chard longer than the recipe stated--I prefer my chard nice and soft--and used the dough to make individual calzones instead of one big pie. I added a bit of wheat flour to the dough to add nutrition and give it a little more chew.

The original recipe called for assembling the pie, then freezing it dough, then baking it frozen. Since my calzones were smaller, I cooked them first, then froze them. In theory I should be able to warm them up in the microwave much like a Hot Pocket, but healthier and tastier.

For 1 1/2 pounds of chard, I made 8 pocket-sized calzones. I tried one right out of the oven, and it was pretty tasty. The dough was more like a pizza crust, rather than a flaky or tender crust, but it had a nice chew and a great flavor from the olive oil. The filling was spicy, savory, tender and filling.

Swiss Chard Calzones
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Swiss Chard Pie

Follow the recipe for Swiss Chard Pie (Use the largest pan you have)with the following changes:

Cook the stems and the leaves separately until the volume has reduced significantly, then put them back together in the same pan and cook them for another 10 minutes, until the chard stems are pretty soft.

Make the following changes to the dough:
Replace half a cup of the flour with whole wheat flour.
When ready to roll, divide the dough into four quarters.
Shape each quarter into a flat disk, then roll out into a large, thin, circle. Cut the circle in half.
Lay out a 1/4 cup of filling in each half-circle. Press edges together, wetting seams with a finger dipped in water if needed.
Oil a large baking sheet. Brush calzones with egg yolk as directed in recipe.
Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. Pull when crust turns golden brown.

Eat at once, or let cool and freeze on a flat baking sheet. To reheat, microwave 2-3 minutes, checking doneness after 2 minutes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Steak Anniversary

Is the sixth anniversary the steak annversary?

The Mister and I are planning our anniversary dinner. Last year, we vacationed in Chicago. I'm normally the one who picks restaurants, but that time, I completely bombed on picking our place to dine. Not only did the place not sell wine (BYO is popular in the city), I got food poisioning from my sea scallops. Considering we could have eaten at Alinea, one of the best restaurants in the US, it was an Epic Fail.

So, when a friend started gushing about Bourbon Steak, my ears perked up. Best steak he ever had, he said, and his wife was going on and on about the mac & cheese. The food is American Steakhouse, but very expensive, and apparently very delicious.

As in, their steaks average about $50, and everything else is a la carte. Their most expensive steak is $70.

I really want to do a good anniversary dinner this year, and this place seems to fit the bill. But I'm just not sure if I can bring myself to pay that much for a steak. There are other things we could spend our money on. On the other hand, I don't want to go someplace mediocre, again, for our anniversary.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It isn't easy eating greens

So, My summer CSA is in full force. I'm splitting the share with some foodie friends.

But I simply cannot keep up with all the greens they are throwing at me.

I know, I know, the early Summer is all greens. Nothing farm-fresh is ripe yet, locally, here in the Great Lakes region. But if they try to give me yet another variation of spinach, cabbage, and leaf lettuce, I'm going to scream!

To top it all off, I planted a dozen bunches of chard in my own garden. I have greens coming out the wazoo.

In a desparate attempt to get most off my greens off my plate (heh) before an upcoming 4th of July vacation, I pulled out all the stops last night. I made:

* Spinach & Garlic Scape Pesto
* Bok Choy and komatsuna (aka Japanese bitter spinach) stems sauteed in bacon fat and pesto.
* Roasted Kale chips (toss kale with oil to coat, splash of vinegar, salt. Roast at 250 for 10-20 minutes. Stir frequently, check every couple minutes after 10 to make sure they don't burn).
* Shrimp and coconut soup with bok choy and komatsuna leaves.

And in the morning:
* Chard braised in oil and wine, finished with Parmesan.

The kohlrabi will hold, but I'm not so sure about the baby beets and greens. The leaf lettuce may be a lost cause, but I'll toss it when I return.

If any thieves come while we're away, and steal some of my vegetable garden, I'll probably be grateful.