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Move Over, Kale Chips! Kale Buds Are Here

By Lari Robling - April 18th, 2012

High Tunnel farming caught my eye because its extended growing season adds to the amount of local produce we get. While farm manager Aviva Asher was tidying up the winter crop to make way for spring, I discovered another benefit of local growing: use what you’ve got.

The warmer weather caused the winter kale to bolt – sending up flowers and setting seeds ending the production of the plant. Turns out, these little buds and tender stems also make good eating so I went home with a bag of what I think will be the next big thing in the world of kale (which lately has been pretty big).



Of course, the obvious thing is to make a raw salad. Unlike kale, which I find a little on the bitter side, the buds are sweet. The kale stem adds a touch of bitterness as well as some crunch. All it needs is a bed of romaine, some roasted cherry tomatoes and a few slices of fresh mozzarella. To dress, splash on a touch of aged sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.



A little more difficult to envision than a salad was this new green cooked. It works, though, if the small tender stalks are lightly steamed and then sautéed in some garlic and olive oil – not unlike what you would do with kale leaves. Reserve a few flowers for garnish and serve over pasta or spinach ravioli.



So, if you start seeing kale buds on restaurant menus, remember you saw it first here!

Past, Present and Auctioning the Future

By Lari Robling - March 28th, 2012

My father was by far the better cook in the household and infused me with his love of good food. There were cookbooks all over the house written by the usual suspects of the day— Julia Child, of course, Bert Greene, James Beard, several Time-Life series, and Julie Dannenbaum.

Dannenbaum may have launched her career in Philadelphia, but her reach was national. She was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of Les Dames d’ Escoffier International –full disclosure I am a member—and was regarded as one of the people to usher in the restaurant renaissance that gave Philadelphia dining national prominence. When Dannenbaum passed last December 15th she was remembered not only for her culinary work, but also her vast philanthropic efforts.

Above: The ladies of Les Dames d’Escoffier gather in the kitchen of the late Julie Dannenbaum to discover what can be sold to benefit their charitable organization. From left are: sale co-chair Elizabeth Schmitt, Dannenbaum’s daughter Mimi Robertson, sale co-chair Dottie Koteski and organization member Marie Stecher. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

In this spirit, Dannenbaum’s family has arranged for a sale of some of the Grand Dame’s culinary treasures to be held on April 15, with the proceeds benefiting the Les Dames d’Escoffier Julie Dannenbaum Endowment, which provides scholarships to help local women achieve their culinary goals.

From my father’s cookbook collection I recall a photo of Dannenbaum in her Mediterranean-inspired kitchen, an efficient space with dark wood accented with blue and white tile.

A few weeks ago I found myself in that very kitchen, cataloguing a drawer full of pastry cutters for the sale. I thought of all the home cooks, food writers and chefs who have passed but are my culinary lineage. We all have those instructive voices we hear in our mind that keep our pastry from being overworked, save a gravy from lumps, or summon courage to try a new ingredient or dish. Who are yours? Leave us a note in the comments.


Recipe: Curried Mustard Pork Chops

This recipe is from Dannenbaum’s More Fast and Fresh. Published in 1983, it certainly exemplifies how we cooked in the eighties. Curry, even with a light hand, was unexpected. Pork, too, has changed as our obsession with “the other white meat” bred out much of the flavor. I took the liberty of substituting a small pork tenderloin and cut the recipe in half as that seemed more manageable. Six pork chops would be fine for party fare, but tenderloin leftovers made for better scraps in a salad or sandwich.

Diving into Endive

By Lari Robling - March 5th, 2012

The day before Valentine’s Day I received a bouquet. Now that’s not so unusual, but this was a bouquet of Belgian endive.

OK, maybe it is unusual that I get a bouquet on St.Valentine’s! The sender was the California Vegetable Specialties Board, so clearly I am a gal who can be swayed by sentiment. I decided to take a look at Belgian endive.

Also, apparently I was not the only sweetheart of the CVSB as every food journalist and blogger was tweeting about what they made with their Belgian endive bouquet. If there’s a successful social media bandwagon, I’m looking to sign on.

What did I discover? While it sounds snobby, this vegetable is pronounced, “ON-deev.” There’s the other stuff that we call en-dive which is curly endive, escarole and frisée — all of which are sometimes called chicory to add to the confusion. The slender yellowish green or red elongated leaves however, are pronounced as though you went to an upper crust prep school.

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A Recipe for a Recipe

By Lari Robling - February 21st, 2012

Nathalie Dupree is one of my go-to cookbook authors. She’s written eleven cookbooks, hosted three hundred television shows and I can’t wait to see her forthcoming book, “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” in the Fall.

Recently, though, it was a Facebook post about a simple meal she had thrown together that caught my eye. In a few short sentences she described sautéing some garlic and spinach in a bit of butter, just pushing it to the side of the pan and frying up a couple of sunny side eggs. A few ladles of leftover bolognese sauce, toast. “We lapped it up,” she wrote.

I loved the post and it made me feel as if I were in the kitchen with her, rooting through the refrigerator for that left-over sauce. She also noted it would never be a written recipe.

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The Extemporaneous Cook

By Lari Robling - February 13th, 2012

You could call it too lazy to shop, or an ingenious solution.

I had planned on trying out a millet recipe, but I let the cold weather keep me from going ingredient shopping. Can’t make millet without millet. So, I went looking through my pantry for a few things to pull together a warming soup. It didn’t seem as if that wind chill was going to die down soon.

Here’s what I found just hanging around the fridge:

4 cups cauliflower florets, golden or white (I used fresh but you could probably use frozen)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf (but whatever you have is fine, dill or rosemary or even a nub of fresh ginger)
¼ onion

Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Let it cool a bit, remove bay leaf and purée in a blender or processor. I keep forgetting I need to get an immersion blender, it’s perfect for jobs like this.

A little buttermilk to give it some pretty and some aromatic rosemary sprinkled around to the rim since it would be too much in the soup and a grating of pepper (although I was thinking nutmeg, too)

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Testing Radically Simple

By Lari Robling - February 7th, 2012

When my son and I have a few hours with our schedules in sync we like cook together. Admittedly, this is not without its potential for some friction – he works in some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia (duck fat is just a walk-in refrigerator away and there’s someone else to wash the dishes) and I am the champion of the home cook (I hope I have more butter in the freezer and can I do this in one bowl).

Rozanne Gold’s newest cookbook, Radically Simple, gives us safe territory to navigate the gap between the professional and a home cook. Subtitled Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease these 325 recipes blend simplicity of preparation with extraordinary ingredient combinations to yield sophisticated dishes.

Full disclosure, I’ve known Rozanne ever since I interviewed her in the late nineties for Philadelphia’s The Book and The Cook. She was well into her now eleven books and signature three-ingredient recipes. Not to mention that as a consultant she’s had an influence on the menus of acclaimed restaurants around the world. Generous of spirit as well, she’s always had time for this food journalist, so that made trying a recipe from her latest book all the more likely to be a good time.

While Radically Simple departs from the three-ingredient rule, it by no means leaves the fundamental philosophy behind. These are recipes that are composed like music – each ingredient is a flavor note creating a harmonious structure. So, as my son and I read the recipe for Golden Robe Salmon with Snow Peas and Red Cabbage we exclaimed in unison, “turmeric AND rosemary WITH miso?”

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A Wing and A Prayer

By Lari Robling - January 30th, 2012

Sunday is the Super Bowl and other than Thanksgiving, probably the day we consume the most calories. Judging what’s making the rounds on the internet, junk food stadiums have become the new gingerbread house — an homage to just how much we can eat in the interest of sport.

Heading the menu is an estimated 100 million pounds of chicken wings. I can’t even fathom how many chickens that is!

There are eighty-one calories in a small wing and over five grams of fat. That’s BEFORE you add dips and sauces which also pack in sodium. Considering the average person will pile at least five or six wings on his plate, well, you can see the nutritional hole you are digging and it isn’t even half time.

I started thinking about developing a substitute that didn’t leave you craving the real thing. I’ve made strides, but I’m not there yet. Still, I think I have some aspects that are a keeper.

First, I cut boneless skinless chicken breast into one-inch chunks and marinated it in yogurt and hot sauce for a couple of hours. That worked well because it tenderized the meat and gave it some kick.

I made a blend of buckwheat flour and coarsely chopped pecans for a breading. Unfortunately the buckwheat flour just made the chicken look gray so that needs to be tweaked. I like the low gylcemic index of buckwheat flour and the fact that it is a whole grain so I will continue working with that — but I suspect I have to mix something such as panko crumbs or crushed cornflakes along with it to get any crunch.

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Pizza Pizzazz

By Lari Robling - January 23rd, 2012

When Mark Bittman made Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery’s no-knead bread famous, we all planned our days around the twelve hour rise of the dough. Eventually that got tedious, no matter how delicious the bread.

But, fortunately, Lahey wrote a book and shared his slow fermentation techniques with pizza as well.

Lahey’s pizza dough requires just two and half hours to rise, a far more manageable commitment on a weekend, plus you can freeze the dough for weekday use. He’s also solved the home pizza dilemma—the crust often seems more like a loaf of bread than a crisp body to hold your toppings.

Why make pizza at home when the delivery guy is just a phone call away? Most commercially made pizzas are loaded with salt, fat and other additives. At home, you control how loaded the calorie count.

This past weekend, I gave Lahey’s cauliflower pizza recipe a try. It’s got lots of veggie and just a smidge of cheese.

Since my kitchen is cold and drafty… a downside to any kind of yeast rise… I often craft a “proof” box out of my microwave. I boil about a cup and half of water in the microwave and let it sit and steam a bit. Now I’ve created a warm, moist environment that yeast loves—so in goes the dough, shut the door and let it rise.

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Kamut… Perhaps Kaput

By Lari Robling - January 17th, 2012

It had been staring at me in my pantry for some time — one of those purchases born out of “yeah-that-will-be-good-for-me” thinking.

Kamut is a high protein whole grain and, depending on whose history you believe, has ancient roots somewhere in present day Turkey or Egypt. Oh, and there’s something about an American airman in 1949 saving it from obscurity. The legend and lore, however, was not enough to compel me to actually cook it once I discovered it requires two hours of cook time and an overnight soak is recommended.

But every grain must have its time in the sun, so on a slow Sunday afternoon I cooked up a pot of Kamut.

It was not love at first bite — the grains are quite big so the texture can be formidable. My first thought was that it might make a good breakfast cereal similar to pin oats so I added some milk and cranberries. It was like eating a bowl of bullets. I missed the creaminess of oatmeal.

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When Work Imitates Life

By Lari Robling - January 9th, 2012

Last week when taping my piece on using a pressure cooker for dried beans, I was sufficiently impressed with the ease and speed that I decided to buy one for my home kitchen.

Some online product comparison whittled down the options. While the cooker used in the piece was an electric self-contained unit, most of the online comments suggested that these are given to scorching. I also found the electronic control panel with its myriad of settings and beeps too confusing. In terms of price, the inexpensive cookers are sometimes made with aluminum or can be thin steel making them less energy efficient and too easy to dent.

Some friends gave a thumbs up to the mid-range Presto cookers as sturdy, but a little easier on the budget. In the end, I went to the more expensive although highly recommended (number one in Cooks Illustrated) Fagor brand. Features include two pressure settings and a well constructed heavy gauge 18/10 stainless steel pot with three safety valves in the lid. (see top picture)

This set includes a four quart and eight quart pot, a strainer basket for steaming, and a glass lid so you can use the pots as you would any other pot without pressure. I liked the idea of being able to do both big and small batches.

After reading the directions it basically boiled down to these two general rules to keep in mind:

“Keep your vents clean,
Oil your gasket to prevent cracking”

I figured a quick chili recipe using pre-cooked beans was an easy way to begin — fifteen minutes from start to finish and there was plenty to pack up in containers and freeze for lunches.

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Photo by Flicker user Yolise / CC BY-NC 2.0

About Lari Robling
Lari Robling's food career had its early beginnings as a home ec teacher for the visually impaired. Later, she decided to become a food professional and worked for caterers and restaurants. Lari landed her first job in a test kitchen for a small health food publication, Delicious! magazine. From there, she began a freelance career as a food stylist and food consultant. She is also the author of Endangered Recipes: Too Good to Be Forgotten.

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