No-sweat Cooking, Day 19

Kale Salad With Apples & Currants

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

So about that kale salad that went alongside last night’s brick chicken? In a word, wow. We love our kale around here but I had never gotten around to trying it raw, and this salad was a revelation.

The fun thing for us was that the salad was exactly the sort of thing we could imagine being served at our beloved Marlow and Sons, a beautifully balanced mix of textures and flavors, and endlessly adaptable with the seasons. As we ate, Mike and I talked about how we might riff on this as various things cycle through the farmers’ markets, and I expect some version of this kale salad is going to become a regular part of our dining repertoire.

Get the Recipe: Kale Salad with Apples & Currants

Root Stellar

Dinner:  January 5, 2009

For what seems like the umpteenth time in a row, I got home from work, started in on what I thought was going to be a risotto, then realized that I still haven’t restocked our Carnaroli rice. In this situation, though, it was easy to switch gears quickly – with aromatics already sautéing in a mix and butter and olive oil, and stock simmering on a back burner, soup was the obvious answer to “what do I do now?”

The key players in the soup were celery root and apple. I love these flavors on their own and thought they’d marry well in a dish, and my original plan was to grate them, cook them along with my softened shallot in that butter-oil mixture, then add the rice and proceed as usual. Instead, I peeled both and cut them into chunks, adding them to the pan with the shallots, and then pouring some vermouth and my warmed stock in. Once everything was tender I tasted and adjusted the seasoning (just sea salt, in this case), but I felt like I wanted one more component. I decided to add a cup or so of leftover mashed potatoes I had in the fridge – the potato would add some creaminess when the soup was blended together, without adding the richness of heavy cream, and the neutral flavor would let the flavors of the celery root and apple shine through.

Once the potato had melted into the soup, I pureed the mixture with a stick blender and tasted again for seasoning. I decided to give it a hit of the hard cider we still had in the fridge for a little bit of brightness. To keep the texture really smooth, I pressed the soup through a fine mesh strainer before pouring it into our bowls. I added a couple of croutons topped with chopped walnuts and melted Great Hill Blue cheese to each serving. It was even better than I expected – rich and creamy but not heavy, with a velvety texture and subtle nuances of both celery and apple flavor. The croutons added a nice punch of flavor as well, though next time I might crumble a little more of the blue cheese over the top.

Shifting Focus

Dinner:  November 1, 2007

We usually have wine with dinner, and when I’m planning out the pairings, the food usually comes first. But as I was putting together a grocery order last week and browsing the bottles available through Best Cellars, I was surprised to see a white wine listed among their “Big” selections. The bottle in question was a 2004 Oriel “Dylan” Russian River Valley Chardonnay, and while I’m not usually a fan of big Chardonnays, and the bottle was a bit more spendy than we usually go for weeknight dinners, the description of the wine had me intrigued. I added it to our cart and began thinking about building a meal around it.

I like pairing scallops with Chardonnay, so I decided on that as my protein – simply seared, with a little vermouth-enriched brown butter. The side was a bit more challenging; since scallops are so mild, I tend to match them with something more aggressively flavored or seasoned, but I didn’t want to make anything overpowering. As luck or serendipity would have it, I happened upon a few recipes for celery root remoulade over the weekend, and decided to go with a variation on that theme. I added fennel and apple to the mix, and ended up with a wonderful combination of crunchy, creamy, tart, sweet and tangy – a great foil for both the scallops and our delicious bottle of wine.

Celeriac, Fennel and Apple Remoulade

1 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon extra-hot Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 oz. crème fraiche
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 not-too-tart green apple
1 small bulb fennel
1 small celery root (celeriac)

Place kosher salt in a bowl, add lemon juice and whisk until salt is dissolved. Add mustard, mayo, crème fraiche and tarragon, and whisk again until well combined.

Core the apple, slice into matchsticks and add to dressing. Core the fennel bulb and slice as thinly as possible. Peel celery root and slice into matchsticks. Blanch the fennel and celery root briefly in unsalted water. Remove the vegetables using a spider or slotted spoon and shock them in an ice bath. Drain them well, pat dry, and add to the dressing. Toss until the mixture is well-combined, cover, and chill before serving.