As I previously mentioned, the vegetal arch-enemy in this house is kale. The dark, curly, purple-green-black, leafy thing is one of a very few vegetables that we agreed would never grace our dinner table (along with lima beans and brussels sprouts, 99.9% of the time). We both find it unredeemably bitter. Enter our CSA membership, and last week’s veggie box, in which we found a small, pretty-looking bunch of our least favorite vegetable (not to mention the two bunches we got this week!)
A friend of mine suggested a kale and chorizo stew as a favorite way of hers to eat this vegetable, and I opted to give that idea a try. Now, developing recipes on my own is not something I am particularly inclined to do, usually because it comes out funny. People spend hours developing recipes and testing variations (have you ever read an issue of Cook’s Illustrated?), and I just didn’t see the point of improvising.
That being said, I have been teaching myself to cook in a more formal sense for six years now, and I consider myself more an intermediate than amateur cook, so occasionally I do branch out and just throw some stuff together. I have found that stirfries, soups, and even casseroles are the most forgiving, and so whenever I feel the urge to experiment (or, more likely, the laziness to avoid looking up a recipe), I make do with my own knowledge. This is one such example.
White Bean Stew with Chorizo and Kale (4 servings – about 2-cup servings)
In retrospect, I suppose that this stew really didn’t need chorizo, ham, and white beans, but on the other hand, it is a pretty filling and very healthy soup. It would be even healthier, of course, to take out the sausage, but I think it adds a very important flavor component. You could do a lot to change this recipe and still keep its basic character – you really want one protein, one leafy green, some aromatics (leek, carrot, onion, celery), and something starchy (beans, lentils, quinoa, couscous, potatoes would all be great in this soup).
- 1/4 – 1/2 lb. chorizo or other sausage
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 can diced tomatoes, any flavor
- 1/2 c. – 1 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 smallish bunch kale, chopped
- 1/4 lb. cooked ham, diced
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch, optional
- Crumble chorizo into a soup pot and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Since my chorizo was extremely fatty, I removed it with a slotted spoon to some paper towels, blotted it with more paper towels, and washed out my soup pot.
- Place drained chorizo back into pot and cook a few minutes over medium heat, then push to the edges of the pot. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan, and add the onion, garlic, and celery. Cook, stirring often, about five minutes, or until getting soft and translucent.
- Add tomatoes, and use the spoon to scrape up any browned bits into the tomato juices. Add as much chicken broth as you like, but at least enough to wilt the kale into. Simmer a few minutes, and then taste for salt. Add kale to pot, and stir until wilted, 3-5 minutes.
- Add white beans and ham to pot, and cook until warmed through, another few minutes.
- If you like your broth to have more of a stew consistency rather than a brothy soup, add 1-2 tbsp. cold water to the cornstarch in a small dish. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved, and then drizzle into soup. Cooking for a few minutes should thicken the broth into a gravy-like consistency. If you like it thicker, repeat with more cornstarch. If you like it thinner, add a little chicken broth until it reaches your desired consistency.
Also on the menu tonight was quite probably my very best fruit crumble ever. I have been besieged by the very common problem of having too soupy a texture, when too little thickener was added to compensate for the juices leaked by cooking fruit. In addition, my crumbly topping often had poor flavor. This was, in my best estimation, as close to perfect as it gets. It was very slightly gritty, perhaps because there was a little too much cornstarch, but given the lovely thick texture of the fruit sauce, I would rather too much than too little.
You can really use any fruit or combination of fruit that you like for a fruit crumble, and additional flavorings are sometimes very nice added to the fruit mixture or the topping – vanilla is a classic, also cinnamon, ginger, or almond extract – actually all of those three are very good with peaches and apples, particularly. As Deb notes, when using different fruits, you may need to adjust the sugar level for sweeter or more sour fruits, and you may need to adjust the amount of thickener, for fruits that release more or less juice during the cooking process.
I should mention at this point that, the last time I went shopping at Whole Foods, I was lamenting the lack of rhubarb. Rhubarb is a very seasonal fruit, its season as I have observed it being rather similar to daffodils – that is, from late January to late March. This year, I was actually looking forward to seeing it, but hadn’t, and I was afraid that I would miss it. Lo and behold, just as I was whining a little that I hadn’t been able to find it, there it was, sitting in a basket, already trimmed and pretty.
We also got some sweet strawberries in our CSA box this week, and so, knowing that strawberries and rhubarb make possibly the most delicious fruit combination ever, went with these to make our crumble.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble (2 servings)
- 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1/2 – 3/4 c. diced rhubarb, about 7-8 stalks
- juice of 1 orange
- 1/3 c. + 3 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2/3 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 4 tbsp. butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Combine strawberries, rhubarb, 1/3 c. sugar, cornstarch, and half of the orange juice. Pour into a baking dish – I used a Corning dish, about 7″x7″, so the fruit is in about a single layer.
- In the same bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, remaining 3 tbsp. sugar, and remaining orange juice.
- Sprinkle topping over fruit, breaking up pieces with your fingers. Place on the baking sheet, and then into the oven. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown, and fruit filling is starting to bubble.