The New Kale

Kris_Grands004_optI often think about what it must have been like for my grandparents when they came to the United States from Switzerland six or seven years after the end of World War I. I’m sure they were sad to leave their country of origin. Grammie talked about being a young wife and mother and having to say goodbye to her parents, knowing full well that it was likely she would never see them again. She was right. While Grammie and Grandpa did return several times to Switzerland many years later, her parents were long gone and she never did see them again. And no email or Face Time. Whaaaaaaat?

Bill and I traveled around Europe – mostly France and Italy – for three-and-a-half months, and I can tell you that while we enjoyed every minute, we often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. We didn’t know the language. We couldn’t figure out some of the customs. We couldn’t find a good hamburger.

That latter fact is more important than you would think. While we loved the food we sampled during our travels, we often missed the familiar foods we grew up eating – hamburgers, fried chicken, barbecued spareribs. The reason they call these foods comfort food is because eating these foods make us feel comfortable.

So in addition to giving up family and friends and familiar customs, my grandparents had to get used to a whole new way of eating. They, like most immigrants, lived near others from their own countries of origin. Because of this, they probably were able to get some of the foods that were familiar to them. I remember, for example, my dad and my grandparents eating a highly suspect food with a wholly unpleasant smell called head cheese. Head cheese is not cheese at all, but more of a sausage or cold cut made from, well, the head of pigs or cows. Yummers, right? And just to add to the fun, it is set in aspic. You know, aspic – in and of itself a totally disgusting item. You’ll be glad to know that the brains, eyes, and ears are almost never included, according to Wikipedia.

Another delicacy that my grandparents and my father enjoyed was limburger cheese. I couldn’t even be in the room with them when they ate it. It smelled awful. More than awful. Much more than awful. And I once again looked it up on Wikipedia and learned why it has such a dreadful odor. It seems limburger cheese is made using the bacteria called brevibacterium linens. That, my friends, is a bacteria found on the human body and is responsible for human body odor.

I’ve got to stop looking on Wikipedia.

kohlrabi rawRecently I read that the vegetable kohlrabi is coming into fashion. The new kale, according to what I read. I mentioned this awhile back, and also said that I was having trouble finding the vegetable. In fact, I couldn’t find a single produce person who had ever even heard of it. But I was at lunch with a friend recently who had stopped at a farm near her home in Brighton, Colorado, to bring me fresh corn on the cob, and I mentioned my quest for kohlrabi.

“They had it at the Palizzi’s Farm,” she told me. “I would have brought you some but I didn’t know what it was!”

So I went to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday where Palizzi’s had a booth, and lo, and behold, I found kohlrabi.

Why kohlrabi? I assure you that it wasn’t because kohlrabi is the new kale. Do I seem like a food snob? No, friends, it was because I remembered my grandmother making kohlrabi (which was and is often eaten in Germany and Switzerland) when I was a child, and I loved it.

The problem is that I couldn’t remember how she made it. I’m pretty sure it involved speck, a bacon-like substance that originated in Europe, which she got from her brother-in-law-the-butcher. I had enough trouble finding kohlrabi; I have no intention of starting a hunt for speck.

But I did find a recipe, and made kohlrabi last night for dinner. It was worth the hunt.

kohlrabi cooked

Ingredients
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Process
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and then cut the halves into half-moons. Spread on the bottom of a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic; pour the olive oil over the vegetables, and stir until coated.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake 10 minutes; stir the vegetables. Bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the kohlrabi and bake another five minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nana’s Notes: I would definitely compare kohlrabi to turnips except they are much sweeter. They really were very good. And my grandmother DIDN’T use parmesan cheese, I assure you.

Thursday Thoughts

Down By the Schoolyard
Tuesday afternoon I had some time to kill and a back that was hurting for reasons I can’t explain. (Lord knows it wasn’t from hard work!) Anyway, I had put the movie Maid in Manhattan on “My List” on Netflix, and I decided to spend a couple of mindless hours watching it. I had seen it before, but for some reason, I like that movie. Perhaps it’s because it stars Jennifer Lopez, a performer I really like, though admittedly her acting – at least  in this movie – leaves a lot to be desired. My liking this movie is certainly DESPITE her co-star Ralph Fiennes, an actor I abhor for no good reason whatsoever. While I half-expected to look back afterwards and think well, there’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back, that isn’t what happened. I’m a sucker for a love story, predictable or not. And it started off well because the song that opens the movie is Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard, by Paul Simon. I double-dog-dare you to listen to that song without tapping your feet and singing along. One of my favorite songs EVER. In fact, that movie has lots of good music. No chemistry between J-Lo and Fiennes, however.

The New Kale
imgres
I recently got something on my Facebook timeline feed that indicated that the vegetable kohlrabi was making a comeback. In fact, according to whatever it was I read, kohlrabi is the new kale. Because kale is apparently losing its luster, I feel safe to admit that I simply loathe that particular green leafy vegetable. And I am a lover of green leafy vegetables. The only exception is the Tuscan soup (aka Zuppa Toscana) that, in addition to kale, also includes Italian sausage and potatoes. Perhaps it’s the Italian sausage and potatoes that makes the kale palatable. Anyway, I had great plans to write an entire blog post about kohlrabi in which I would tell you all about my grandmother and how she served kohlrabi and how delicious I thought it was. As part of this proposed blog post, I was going to include a recipe for kohlrabi, including photos of the kohlrabi which I would have prepared. Unfortunately, word about kohlrabi being the next kale hasn’t reached Denver, because not only can I not find it at any grocery store, but when I ask, the produce people look at me blankly as though I’m speaking Bengali. I am not giving up.

Crustaceans
Our son Court and his family recently returned from Maine, where they attended the wedding of Alyx’s sister. For the rehearsal dinner, the bridal couple offered fresh Maine lobsters. Yum. They shipped in 40 pounds of them, and, not surprisingly, they were apparently delicious.

40 lbs lobsters 2016

At some point Court and Alyx’s brother Kemo challenged one another to a lobster-eating contest. Court was the victor with a total of six whole lobsters. He won  by a mere claw. Kaiya was brave enough to handle a live lobster…..

Kaiya lobsters

When the Cows Come Home
Tuesday was Dress Like a Cow Day at Chick-Fil-A. I’m not sure if that’s what they called it, but apparently anyone who wore cowlike clothing into the restaurant received a free entrée. I connected up with my niece Maggie and her family that morning at Chick-Fil-A to say goodbye as they were leaving for Arizona later that afternoon. Not ones to miss out on a good deal, here is who I found……

Mark Lilly cows 7.16 (2)

Yikes. When Mark Jensen hears Dress Like a Cow, he dresses like a cow. You can barely see Lilly’s cow vest, but it’s there.

Ciao.

Mickey Mouse Visits the House

So enough of my waxing eloquent about autumn. Football, baseball, cool weather. Blah blah blah. In the first place, the weather only stayed cool a couple of days, and has been near or above 80 most days since. Now I just feel foolish.

Plus, there is a lot about the fall that makes me cranky.

Every summer we have a bird feeder. Our feeder attracts the prettiest little birds – chickadees, house finches, wrens. Some bigger birds graze on the leftovers that fall to the earth. Squirrels too, but that’s a given. Anyway, I enjoy watching the little birds all summer long.

However, as with most things good, there is a down side. In this case, it’s the mice that appear around this time each year. They are apparently stocking up for the winter months, and they like the seeds that drop to the ground. I see them scurrying around, in and out of the rocks that make up the garden area in which our feeder is located. I really don’t mind seeing them running around outside. After all, they are God’s creatures too, and part of nature. But the other evening as I was sitting at my kitchen table near the back door, I looked out to see a tiny little mouse sitting just outside the door looking in at me. I half expected him to knock on the door and ask to come in. Perhaps I have been watching too much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my grandkids. He did kind of look like this, however.

Anyway, all of my warm feelings about the sweet little mice being part of nature went out the window. I pounded heartily on the door and yelled, “Scram!” at the top of my lungs. He did. Probably through a tiny hole into my basement.

So it was time to set the traps. We started out with the old standby traps, but quickly learned that the squirrels are able to trip those bad boys and get the bait without a problem. So my husband sent me to the hardware store for Plan B, the covered traps. Squirrel-proof. Unfortunately, apparently our mice are too small to trip the traps, so they can just munch on the bait without a care in the world. I expected them to wave over at me and tell me thanks for the snack.

Finally, my husband sent me to the store for Plan C. (By the way, in case you are wondering why my husband is sending me to the store rather than going himself, it’s because he is in the final stages of a room remodel which has been going on for approximately 750 years. I am so ready for him to be done that I will do anything to keep him working. I would sleep for him at night if that was possible.) Anyway, Plan C is the sticky trap. I’m not even going to talk about that.

But I will talk about this delicious soup. It is a copycat version of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana, and I think it is very close. How can you go wrong with Italian sausage and cream in the same recipe. I got this recipe from Annie’s Eats.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. white wine to deglaze the pan
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 c. fresh kale, chopped
3 c. chicken broth
2-1/2 c. water
1 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper

Process
Place a large stockpot on the stove over medium heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until well browned. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and saute until tender, 5-7 min.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for a minute more, just until fragrant. Add the wine to the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the potatoes, kale, chicken broth and water to the pot. Return the sausage to the pot. Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bon appetito! Don’t leave any crumbs for the mice.