seed dreams

Beans are seeds. This isn’t something I ordinarily think about, much less dwell on. But it’s been on my mind since last Saturday morning’s Forrest yoga class with Anne Paulsen.  (http://yoganne.wordpress.com/)  Because while I always leave yoga feeling richer, more ready and willing to face life with equanimity and confidence, this class was particularly special. And even though I’m not at all religious, it seems appropriate to  write about it today, Easter, a day that symbolizes rebirth.

In celebration/recognition of the Spring equinox, Anne started last Saturday’s class by suggesting that we envision a seed of something we want to build in our lives. I, of course, immediately summoned the image of a bean, specifically an Ayocote Negro bean. black runner beansGlossy, dense, and full of possibility. As I held the image of this bean, this seed, in my mind, I focused on my breath, listening as Anne guided us through planting the seed in our bodies, watering it with our breath, and nurturing it with love.

I followed my breath as it moved, creating space, until I found the right spot within my body. I planted my seed in the open space I found inside my hips. Then, periodically throughout the practice, I returned, watering the seed with my breath. My intention was to plant the seed of authentic expression, not in any one specific form, but for my life. To stop trying to be what I think I’m supposed to be for others. To stop judging myself by some imagined yardstick held by others. To be myself. Whatever, whoever that is.

Since last week, I’ve experienced my usual mix of ups and downs, at moments feeling full of hope and optimism, at other times fairly certain that my life is an absolute disaster. Yet there’s been a difference. It’s subtle, and still very young, but I feel a sense of trust that was not there before. I first noticed it last Saturday night, during my second date with the much younger man. I enjoyed his company. He was smart and funny and interesting and interested and sweet. But there was no connection. My heart did not sing. So, at the end of the night, I thanked him and said goodbye, without any uncertainty or regret.

I noticed this new trust in myself again on Monday morning, when I woke early enough to go to Jen Shin’s 6:30 am Forrest class. (http://yoganowchicago.wpengine.com/teachers/?trainer_id=100000299) Like Anne, Jen is an intuitive, generous, wise teacher whose heart is wide open and full of love. Jen’s class is a space entirely without judgment. By the end of class, I found myself letting go, releasing in a way that traditionally has not come easily to me. Another shoot emerging from the seed.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I am lucky enough to practice with the remarkable Gwen Mihaljevich. (http://www.evilstrength.com/) Gwen’s style is much more abstract than either Anne or Jen, yet no less powerful. I do not remember what we did on Tuesday. On Thursday, though, the focus was on learning how to give ourselves what we need, how to be our own support so that we do not need to feed off of others. Which sounds obvious. Yet isn’t. It’s a goal. And a practice.

Yesterday, Saturday, I arrived to Anne’s class late, something that I abhor. In the past I might have abandoned class rather than be late, worried about disturbing others or that the teacher might not like me. On this day, however, I managed to overcome those self-imposed limitations, knowing that I am almost never late, that I would do my best to enter quietly, and that Anne would not judge me but that even if she did, it was not up to me to decide or control her thoughts or opinion about who or what I am.

When I entered the room and laid down my mat, Anne was talking about kindness. She suggested that we feel into the space in our body that felt content, at ease. If that was difficult, we should feel for any area that had some sense of open space. Breathe into it. Allow the space to spread.  So often we focus on what is hard, trying to melt, soften, change. Today, instead, we would focus on what felt good and easy, already soft. Celebrate what is. This, Anne suggested, was the path to rewiring from a place of negative self-judgment to a place of love and acceptance. Focus on what feels good. Be easy.

Today, Easter, I’m starting my rewiring project by focusing on everything I have that’s good as is. I’m cooking, of course, because it’s Sunday and I need food for the week ahead. But I’m not making anything new. So I’m not blogging about food today. And, although since childhood I’ve always celebrated Easter by sharing food and love with either family or, in my adult years, large groups of friends, this year I decided to stay home, alone, to take care of myself. To feed myself love. Breathe in gratitude. Celebrate this new life of mine, as it is, now. This moment is good. And that is enough.

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Vegan Kibbeh with Turkish cranberry beans

I was first introduced to Kibbeh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbeh) at a tiny little restaurant in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, Bethlehem restaurant, where I worked, briefly, as a waitress, back when I first moved to the city. I think the job lasted three weeks. I wasn’t fired. Nor did I quit. The owner simply disappeared, so that one evening when I showed up for work he simply wasn’t there. Which was fine. I was not a very good waitress. I was constantly convinced I was going to drop food. It made me nervous. And I don’t think I made enough money to cover transportation costs.

Because there were so few customers, I passed the time by talking to the owner. Or, rather, listening. Mostly he spoke of things I didn’t understand. He was Palestinian. I was a completely ignorant 22-year-old who at that time in my life (yes, I am ashamed of this) was wilfully disengaged from the political process and cared little, because I knew nothing, about the middle east. So I didn’t have any concept of what drove this man to drink various airplane sized bottles of alcohol at the end of each night. All I cared about was his food. He cooked delicious, intriguing food, much of which I’d never heard of or tasted.

I was familiar with hummus, of course, and falafel, both of which he made and made well. But kibbeh? Completely new. It reminded me of the aranciata I used to devour during the glorious bit of my life that I spent studying abroad in Florence, Italy. But instead of gooey rice and cheese, a relatively bland comfort food that one could sink into without thought, food as escapism, kibbeh required engagement. Analysis. One could not help but think about the contrasts in taste and texture brought with each bite, unfamiliar and intriguing. Yet, because of the unfamiliarity, I was overwhelmed. Plus, while delicious, the first kibbeh I experienced was more of an appetizer than a dinner. Not something I would ever cook at home. I therefore never asked for the recipe or thought much about how to make it.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when a friend and I were at Semirami’s, my favorite local Lebanese restaurant. (http://www.semiramisrestaurant.com/) We both ordered the special. kibbeh poached in tomato sauce. It was revelatory! And also inspiring. I was planning to cook dinner for a friend’s birthday the following weekend and had been at a loss for what to make. Because we were going to a play beforehand. Which meant the dinner needed to be made ahead. Yet, because I was cooking as part of a gift, I wanted it to be special. This would be perfect! And I was pretty sure I could it with beans.

Since I started this project, dreamsofmyfava, I’ve stockpiled quite a few beans. Some I ordered and others I received aTurkish beanss gifts, from supportive friends. So I had quite an array of choices to consider. None of them seemed quite right, though. Then I remembered–a good friend recently visited Turkey, where, apparently, beans are so popular that entire restaurants are devoted to them. So she brought me a sack of Turkish beans. Which I’m pretty sure are cranberry beans. Which are my favorite. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/01/03/cranberry-beans-with-garlic-sage-and-olive-oil/)While Turkey is not Lebanon, and I didn’t actually find any recipes for Turkish Kibbeh, it felt right. Decision made.

Now that I knew what kind of bean I would use, I faced the fact that in addition to making a version with beans, the challenge for this recipe was that I’ve never even made the traditional, tried and true kibbeh with lamb. And when I looked online, I could not find a single example of poached kibbeh. I therefore had no frame of reference beyond my single meal from Semiramis. But, having made the decision, I was undeterred. And perhaps a little manic. Because during that week I was also trying to write a tricky, long, and painfully fruitless brief at work. In my spare time, I was working on organizing a panel discussion on prison reform. And I was also texting back and forth with a much younger man who had asked me out on a date. Which, for where I’m at right now, was terrifying and exciting on pretty much every possible level. In short, my mind was overflowing with hopes and anxieties and dreams.

Thankfully, there was also yoga. Which enabled me to continue moving forward, non-grasping, through the hopes, past the anxieties, and without investing in any dreams. I focused.

First, I read several recipes. All shared the same ingredients of bulgur, lamb, onion, and pine nuts, flavored with allspice and cinnamon. I finally settled on this one from Epicurious as my template because it was baked, not fried. (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Baked-Kibbeh-107351)

Next, I cooked the beans. Because I wanted them to retain their shape, I brined overnight. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/01/05/brining-beans/) I added spices and olive oil in an effort to create a richer mouth feel and a deeper, more complex flavor.

Beans
1-1/2 c. dried cranberry beans
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
3 T. olive oil
1 thumb-sized piece kombu (for digestion)

Add all of the ingredients to the insert of a crockpot or a medium-sized pot. Cover with 1″ water. If using a crockpot, cook on high for 3 hours, or until done. If cooking on the stove, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer checking the water level and testing for doneness. They will probably take about 1-1/2 hours. When they’ve done (or a little earlier, when they’ve given up but aren’t yet finished), salt liberally, starting with 1 teaspoon. I believe I used about 1-1/2 teaspoons. Cool in the cooking liquid and refrigerate until ready to use.

Next I started working on the kibbeh, which is a bit of a process.

KIBBEH

Filling
1/2 medium, sweet onion, finely chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 c. cooked beans, drained but not rinsed
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. dried crushed chili pepper
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. pine nuts, toasted
salt, if necessary

Bulgur mixture
1 c. fine bulgur
1/2 medium, sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 or 2 c. cooked beans, drained but not rinsed
1 t. ground allspice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. black pepper

1.  To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Cook the onion until golden, 8-10 minutes. Add the beans and spices, stirring gently to combine, and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the pine nuts. Salt to taste.

2. To make the bulgur mixture, first cover the bulgur with 1 inch of cold water in a bowl. After the dust and chaff rise to the surface, pour off the water. Repeat twice. Then cover the rinsed bulgur with 1″ of cold water and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain in a fine-meshed sieve, pressing down on the bulgur to remove excess liquid, and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

3. To assemble the kibbeh, I used an ice cream server to scoop about an egg-sized portion of the bulgur mixture into the palm of my hand. I pressed an indentation in the center and added a scant tablespoon of the filling. I then formed the bulgur mixture around the filling. Transfer the filled kibbeh to a lightly oiled plate and repeat until you’ve used up all the filling and bulgur mixture. Refrigerate, uncovered, while you make the tomato sauce.

The tomato sauce at Semirami’s was delicious, unctuous and sweet with definite chunks of tomato and onion. Although I did not identify the spices when I was at the restaurant, from my research I was pretty sure it was flavored with allspice and cinnamon. So that’s what I decided to use. The Semirami’s sauce was also very sweet, almost certainly made with a generous amount of sugar. Since I try not to cook with refined sugar, I decided to use honey.

Tomato Sauce
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz can whole plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium, sweet onion, chopped medium
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. honey
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet, over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until golden, approximately 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the honey and salt to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Okay. Here’s where I took a misstep. What I should have done was bake the kibbeh for about 40 minutes at 350. That’s what I did with this one. And it’s what I’ll do next timebaked kibbeh. As you can see, you then have a cohesive little bundle, which is presentable. But, of course, I, being impatient, over confident, and generally overwhelmed, did not take that route.

Instead, I took the carefully formed, uncooked kibbeh from the fridge and nestled them directly into the tomato sauce. The little guy overhead got the special treatment only because he wouldn’t fit into the skillet with his friends. Who, after cooking on the stove for about 10 minutes and then in the oven, covered for another 45 minutes, looked like this. poached kibbehNot pretty. I tried a bite. It was delicious. But I had to transport this dish to my friend’s house. And then serve it for her birthday dinner. By which point it would bear no resemblance to kibbeh. It would be stew. Which might be okay. But I was not going for stew. I wanted kibbeh.

At this point, the person I was until very recently would probably have been freaking out. So I’m very proud to report that I wasn’t at all stressed. It was improv. The original idea didn’t work. The possibility remained, however, for something new. So. Onward.

In an act of bold desperation, laughing, I took out a baking sheet, lined it with parchment paper, and carefully scooped each fragile kibbeh from the sauce to the baking sheet. Then I crossed my fingers and jumped in the shower. 20 minutes later things were smelling good. They weren’t quitcranberry bean kibbeh poached in tomato saucee firm, but something was happening. And, after an additional 25 minutes, I had these. Not the most beautiful dish I’ve ever made. Not what I intended to make. But, hands down, the most delicious food I’ve ever created. Complex flavor, toothsome bite, and deeply satisfying. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to recreate that magic. But I plan to try. Because even if it doesn’t turn out the same as the first time, I can’t imagine that it will be bad. And even if it is bad, I will have fun. Living love. Full of gratitude for the ability to feed myself and people I love. And, through creating delicious, healthy food, manufacturing joy.

Farinata (chickpea pancake)

This morning, for the first time in over a week, I woke up feeling well rested. I suppose I’m finally used to stupid Daylight Savings Time. But it’s more than that. I feel like I’m back. First, I’m writing about beans again after what feels like a long time not. And second, more importantly, I’m cooking beans again. Which feels good. Not only because I want to write about beans. I want to get back to a bean-centric diet. It is important. Because both my body and my mind work and feel better when I eat mostly beans.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I have not been writing much about or cooking many beans, I’ve still been eating plenty. My freezer is always stocked with a selection of bean-based dishes. But for a little while there the balance shifted. Meat became not quite the center, but probably a quarter of my diet. I felt heavy. Full. Weighed down and not creative. Then I caught the flu.

My physical recovery from what was a very mild flu was fast. But the mental and emotional effect lingered. I was maybe a little depressed. Not a lot. But enough that I found myself suddenly snappish and irritable, rising quickly to anger over the smallest thing. Forgetting about gratitude. Deflecting my emotions. Getting stuck in my head. It was awful. And I realized that this used to be my norm. Which was both sobering and incredibly exciting.

In realizing that this state of rising quickly to anger, feeling ungrateful, and being stuck in my head used to be my norm, I recognized how much I’ve grown and changed for the better in the past few years. And especially in the past few months. Somehow, having my life fall apart has made everything make sense. I’ve learned how to make myself happy, how to manufacture my own source of joy.

Honestly, I think it’s mostly because of yoga. But the time I spend doing improv, writing, cooking, and eating certainly doesn’t hurt. Especially eating. Because of all these things, eating is the only one that I do several times a day, no matter what. After all, if you don’t eat, you die. And my body is especially tricky in that if I don’t feed it pretty much constantly, I faint. So it’s a good thing that this basic requirement for life also provides (or should provide) such rich pleasure. Which brings me to the ostensible subject of today’s somewhat rambling, positive self-help-speakish post. Farinata!

farinataAccording to Wikipedia, farinata, which is also called socca and cecina, “is a sort of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe of chickpea flour originating in Genoa and later a typical food of the Ligurian Sea coast, from Nice to Pisa.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farinata) I first heard of it a couple of years ago when I read Skye Gyngell’s My Favorite Ingredients. (http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-9781580080507-2) Unlike Gyngell, I have not yet dreamt of farinata, but I am with her in loving this delicious chickpea pancake. It is delicious. Also healthy, quick, easy, and adaptable

I’ve tried several different recipes, including the one in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780764524837-0), but I like Gyngell’s the best. My version is hers in every way except the cooking method: Gyngell starts things off on the stove, whereas mine is cooked entirely in the oven. Here’s my recipe.

1-3/4 c. chickpea flour
1 t. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 or 4 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, chopped
1 c. sparkling water
1 T. olive oil
Dolcelatte cheese, for serving (omit to make vegan)

1. Place 1 T. olive oil in a well-seasoned, 12-inch, cast-iron skillet. Put the skillet in the oven and preheat to 425.

2. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl, forming a well in the center. Whisk in the olive oil, rosemary, and sparkling water. Let the batter rest for 20 minutes.

farinata with kale salad3. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the batter. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until lightly brown and firm. Flip on to a plate.

To serve, cut in wedges and, if you wish, top with crumbled Dolcelatte (blue) or other cheese. Today I had this with a side of kale salad, minus the cheese and almonds. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/01/30/kale-salad/). It was terrific. Enjoy!

slow cooker vegetarian Pasta e fagiole

I feel like it’s been forever since I was here. I’ve missed blogging! But, while I have enormous respect for pigs and enjoy eating them on occasion, I simply couldn’t bring myself to write anymore posts about the pork that took center stage of my food life for the past couple of weeks. And then I got the flu. Which kinda sucked. It was mild as far as these things go, but it did not make for a productive week. Oh well. I’m back now. And I found/created a great recipe for vegetarian pasta e fagiole! In the slow cooker!! Totally exciting.

This recipe is based on two others, one from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780307336798-9), the other from Elizabeth Berry’s Great Bean Book (http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Berrys-Great-Bean-Book/dp/1580080316). The two are quite similar in that the primary ingredients are beans, water, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and olive oil. But there are important differences.

Alice Waters’ recipe, which is vegetarian, calls for fresh shell beans, which are not available now, in early March, at least not in Chicago. So I didn’t try it. But I was drawn to the freshness. Especially because I did try the recipe in Elizabeth Berry’s book. Which was very good. But it calls for bacon. So I didn’t post about it because, well, as I said above, I couldn’t bring myself to write anymore about cooking or eating pig. Even though it is delicious. Plus, the soup I had in my mind’s eye was hearty and substantial, but not quite so heavy.

pasta e fagioleIn the end, I decided to use these recipes as a base to create my own version. It turned out well! Here’s what I did.

2 cups dried cranberry beans
1/3 c. olive oil
1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced (about 1 c.)
1 large carrot, diced (about 1/2 c.)
1 large rib celery, diced (about 1/3 c.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 dried chili pepper, crumbled
1/2 t. dried sage
1 thumb-sized piece kombu
7 c. water
1/2 lb. pasta (broken noodles or small shapes)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it begins to shimmer. Saute the onions, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Remove from heat.

2. Rinse the beans, discard any that are broken, and place in the insert of your slow cooker, if using. Otherwise place in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the sauteed vegetables, tomato, chili pepper, sage, kombu, and water. If using the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the beans are soft. It will probably take about 3 hours if you’re using the stove. Add 3 t. salt. Remove about one half of the beans. Puree the remainder. You can make ahead up to this point.

3. Just before serving, cook the pasta in well-salted water until tender. Add the pasta and the reserved beans to the soup. Note that if you’re not planning to serve the entire batch of soup now, you won’t need to cook all the pasta. Only cook enough for the meal. Check for salt and add more if necessary. Serve with additional olive oil. For non-vegans, Parmesan cheese is also nice. And, while it’s in no way traditional, I’ll probably add cooked kale at least once in the coming week and later, when I’m eating leftovers. Of which there are a lot. As always, I’m grateful that beans freeze so well. Because I know I will be very happy to find single-size portions in the freezer in weeks to come.

Pork and beans

One of the first things I learned to cook was “Beanies and Weanies,” a delightful (if, to my adult sensibilities, somewhat revolting) combination of hot dogs and canned pork and beans. I got fancy with it and added brown sugar, mustard, sometimes minced garlic, freshly ground pepper. I probably experimented with dried thyme, which for a while I added to everything (it’s really good in scrambled eggs). Also, once I became an expert in this dish, my specialty, I insisted on baking in the oven rather than cooking on the stove top. The baked version resulted in a thicker, slightly carmelized sauce that even my 9-year-old self recognized as being far superior to the glorpy goo that came off the stove.

Now, all these years later, I cannot even imagine eating canned pork and beans. And, while I appreciate hot dogs, I’m not sure I could actually eat one. Yet the combination, pork and beans, is a classic pairing.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to start writing about the grown-up pork and bean pairing that I came up with last night, when I made dinner for a couple of friends. I had pork, from the pig I helped to butcher last weekend. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/02/24/inspiration-and-bacon-from-the-underground-food-collective/) And, while I’ve been making steady progress, I still have a whole lotta heirloom beans waiting to be transformed into something wonderful. But one of the people who came over for dinner last night, someone I love and respect as much as I love and respect anyone, simply abhors beans. All beans. It’s the texture, he says, the gritty beaniness of the beans that he cannot abide.

So. What was I to do with this problem? Surely I could find a way to make him like beans. Because they’re delicious. Especially with pork, which this friend loves. Another friend posted this recipe  on my Facebook wall. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/dining/beans-and-red-wine-party-hearty.html?_r=0) Inspired, I came up with a menu that surely even a bean hater would eat with gusto:

Pork rib roast
White beans braised in red wine
Slow cooked kale with bacon
Pan-fried potato, apple and fennel.

It sounded perfect. But, as the day approached, my conscience spoke louder and louder, reminding me: he does not like beans. I can’t make him like something he doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter what I think. Respect his reality, as it is. Have a dinner party without beans. The blog doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you get to cook for, spend time with, people you love, in your home. That’s what matters. Screw the blog. I would make the menu I came up with without the beans. And it would be great. Because I’ve grown, I’ve evolved. Yes.

Except no. It doesn’t matter how many hours I spend on the mat, practicing yoga, or generally trying to become a better person. I remain hopelessly human. My ego was so sure that I could change his mind, make him like beans. Plus I had Vallarta beans in the freezer. I would serve the Vallarta bean puree that I made a few weeks ago with short ribs. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/02/13/vallarta-bean-puree-with-short-ribs-and-bitter-greens/) I knew it was delicious. When I proposed the plan, trying to sell the beans by name-dropping Thomas Keller, of French Laundry, he agreed to try a bite. But I also agreed to make polenta. To be safe. Compromise is beautiful.

In the end, I didn’t change anyone’s mind. The puree was still gritty, said the bean hater. I don’t get that still, but honestly, the Vallarta beans weren’t a perfect match for the pork. I should have made the white beans. For me and my other friend. But everything else was terrific. And it was super fun. So much so that I completely neglected to take photos. Sorry! Oh well. Here are the recipes. Note that the potatoes in the hash recipe are pre-baked, so you’ll need to think ahead.

Pork Roast
4-rib pork roast
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. The day before you’re planning to serve, wash and dry the roast. Slice between each rib, stopping about 1″ before the bone. Rub all over with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 365. Remove the roast from the refrigerator, tie with kitchen string, and let it sit out for about an hour. Place on a roasting rack in a pan. Toss the vegetables on the bottom of the pan and add the water. Roast until the internal temperature comes up to 130, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve the meat off the bone and serve, either plated, as pork chops, or on a platter, with the bones, family style.

Pan fried potatoes, apples, and fennelpan roasted potatoes, apples, and fennel on a bed of blanched Swiss chard
4 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes, baked
1-2 Gala (or other firm) apples
1/2 small fennel bulb, sliced
3 T. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the potatoes into 1/2 or 3/4″ chunks. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes in a single layer. Salt liberally, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the apples into 3/4″ chunks. Turn the potatoes and add the apples and fennel. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are crispy and the apples are browning but not soft. (This photo is from last weekend, when I made this for the first time.)

Slow cooked kale with bacon
2 bunches of Lacinato (dinosaur) kale, leaves stripped from the stems
1 Vidalia or other sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 c. diced bacon

Add the bacon to a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, and cook on medium-low until the fat renders and the bacon starts to crisp. (NOTE: I used the bacon I cured at home, which I foolishly finished in the slow cooker. While it sort’ve worked, the end result isn’t really bacon, as the fat rendered away. So I had to add olive oil. But it tastes delicious.) Add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion turns translucent. Add the kale, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and add 1/2 cup of water or, if you happen to have some, white wine. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced. Serve. Eat. Enjoy.