Spring

greens-kaleWe had a moment the other night, a unique event in the long history of the Tucker-Eikenberry alliance.

We had kale for dinner – just kale. That was dinner. It was an odd night, which could be said about a lot of nights these days. Our social engagement was a 5:00 to 7:00 kind of thing and we found ourselves back at the apartment around 7:30, our night done, with neither of us a thought in our head as to what to do next.

We didn’t want to go out again – although I heroically offered run up to the Peace Food Café on Amsterdam, Jill’s home away from home, for some take-out. “No,” she said. I’ll make some kale from Alison’s recipe.

“You’ll make?” I thought. This whole thing of Jill’s cooking is very new. There’s lots of territorial shit going down right now in the kitchen.

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From the LA Times

kalesaladKale is about as unlikely a food star as you can imagine. It's tough and fibrous. Bite a piece of raw kale and you'll practically end up with splinters between your teeth. Nevertheless, kale has become a green of the moment because, given a little special care, it actually can be made not only edible but delicious.

You can cook it, of course, the lower and slower the better. But surprisingly, one of the most popular ways to use kale these days is in salads. Though kale leaves have always been found on almost every salad bar, it wasn't for reasons of edibility — it was for decoration, because this was one green so tough it would last forever without wilting.

But the solution is remarkably simple: Give it a massage. Yes, seriously. And I mean a real massage — a deep-tissue bone-breaker. Grab bunches of it in both hands and squeeze. Then rub them together. And repeat. It's almost like kneading bread dough.

It won't take very long — just a couple of minutes — but you'll be amazed at the difference. That tough cellulose structure breaks down — wilts, actually — and those leaves that once seemed so coarse and fibrous turn silky.

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rapini_prep.jpgI know there are other things to do with rapini but I am stuck in a happy rut. I always eat it exactly the same way. Rapini also called broccoli rabe looks like a leafy miniature broccoli and has a slight bitterness to it that marries well with the richness of Italian sausage. Toss that combination with a little onion, garlic, chili flakes and pasta and you're in business.

Broccoli rabe or rapini was something I ate in Italy, there it was blanched and then sauted in olive oil with garlic. Only in Italy it was called broccoli rape pronounced "rah-pay". But I imagine the "rape" name has not helped it much in the popularity department in the English speaking world. If you look it up in the dictionary it turns out to have even more names – rapa, raab, rappone (for big bunches I guess) Italian turnip, taitcat and turnip broccoli. In Italian rapa means turnip and broccoli means broccoli.

As for the identity crisis – am I a turnip or am I broccoli? It is a relative of the turnip and yet looks more like broccoli. As far as the names goes, I think I'll stick with rapini.

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springsalad.jpgSalade Lyonnaise is one of the most popular salads in small French restaurants and bistros. In Lyon, from where the salad originates, it is typically found on the menus of tiny eateries called Bouchons, which specialize in comfort foods such as soups, stews, sausages, cheeses, etc. You can most certainly also find this salad served at Thomas Keller's Bouchon and at many of the restaurants of Lyon native Daniel Boulud. Comfort food knows no boundaries of class. It is simply just that popular that both high and low places offer it. And why wouldn't this salad be comforting? It is made of lettuce, croutons, bacon, and a poached egg perched on top.

Inspired by all the gorgeous lettuces I saw at the Greenmarket on a sunny and warm last Friday, I knew this salad would be the one to make. Not only can it be put together in minutes, but it also features ingredients that most people have in their refrigerator or pantry at all times. Of course not including the fresh frisée, which is traditionally used in this recipe for it's unique texture, crunch, and slight bitterness. This salad makes such an impressive presentation: With the lettuce piled up just right, and the egg set in the center, it looks like a bird's nest. It's a lunch that presses all the comfort buttons, and it also can be a pleasing appetizer at a dinner party.

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asparagusslices2Sometimes it’s all about the cut. Take asparagus. Everyone loves the long, lanky, sexy look of a whole asparagus spear. (Sorry—sounds like I’m describing a brand of Gap jeans). Why would you want to wreck that by cutting it up?

Oh, yeah, there’s that awkward moment when you’re trying to cut those long spears with a fork on your dinner plate.

And the even more awkward moment when you push the woody bottom half of the spears over to the side of your plate because they’re undercooked.

Now consider this—with a few extra seconds of work upfront, you can have a beautiful, evenly cooked, easy-to-eat asparagus side dish that can take on a variety of flavors, too.

So I’m going to ignore my mother (who claims I tend to get a bit fussy about my vegetable cuts), and suggest that you try slicing your asparagus on the diagonal (sharply…at a sharp angle…on the bias…however you want to say it) for a change.

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