Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Late to the game

There are times when I consider myself an early adapter, fearlessly leading the way.  There are other times when I remain firmly planted in my chair, ducking behind my screen while I watch and wait to see how a process or technique will turn out for nearly everybody in the known webiverse before I'll try it.

Case in point?  Oven crisped kale chips.

Kale chips have been absolutely everywhere recently.  Over the past six months I am fairly certain I've seen some version of a kale chip recipe on nearly every food site I visit with any regularity.

I remained unmoved.  Skeptical it could be so easy to trick entice my family into eating kale in any form.

I'd had kale in my garden for weeks now, but honestly, had been hesitant to use it much.  I keep reading how some people absolutely love it while others (and I harbor some concern several of us might fall into this category) find it too assertive tasting.  

There are people out there who like arugula but can't quite bring themselves to eat kale.  Folks around here are not even huge arugula fans (except for me - I can't get enough of the stuff).  ChefSon likes kale, sure, but he'll eat nearly anything these days as long as it is well prepared.

How positive could I reasonably be that the kith and kin I regularly cook for, picky eaters one and all, would warm up to kale?

I think it was after reading 943 comments from Moms who swore their pickiest kid eaters simply love-love-LOVE eating kale when made crispy and salty, that I was finally ready to take the plunge.

Be it so resolved:We will hereby eat some kale and that kale will be in chip form.

Still, enough time had to pass I could determine if any unfortunate aftereffects might develop from enjoying greens rendered into a slightly less healthy yet decidedly more fun snack food.  ("Could it be true that those "healthy" kale chips you've been feeding your family have actually been lowering their IQ?!  Harming their standardized test scores? Every parent needs to watch our late breaking story as KFUD undercover investigators reveal the secret the kale industry is desperately trying to hide.   Film at 11...").

So I waited.  No other shoe dropped.  No downside developed.  Pressure mounted for the AustinAgrodolce household to finally at least try a batch all our own.

With some teensy bit of trepidation I preheated my oven to 300 degrees F.

I harvested some kale, took the tough center ribs out, washed and dried it.

I put it in a bowl, sprinkled in a tablespoon of olive oil and tossed (and tossed and tossed) until at least some oil showed up on part of every leaf.

I spread it all out on a baking sheet, then sprinkled on some kosher salt.  Realizing how I've been accused of working for some sort of salt hoarding secret society of late I took a deep breath and salted some more.

I popped the pan into the oven.  The recipes I've seen typically have the chips in the heat for about 20 minutes.  Some suggest stirring halfway, others do not.

At about 15 minutes I began to smell my kale pretty distinctly so I checked and decided my chips were ready.  I used a very curly kale variety and think that may have hastened the process a bit.

I waited for a minute to let the chips cool and tried one.

Mmmmmmmm, y'all.  Kale chips!

I have to say - I am intrigued by the way these chips melt in your mouth. I really like the earthy taste combined with that initial crunch and then the salt finish.  I think they are almost meaty tasting.  I'm pretty much an instant convert here, folks.  Now I realize how easy these are I am fairly sure this technique will be a repeater for me even if nobody else cares for kale chips at all.  As a matter of fact I am not entirely sure some part of me hopes nobody else will like these so they can be mine!  All mine!

The rest of the jury is still out (asleep and/or out of town).  Will my pickiest of eaters go for Kale, The Chips?  Stay tuned....

PS - if you've seen kale chip making all around the internet and yet remain a bit on the fence as to whether or not you want to try them?  I say go for it.  This is easy and quick enough to try that even if you don't particularly enjoy the results I doubt you'll resent having at least given it a shot.  One particularly inspired use for leftover (ha! as if...) chips is to crumble them over popcorn.  What's not to like about that?  Crispy chippy bits on popcorn!  Double yum.

Now I find myself eyeballing the rest of the greens in our garden and wondering.  If kale tastes this good then what about oven crisped arugula chips?  Collards?  Broccoli greens?   Nothing may be safe from a run in the oven after today.

Chips ahoy!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A while back I read what may be for me the most compelling reason to eat light(er) and stay fit, ever.

When the zombies come, the reasoning went, and we all know that is not "if" but "when"....when they come, it will be the out of shape fatties that fall first.

To me, appeals to some cryptic nonspecific eventual sense of "feeling healthy" or "living longer" typically fall like the wet clods of reasoning dirt they are when confronted with oh, bacon say, or chocolate brownies with pecans.

The idea of surviving the onslaught of zombies however, now that is something with a little more immediacy, a little more purchase to it. I can totally grasp why I might want to stay a little lighter on my feet in order to put off my own zombification for as long as is humanly possible given the proximity of malls and shopping strips to my neighborhood.

We all know malls and shopping centers are like flystrips to zombies. So while our days surviving the inevitable zombie attack may be fatefully limited, at best we can try to postpone the inevitable.  It is the human thing to do.

And while postponing the inevitable, nothing spices that up like a bit of pre-emptive revenge, like, say, eating brains for dinner.

I don't mean actual brains here, I am talking about those Brains of the Vegetable World:Cauliflower Florets.

And I am not talking about your mamby-pamby boiled or steamed versions of cauliflower, nothing in what I am suggesting will require masses of cream or smothering blankets of cheese.

Nope. I am talking about Roasted Cauliflower. Simple. Elegant.  Light.  Delicious. And centrally to our discussion here today? A dish that will not be weighing you down when you are needing to flee for your life.

Here's the basic drill. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse well then cut up your cauliflower (a medium head will feed 3-4 depending on the serving size) into individual florets. There will be some teensy pieces, don't worry - those will become the extra-crispy Secret Cook Rewards you get to eat off the pan while plating.

Coat the dried florets in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.

Place on a foil lined pan (to make cleaning up a snap), making sure not to crowd the florets.

Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. I began stirring the first time I began to smell the cauliflower roasting, at about 11 minutes, then stir every 7-8 minutes after that to keep an eye on when to take them out.  You want roasted not charred, and the journey from one to the other is a short one.

And there you go! Roasted Cauliflower. Nutty, golden brown, delicious as it is, although some play around with stir-in seasonings like cumin, garlic salt, or red pepper flakes.

Eating roasted cauliflower brains may not serve up a slam dunk as zombification prevention, but until that has been absolutely proven, why take the chance?  Your life may hang in the balance.

In the meantime, I am doing copious research because that is just the kind of selfless, dedicated to the science, gal I am.

You're welcome.

Brain image courtesy of WebMD.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lady Marmalade (Cake!)

I am somewhat perverse - I'll own up right here and now.

Whenever I know I am not supposed to do something, or for some reason can not do something, that is all I want to do, all I can think about.

Eighteen minutes into a two hour car trip - guess who can't stop thinking about making a pit stop.

I never once brought a bottle of water from home for an airline flight but once they were forbidden? It is all I can think about as I begrudgingly buy a bottle of water every trip now, to take on the plane, which I promise you I almost never did until after they decided bottles of water could harbor some ingredient of terror. Or something...

Anyway, since we have had a delightful vegan guest here for a while, and having heard about another of my daughter's close friends here developing an almond allergy, after reading this non-vegan almond centric cake it is all I have wanted to bake for two days. So today I decided to give it a try.

Because the most fun part of this (yes folks, I put the fun in dysfunctional) is that this cake is supposed to taste best on the third day.

So ideally, you make this cake and then let it sit there, taunting you with its cakey goodness, for three. whole. days.

Marmalade Cake. It came together quite easily, notes in the recipe about working ahead are well worth taking into account, and I found, as did one commenter, that my cake was done well short of the hour mark (45 minutes and it was getting quite brown, pulling away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick came out clean). Yeah. The toothpick already got him some cake but not me. Nope...

It smells verrrry delicious. I am guessing I might be able to wait until tomorrow...morning. Cake for breakfast, anybody?

You boil an organic orange and I used a Meyer lemon from our little tree crop, you toast 6 ounces of almonds then whirl both of them (serially, not at the same time) in the processor then mix them with eggs, sugar, flour, salt and get this - olive oil.

So yeah, this cake is practically GOOD for you. Vitamin C, eggs, olive oil (and yes, well some sugar but...). Cake!

The original recipe can be found here on Orangette's blog, along with comments, and I made this without any substitutions or shortcuts. Hey - I can follow a recipe....

So once it is cooled I will release it from the prison springpan and liberally coat it with powdered sugar. And then wait... But who knows for how long? Three whole days? Smart money votes "no way".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

Too amazing not to share....