Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beer Braised Kale with Pastrami

So first of all there's the Pastrami. Here's the thing. I had  Pastrami from Grow and Behold just screaming at me to take it out of the freezer and eat it. I could tell it was going to be ten kinds of delicious, but it was still frozen ... so the solution was obviously to loosen it a smidge under hot water and put it straight into a frying pan.

Then I went to open the bag of Trader Joe's kale a little too gingerly to pour on top of this great pastrami, and an explosion happened onto my kitchen floor. I only lost 1/3 of the bag, but man, that's a lot of chopped kale I just swept up.

Anyway, on to the goodness:

Kale (10 oz, though I wound up with less)
Pastrami (4 oz)
1/3 cup Beer (I used corona, + 1 tbsp to deglaze at the end)
1.5 tsp meat tenderizer
1 tsp chili spice rub (or a garlic-onion-chili blend, whatever you have on hand and like)
squeeze of a lemon wedge

Add the pastrami to a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, when it starts to brown at the edges (about 2 minutes) add in the kale and about 1/3 a cup of beer... just enough to coat the bottom of the pan so that the kale can steam. (You could use any other liquid; veggie broth, sherry, wine. I really just needed to drink a beer after the kale cleanup.)  Once the kale wilts a little bit, add in the spices and a bit of lemon juice. Let it cook until it wilts down enough for you to enjoy (4-5 minutes, or just taste). Taste to see if it needs any seasoning adjustment. Enjoy! Let em know if there are any other spices I should be using when making this. I didn't want anything to mask the rich pastrami flavor, so kept it super simple... but I don't have to next time!

And for those of you vegetarians out there (or those preparing for a dairy meal) feel free to try your favorite meat substitute; veggie bacon, veggie sausage or the like... it might be just lovely. Report back!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Polenta Lasagna

Polenta purists will probably damn me for using this super easy packaged stuff, but Trader Joe's sells prepped polenta so cheap, it's hard to resist just keeping in stock in my own pantry. And for this recipe, the alternative is just unnecessary work.

1 package Polenta, sliced thinly (I use Trader Joe's organic precooked)
1 jar Roasted garlic tomato sauce (TJs had a great sale, otherwise I use brad's organic)
Dried Oregano, dried basil & some extra garlic
1-2 cups frozen chopped spinach (Trader Joe's has one that's pesticide free which is about .50 cheaper than organic)
3-5 oz various cheeses: I used fresh (soft) pecorino romano (made by the cheese guy), millers' parmesan and  sliced Colby jack (le petit femmes).

4-5 dashes franks hot sauce
I did also add my secret ingredient which is a dried chili beer rub made by Jaimie Gwen. It's good on everything... you can add some of whatever your favorite spice rub is, or just a few sips of wine or beer. Whatever makes you happy.

Preheat oven to 375(ish) - you're going to want to finish it for the last minute on 400-425.
Cook time: 20 minutes
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes
Serves: 6

Layering: Adding in spinach

Layer the bottom of a baking dish (I used a square 9x9 baker. I mean, I think it was 9x9. Please don't ask me to measure it!) with a small amount of sauce then place thinly sliced layers of polenta. Cover in sauce (1/3 bottle) top w/a Dash basil, oregano, (spinach*,) and parm then another layer of polenta. Repeat (possibly twice, depending on how thin the Polenta is or wide your dish is). Top with slices or shredded cheese.

*The Messy Way:
If the spinach is already defrosted or in small chunks you can smatter it about in each layer as you go. I happened to think of the spinach when I took ice out of my freezer and had actually baked the polenta originally without, and decided to add it. So I kinda stirred it in and ruined the layers, adding the Colby jack on top. No one was pretty easy to even out, and it gave me a chance to make a lunch portion. The neater way, by the by, would also just have you add in the extra herbs, spices and hot sauce directly into the bottle of tomato sauce. Probably. I mean, I don't typically do things the neat way.

The "Single Serving" or Lunch portion:

As I added in the spinach I literally spooned a "slice" worth into my little mini baker so that we could have something delish for lunch the next day. Added the spinach there too, and cheese on top. Glad that I did, since there wasn't an ounce left of the tray I brought over to my friend's for dinner

Other suggestions: Consider including dried or fresh mushrooms, broccoli, dried onions, black olives, or the like. Whatever you enjoy in lasagna, even ricotta would work. This was just my first attempt at this dish, I'm sure to be experimenting more, but the simplicity is clearly one of the reasons I loved it so much. If you use a bigger pan, it doubles easily. Beceause the polenta is precooked this is really about melding flavors an melting cheese.

Also, this would taste almost as good without the dairy, so feel free to make it vegan friendly if you have friends who are inclined that way. The flavor really delivers.