Miso-Creamed Kale

DSC03502

Our trip to Cyprus was fantastic. In just a week, we did so much. We visited an ancient amphitheater, perched on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. We went to the little mountain church where I was baptized, built in the 15th century and still standing. In the village, where we stayed for part of the time, we got a private tour of the Byzantine icons museum from the most exuberant guide we’ve ever encountered, an elderly Cypriot man who told tales and mixed myths with science and at some point, serenaded us with a Byzantine hymn. We walked in the remains of a settlement from 9,000 B.C., their houses and retaining wall still partially intact.

And of course we ate. There was the dinner my mom prepared, with homemade pastitsiokoupepia (stuffed grape leaves), and kleftiko (lamb cooked in the oven until it melts in your mouth). She made a Lebanese mahallebi, a dessert of custard, pistachios and syrup, that we kept searching for during the rest of our trip, with no luck. We ate shamali, a syrup-soaked semolina cake that I absolutely love, and kolokotes (turnovers with pumpkin, bulgur wheat, and raisins). We had Syrian food as well, with deeply flavored muhammara, lovely fattoush salads, and the most delicious chicken livers I’ve ever eaten. They tasted of olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin. One rainy afternoon, we ate pork souvlaki and sheftalies (ground meat with spices, wrapped in caul fat) cooked over coals and served in the large, oval-shaped pita bread of Cyprus.

By the end of our trip, though, I started to really crave food from somewhere else. I wanted Chinese dumplings and mu shoo pork. I wanted pad thai or chicken laarb salad. I wanted kale with shitake mushrooms, smothered in a miso cream sauce. Something that didn’t include olive oil or lemon juice or ground lamb with parsley and onions or salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese .

Of course, it’s been just five days since we came back, and I’m already wishing I could get my hands on some sheftalies for dinner tonight.

DSC03472Miso-Creamed Kale – From Food52’s Genius Recipes

Ingredients:

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shimeji mushrooms with stems, or shitake mushroom tops
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white (shiro) miso, or more to taste

Directions:

1. Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When melted, add the shallot, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over low heat without letting the garlic and shallots color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the kale and continue to cook for a few more minutes until wilted. If it won’t all fit in the pan, just add what’s left after it’s cooked down a bit.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the mushrooms become too dry, add another tablespoon of butter. Stir in the soy sauce, cook another minute and turn off the heat.

3. Once the kale is wilted and soft, increase the heat to medium high, add the vermouth and cook until it’s just evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cream and miso, stirring until completely incorporated. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 2 more minutes until the sauce reduces slightly and tightens up the around the kale. Taste for seasoning (but don’t forget the mushrooms have soy sauce). Place the kale on a warm platter and scatter the mushrooms over the top. Serve immediately.

Miso-Glazed Turnips

DSC03867

I started learning English when I was 8 years old. My parents enrolled me in after-school lessons that took place at a private high school called The English School. In my first two years there, my teachers spoke Greek, so they would explain things that we learned in a language we understood. Towards the end of my second year, though, I found out that starting the following year, my teachers would only speak English. I was terrified. How would they be able to explain things to me? It took one lesson that following year to ease my fears. I hadn’t realized that I had already learned enough English to be able to communicate with the teacher.

DSC03866

One day, our exercise revolved around a fairy tale called “The Enormous Turnip.” It’s an old Russian fable of a farmer who plants a turnip that grows so large that he can’t pull it out of the ground. He calls his wife to help and then progressively more and more people and animals come to help them pull it out. It’s not until the tiny mouse joins them that they are able to finally pull the turnip out of the ground.

We read the story in class and we all had one question: What the hell is a turnip? We had never seen or eaten one. There wasn’t even a Greek word for it. The teacher struggled to explain that it was a root vegetable like a carrot but round and purple-white. It took a couple of decades for me to finally eat a turnip and when I did, I loved it.

Its pungent, almost medicinal smell is tempered by a sweetness that is especially brought out by roasting it or sautéing it. This recipe is simple but it creates a really flavorful side dish that can accompany either meat or seafood.

turnipMiso-Glazed Turnips – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients:

1 pound small turnips, trimmed, scrubbed, cut into 1” wedges (peeled or unpeeled)
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Combine turnips, miso, butter, sugar and water in a medium skillet.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook turnips, turning occasionally, until they are tender and liquid is evaporated.

Once all the liquid has cooked off, keep cooking turnips, tossing occasionally, until they are golden brown and caramelized and the sauce thickens and glazes the vegetables, about 5 minutes longer.

Add lemon juice and a splash of water to pan and swirl to coat turnips. Season with salt and pepper.