Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sides that Sparkle: Day 4 in a Marathon of Side Dishes
What’s cooking? Mashed Potatoes with Kale-Collards Pesto

It has come to my attention that many if not most of you people have already decided on your menu for Thursday. Well, bully for you. And so that you can all feel just a little bit superior, I will confess that the Kitchen Goddess has not.

I don’t mean to sound bitter or grumpy. It’s mostly a question of too many choices. And wanting something fun and different. And not too much work. And... and... and... The list goes on.

I did, however, find one final recipe to pass along, that for me is a real keeper. And I’ll admit that it’s a bit on the different side. Ok, a lot on the different side, but it works well for me, in the spirit of finding a fresh take on a classic dish.

So, you’re probably all having mashed potatoes. The same old mashed potatoes that you’ve always had. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But how about this: take a small bunch of Tuscan kale (the stuff that looks like elephant skin) and a small bunch of collard greens, and make a pesto with them. Then, instead of adding a big pat of butter to your mashed potatoes, fold in some of that pesto. Oooeee – makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I gave my hubby a taste of the mixture this morning and he pronounced it “thumbs up.”

The pesto is much more mellow than basil or arugula, my other faves in the pesto world. But there’s a great mouth-feel, and a mysteriously lovely green veggie taste that I think you’ll like. So here it is.

Kale-Collards Pesto

Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2015

Makes about 2 cups.

1 small bunch Tuscan kale (about 5-7 ounces), stems cut out
1 small bunch collard greens (about 5-7 ounces), stems cut out
table salt for the cooking water
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1½ ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (not quite 1 cup)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup good quality olive oil
Kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper

Before you cook the greens, prepare an ice water bath (a large mixing bowl with ice water). Then in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the collards and the kale together for just 45 seconds, to tenderize the leaves and turn them a bright green. Plunge the cooked leaves into the ice water bath for about 1 minute, to stop the cooking and set the color.

Drain the leaves and squeeze as much of the water out as you can. (You can do this with your bare hands – the color won’t leach out.) Chop the leaves roughly and add them to the bowl of a food processor.

Add the garlic, cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and pulse until the mixture achieves a thick, grainy texture. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil, and continue to process until the mixture is well blended. (Don’t bother trying to get it completely smooth; the meaty texture is part of the deal.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you make it the day before serving, refrigerate the finished pesto in a bowl covered with plastic wrap that presses on the surface of the mix.

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Mashed Potatoes

Kitchen Goddess note: Both Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) and America’s Test Kitchen agree that the fluffiest mashed potatoes come from potatoes that have been boiled whole and in their skins. (Less water absorbed into the flesh.) It’ll take longer, but it is worth the time. And with this method, it takes just moments to get the skin off.

Pretty much all mashed potato recipes are the same. Boil the potatoes in salted water until you can pierce one easily with a skewer or sharp knife. Drain the potatoes and peel them, then mash them with either a ricer or a food mill or a potato masher. (The Kitchen Goddess has all three and prefers the masher because there’s less to clean up.) Do not use a food processor or blender or standing mixer unless you want to make glue instead of mashed potatoes.

Working with a wooden spoon, stir the potatoes as you add warm milk to them (about ¾ cup per 2 pounds of potatoes), and continue stirring until they reach the consistency you want. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.

If you’ll be adding the pesto, now is the time. Because I was cooking the spuds just for testing, I cooked only 2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound). I folded in ¼ cup of pesto, and that seemed right. So if you’re cooking 2 pounds of potatoes, use ½ cup of pesto, adding more according to your preference.

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Kitchen Goddess Post Script: I heard a TED talk the other day, in which the speaker said that happiness appears to be directly related to how grateful one is, and not the other way around. That people who can be grateful for what they have are the happiest. So I wish you all a delightful Thanksgiving Day, filled with gratitude for all that life has given you – the small moments as well as the large ones. As for me, I am grateful for all of you – those of you that I know well, and those I’ve never met – who stop by and read what I’ve written and have the spirit to try my suggestions. Bon appétit, everyone!

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