We had an impromptu evening a couple of nights ago that was another fresh cooking challenge. My new daughter-in-law has interesting past experience from having been brought up on a farm, from having her own bakery at one time, from having been brought up in Walla Walla, the heart of Washington’s fine wine country. Betty was also spending the night and we love to experiment together in the kitchen.
Setting the scene, roses and astilbe
I was planning something really simple, on the grill, of course and Mark and Dawn would be coming with some fresh road stand produce: corn, blueberries, beans, and lovely little cherry tomatoes. And of course, there was a lot of stuff in my garden as well. A roast chicken on the grill would be a perfect summer accompaniment for all this lovely harvest. The corn and the squash could also be grilled, and I could slice a couple of turnips and grill them as well.
And of course, there was the Russian kale. This is a new vegetable for me and I was primarily interested in growing it because I liked the picture on the seed packet and the description on the back. When it was very young and very tender, I mixed it with other salad greens. But now it was much bigger and probably to tough to eat raw. I decided to feature it as an appetizer. But I also didn’t want to be cooking once we were all gathered together so however it was prepared would have to be done mostly ahead of time. We could have cheese and crackers while the grill did its thing with the chicken and vegetables, then I could do a quick put together with the kale and plate it in the kitchen to serve on the patio.
Betty has become my right hand in the kitchen—though we’re both left-handed. Or maybe we work well together because we approach things the same way. She teams with me in such a way that she can anticipate what needs to happen next and be there to make it happen. So by the time the grilling was almost finished, we were ready to put the appetizer together and bring it out. The kale had been partially sautéed earlier and could be finished in a minute or so. Then the crostini went on it, topped with a slice of goat cheese brie. A quick zap in the broiler to melt the cheese and throw on a few of the luscious cherry tomatoes and we were ready to bring it out.
Russian kale, crostini topped with goat cheese brie and succulent cherry tomatoes
By the time we finished the appetizer, the chicken and vegetables and the corn were done, ready to put on a big platter and share at the table.
Grilled corn, vegetables and chicken
Betty had made her special spinach salad to augment this feast and then we were ready for the little crème brûlée for dessert and a strong cup of coffee to go with it. This is what I call a dining experience.
Russian Kale Appetizer
2 big bunches Russian kale, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon herb and garlic infused olive oil
Crostini slices, one for each plate
Goat cheese brie slices, one for each plate
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon pine nuts
Wash and trim kale. Stack leaves on cutting board and slice into 1” slices.
In a large frying pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil just until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.
Toss in the kale and stir until it has reduced and become limp and bright green, about 3 minutes. At this point, the kale can be put on hold until almost ready to serve.
Return the kale to medium heat and toss gently with balsamic until tender, about 5 minutes.
Plate the kale and top with a crostini slice, a few pine nuts, and a slice of goat cheese brie.
Put under broiler only to melt the cheese lightly, about 1 minute.
Arrange a few cherry tomatoes around and serve immediately.
Roast Chicken, Vegetables and Corn on the Grill
1 roasting chicken, about 4-5 pounds
Yellow squash, red peppers, sliced turnips
6 ears corn
1 lemon, cut in half
¼ cup garlic and herb infused olive oil
Sea salt, pepper and herbs de Provence to sprinkle
Squeeze juice of lemon over chicken and put squeezed rind in cavity of chicken. Sprinkle chicken with herbs de Provence.
Set grill to 350˚ and place chicken at side of burners, to roast slowly. Close cover of grill to maintain an even temperature while chicken cooks. Brush occasionally with garlic and herb infused olive oil. Turn after 30 minutes to roast second side. Chicken is done when leg wiggles easily, about 1 ½ hours.
About ten minutes before chicken is finished, arrange vegetables and corn on open grill and paint with garlic and herb infused olive oil. Turn to roast evenly.
Carve chicken and arrange on platter with vegetables and corn and serve immediately.
2 cups cream
¾ cup milk
½ cup superfine sugar
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla (I didn’t have a vanilla pod)
5 egg yolks
1 egg white
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
About ½ cup demarara sugar
Bring cream, milk, vanilla, and half the sugar just to a boil (so that it foams just at the edges of the pot).
Whisk together the remaining sugar, egg yolks and egg white. Strain the boiling milk over the egg mixture, whisking well, then stir in the Grand Marnier.
Ladle into 8 ramekins and place in large roasting pan that is half filled with water.
Cook for 1 ½ hours in 230˚ oven or until set in center. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sprinkle demarara sugar over each ramekin and set under broiler to melt the sugar, watching closely to prevent the sugar from scorching. Serve immediately.