Sautéed Kale and Fresh Mozzarella on Toast

Last Sunday, as I struggled to cram a loaf of bread into the overflowing freezer, and fit the weekend's dinner party leftovers into a fridge full of wilting greens and cheese ends, I decided that this HAD to be a week of leftovers.   I'm not going to lie, this takes dedication and discipline for me.   Planning meals and trying new recipes is a major hobby of mine and I enjoy being inspired by what I find at my local markets. Defrosting meatballs or a curry I made whenever the date scrawled on the bag tells me I made it, never seems nearly as exciting as making and eating something new and freshly made.  But when dinnertime rolls around on a leftovers night, things do tend to be less hectic,  I have more time with the kids and less time in the kitchen, everybody is still well fed, and I am relieved to know that the lovely food I made weeks, or months ago is having a second life.   Motivated by these past few days of eating leftovers, I'm going to take a full inventory of the freezer this weekend so that hopefully when spring rolls around we won't be stuck with a freezer full of unseasonable stews and soups.  

I find the freezer is a much easier beast to tame than the fridge.  More often than I'd care to admit, wilted, slimy greens and little chunks of fuzzy cheese meet their fate on garbage day.   Sometimes I victoriously involve them in a meal preparation, but it's far more likely that  I will miss the window before they're past the point of no return.  Not this week though!  This week, those sad little bits and bobs inspired me to make one of the most delicious pieces of toast I've ever eaten.   I took my slightly droopy kale, sautéed it with some garlic and olive oil then I put it on a slice of multigrain sourdough bread (from Prairie Boy Bread) and topped it off with some chopped artichokes, a bit of burratta cheese and popped it under the broiler.  It took me less than 10 minutes and, in my humble opinion, it was a restaurant calibre meal.  If you're not familiar with burratta, it's a cream filled fresh mozzarella cheese that is truly decadent and delicious.  I buy it at the Santa Lucia cheese outlet here in Toronto (where the prices are amazing and you can buy hot, fresh ricotta!).  But you could easily use another cheese -  fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta, brie or a little chunk of whatever is in your fridge.  You could also use spinach, chard or whatever you have on hand in place of the kale.  The real point here,  is to take stock of the fridge and figure out how to eat things before they turn into garbage.  

(a.k.a. Not Garbage Toast) 

1 bunch of kale (if it's starting to wilt you can revive it with a 5 minute soak in tepid water)
1 clove thinly sliced garlic
a pinch of dried red chilis
1 tbsp olive oil
4 slices of fresh mozzarella or burratta cheese (or any other soft cheese you need to get rid of)
Good quality bread  (preferably sourdough, multigrain)

Turn your oven on to broil and turn on your kettle.  Remove the thick ribs from the kale leaves and put into a pot large enough to hold and cover with boiled water.  Once your water has boiled pour over the kale, add some salt and give everything a stir.  Leave for 2 minutes or until bright green.  Drain, squeeze out excess moisture and roughly chop into bite sized  bits.

Put olive oil on a medium frying pan.  Add sliced garlic and chilis to the pan and sauté until just golden, about 30 seconds.  Add chopped kale to the pan and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until warmed through and soft.   You could do this ahead and keep the kale in fridge for 3 or 4 days, reheating as needed.  

Toast 2 large slices of bread (or 4 small) and spread with butter or drizzle with olive oil.  Pile kale onto the toast and top with 2 or 3 slices of cheese.  Broil for a few minutes, until cheese is just melted.  

I added some chopped, oil packed artichokes which were delicious.  I think roasted tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, olives or smear of pesto would also work well.  You could also toss some shallots or thinly sliced onion into the pan to soften, before adding the kale.  

For an appetizer version, you could serve this on thinly sliced baguette crostini.  You could also omit the cheese entirely and it would still be delicious.   

Serves 2  (with enough kale to serve 4 or use another time) 

** This weeks leftover mission reminded me of a delicious recipe for fromage fort that I  made from Smitten Kitchen years ago.   Chuck all of your random cheese ends into the food processor and make a delicious spread.  Grab a baguette and, you're done.  

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last Friday my kids were home from school and I was looking for a short and sweet activity to do with them,  so I suggested we bake cookies.   Some of my loveliest childhood memories involve baking with my Mum, so for me baking with my kids is an essential family ritual.    As we were measuring out the ingredients, I noticed that the whole wheat flour had a sour, rancid smell.  I like to buy my flour at our local farmers market and if I don't use it within a few months it tends to go bad, unless I keep it in the freezer.  Most of the time, I use it quickly enough, but this time I lost a good three cups.   Children (at least mine) are not great at managing disappointment so I had to find a quick substitution.   I opted for some more recently purchased sprouted spelt flour, hoping that it wouldn't compromise taste and texture too much.  Thankfully they turned out every bit as delicious as the whole wheat version, and also stayed fresh for the two days it took us to eat every last chewy, chocolately bite.  

I don't typically eat chocolate chip cookies for my health and I think it's entirely unethical to offer someone a homemade chocolate chip cookie that's dry, grainy  and tastes like something intended to resolve a digestive "back-up".  So why bother making chocolate chip cookies with 100% whole wheat flour?  Because as Kim Boyce, renowned Chicago-based pastry chef and creator of this recipe says "It's surprising just how delicious this whole-wheat version of an old classic is"  This recipe is truly delicious. It meets all of the criteria for the perfect cookie - soft, chewy and full of chocolate with a subtle nuttiness provided by the whole grain flour.  The slightly improved nutritional profile is just an added bonus!  The cookies maintain their softness for few days in an airtight container, which is also a major selling point for a whole grain baked good.  I was happy to see this recipe included in my recently purchased copy of Food 52's  Genius Recipes:  100 Recipes That will Change the Way You Cook  because when I first made them a few years ago out of Kim Boyce's book Good to the Grain  they most definitely made me feel like a cookie genius and changed the way that I bake cookies.  

From Good to the Grain:  Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce
3 cups whole wheat flour (or spelt)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated or organic cane sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1.5 cups semisweet chocolate chips (the recipe actually calls for 8 oz roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with parchment.
2.  Sift the four, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl, pouring back any bits of grain.
3.  Mix butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes or until just blended.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla .  Add the flour mixture and blend on low until just combined, about 30 seconds.    Mix in the chocolate and stir until combined.  The recipe suggests you use your hands.  I just use a wooden spoon.
4.  Scoop out mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto baking sheets, leaving 3 inches between them or about 6 cookies to a sheet. (see note)
5.  Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets half way through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown.  Transfer the cookies still on the parchment paper, to the counter to cool and repeat with remaining dough.  

Note:  I've made these  as 1 tbsp size and one dozen cookies to a sheet and it also works fine.  The bigger size is obviously more decadent and the texture is slightly better.  

Makes 16 to 20 large cookies or 3 to 4 dozen smaller cookies