Monday, December 13, 2010

My Dirty Little Secret

I write a food, cooking and gardening blog, and I have a confession to make: I haven’t had a working oven in nearly three years.

Yes, count them, three. And I’m being generous. There were times I could get the oven to work and once I did, it would pretty much heat on command for a few months at a time. “Mommy can fix anything” is the mantra around the house. Mercifully, it worked fairly consistently last winter. That was truly a case of Christmas magic.

But come spring, I’m “all about the grill.” And now you know why.

Now you also know why in a few past entries, you might catch a glimpse of my daughter in the background making little snowmen on the outdoor table while Mommy mans the grill in the middle of winter. Sure, food (both savory & sweet) tastes great from the grill any time of year, but I think I was in denial and just didn’t want to deal with the stove issue.

It died with no chance of resuscitation at the beginning of this year. There was only slight oven ignition, no hear generated and a gas smell in March, then a dead front burner by the end of the summer.

This relic came with the house when we bought it in 2002. The pokey little kitchen had been redone, at least refaced, a few years prior and had a new white sink and white GE Profile dishwasher, the quietest thing you’ve (n)ever heard run. We bought a white GE refrigerator upon moving in, because the seller took hers. But the black-bodied, white-enamel-topped Caloric gas range with a six-inch pyramid back and a clock that “flipped” its numbers as the minutes passed remained.

Why would anyone remodel a kitchen in white and keep a food-encrusted beginning-to-rust black clunker as the centerpiece of the room? Why did I all these years? Self-cleaning, it said. The latch never latched, so I’d go the Easy-Off route, although there was no enamel finish and nothing came off easily.

So I took the plunge and the expense only to ask now, “Why, Why, WHY did I wait so long??!!??”

I went with a gleaming GE slide-in range. It’s clean, white and shiny with slate gray continuous grates, a TrueTemp oven, power boil and precise simmer burners and a brand new flexible gas line. . . George Clooney be damned! This is a housewife’s wet dream!

And believe you me, I plan on giving it a workout that would make Mr. Clooney blush. Stay tuned.

Swiss Chard for Broccoli Rabe

Remember being charded-out last year? We’re not quite at that point, but these greens have made their way into lentil dishes, pasta dinners and numerous steamed or sautéed sides. I’ve also been doing “the swap” – changing out the spinach in pasta with spinach and white beans with Swiss chard, like last year and, finally, for broccoli rabe in that classic prep with sweet sausage.

The dish worked. Another plus was that the chard did not need to be blanched and rinsed before cooking, like the broccoli rabe would.

While broccoli rabe does have a distinct flavor that can’t quite be matched by anything, the end result using the chard was quite tasty. I think the sausage and extra garlic helped, but in the end I added cannelini beans (a household staple and favorite) and tossed it together with mezzi rigatoni. Without the pasta, it’s a very good side dish. But the beans and rigatoni stretched it into two meals.

Swiss Chard (or Broccoli Rabe) with Sweet Sausage

Two large bunches of Swiss chard or broccoli rabe, stems chopped and leaves cut into ribbons
A long link of sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
Thick slice of sweet onion, rough-chopped
2 large cloves garlic, sliced thin; three cloves if that’s what you’re after
1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed (optional)
1 T. flour
4 T. good olive oil
Salt & a lot of cracked black Pepper
¼ C. white wine
¼ C. chicken broth
Wedge of Lemon

½ Lb. pasta, your choice of shape, if using.

Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan fitted with a lid. Add the sausage and break it up in the pan. Sauté until nearly browned. Add the garlic and the onions and sweat them until softened. Sprinkle the flour and sauté until well-integrated and lightly golden, about 2 minutes.

Add the beans if using, a very generous amount of black pepper, stir to coat. Add your wine and broth, stir and scrape; it will thicken. Add your greens and salt. Stir to integrate. Lower your flame to low and cover with lid. Allow to cook together for at least 5 minutes. Test for desired doneness.

Blend all together and toss in your pasta, adding pasta water if necessary. Test, re-season, and finish with the juice of your lemon wedge, a glistening drizzle of olive oil & serve.