Attention Foodies: Slow Food Bluegrass & Vegetable Literacy Comes To Louisville

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 Vegetable Literacy, Deborah Madison’s latest offering, is so much more than a traditional cookbook.  It is a literary dinner party, inviting us to join the seemingly different yet distinctly similar members of 12 families of the Plant Kingdom.  This comprehensive look at the Plant Kingdom’s family tree is broken into 12 chapters, each one an introduction to the members of this family, their general likes and dislikes, and a host of unique, delicious and approachable recipes, a beautiful demonstration of that family’s harmonious nature.  I dug into Vegetable Literacy hungrily, pouring over the tale of each family, my vision of the vegetable world growing and becoming more complex with every chapter.  This was my style of cooking and I couldn’t wait to try my hand at each and every recipe.  Deborah Madison had been on my mind for some time now.
To say my fellow Slow Food Bluegrass Board Members and I were excited when Deborah accepted our invitation to come to Louisville would be a gross understatement. Arriving September 11th, 2013 in Louisville, the festivities will kick off with a book signing at Rainbow Blossom and will culminate in a Seed to Stove dinner on September 12th, where Deborah will join eight of Louisville’s best female Chef’s for a culinary evening to benefit the Slow Food Bluegrass School Garden Grant .  Tickets may be purchased here and seating is very limited so make sure to sign up today.  Need more convincing?  My current obsession with Swiss Chard lead me to Deborah’s recipe for Chard, Ricotta & Saffron Cakes, a fantastic tribute to Chard and its place in the Goosefoot and Amaranth family.  Follow along for a gorgeous and tasty breakdown of these bite-sized, savory-cakes.  They are a very small example of what is to come on September 12th, when you have the distinct opportunity to sit down and share a meal with the Queen of Vegetables herself, Deborah Madison.

 

Swiss chard is my new favorite green.  The leaves are so hardy and rich and they offer up wonderful texture and flavor to pastas, soups or as a stand-alone side dish.  My current chard obsession lead me directly to the Goosefoot and Amaranth Chapter of Vegetable Literacy and I was delighted to find Deborah’s creative use for his colorful edible.

Begin by trimming the leaves away from the thick, brightly-hued stems of the chard.  Place the leaves in a colander and rinse with cold water.

Move the damp leaves to a large pot, water droplets still visible.  It is important that the leaves remain wet as you will want just enough moisture to steam the leaves gently.  Cover and place on the stove over medium-high heat, cooking until wilted.  Keep a close eye on the pan to make sure it does not become to dry.  Do not hesitate to add a tablespoon or two of water, if necessary.  My chard steamed to a perfect wilt in four minutes.  Remove the greens back to the colander and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prep the saffron by soaking it in two tbs of boiling water.  Allow to steep and set aside.

Now for the base of the batter: using two separate bowls, arrange your dry and wet ingredients.  Starting with the dry, combine one cup white whole wheat pastry flour, one tsp salt (Deborah recommends sea salt), and one and one half tsp baking powder.  Mix until well blended.  Moving to the wet ingredients, place one cup whole milk ricotta cheese, one third cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, three quarters cup milk and two eggs.  Mix until smooth.

Add three tbs of olive oil (or ghee) along with the saffron (including the water) to the ricotta mixture and whisk.  Once smooth, slowly add the flour, whisking well until all the flour is blended in and the batter is smooth.

Turning back to the chard, place the greens in a clean dishtowel and squeeze, removing as much water as possible.  Chop well and stir the chard into the batter.

Using a large skillet, warm three tbs of olive oil (or ghee) over medium heat.  The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan.  You want a very thin layer of oil, enough to create a nice crust and keep the cake from sticking, but not enough to make for a greasy mess.

Using a large dinner spoon, add dollops of the batter into the pan.  Cook for three minutes and then flip, cooking for three minutes on the other side.  Deborah cautions readers to ‘resist any urge to pat them down’.  The batter is very thick and, unlike a traditional pancake, will not bubble on the uncooked top, letting you know it is time to turn to the other side.  Three minutes per side was the perfect amount of time for a lovely crust to develop, the interior cooked through while remaining delicate.  Top the cakes with sour cream and fresh herbs.  I recommend micro-basil (used here) or freshly chopped basil or parsley.  Serve immediately.
As delicious as they are elegant, these mini cakes will pair perfectly with pre-dinner cocktails – I recommend a nice bubbly.  Try your hand at this recipe and explore the plethora of plant-based offerings Deborah offers up in Vegetable Literacy.  Click here to secure your seat at the Seed to Stove dinner on 9/12 – tickets are selling fast and I can’t wait to toast Deborah Madison with you!

Deborah Madison’s Chard, Ricotta & Saffron Cakes
Makes 12 Three-Inch Cakes

  • 10 to 12 cups trimmed Swiss chard leaves
  • two pinches of saffron threads
  • one cup white whole wheat pastry flour
  • one tsp sea salt
  • one and one half tsp baking powder
  • one cup ricotta cheese
  • one third cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • three quarters cup milk
  • two eggs
  • three tbs olive oil or ghee, plus additional for frying
  • sour cream for garnish
  • micro-basil or freshly chopped basil or parsley for garnish
Begin by trimming the leaves away from the thick, brightly-hued stems of the chard.  Place the leaves in a colander a rinse and clean with cold water.
Move the damp leaves to a large pot, water droplets still visible.  It is important that the leaves remain wet as you will want just enough moisture to steam the leaves gently.  Cover and place on the stove over medium-high heat, cooking until wilted.  Keep a close eye on the pan to make sure it does not become to dry.  Dot not hesitate to add a tablespoon or two of water, if necessary.  My chard steamed to a perfect wilt in four minutes.  Remove the greens back to the colander and set aside to cool.
Prep the saffron by soaking it in two tbs of boiling water.  Allow to steam and set aside.

Now for the base of the batter: using two separate bowls, arrange your dry and wet ingredients.  Starting with the dry, combine one cup white whole wheat pastry flour, one tsp salt (Deborah recommends sea salt), and one and one half tsp baking powder.  Mix until well blended.  Moving to the wet ingredients, place one cup whole milk ricotta cheese, one third cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, three quarters cup milk and two eggs.  Mix until smooth.
Add three tbs of olive oil (or ghee) along with the saffron (including the water) to the ricotta mixture and whisk.  Once smooth, slowly add the flour, whisking well until all the flour is blended in and the batter is smooth.
Turning back to the chard, place the greens in a clean dishtowel and squeeze, removing as much water as possible.  Chop well and stir the chard into the batter.
Using a large skillet, warm three tbs of olive oil (or ghee) over medium heat.  The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan.  You want a very thin layer of oil, enough to create a nice crust and keep the cake from sticking but not enough to make for a greasy mess.
Using a large dinner spoon, add dollops of the batter into the pan.  Cook for three minutes and then flip, cooking for three minutes on the other side.  Deborah cautions readers to ‘resist any urge to pat them down’.  The batter is very thick and, unlike a traditional pancake, will not bubble on the uncooked top, letting you know it is time to turn to the other side.  Three minutes per side was the perfect amount of time for a lovely crust to develop, the interior cooked through while remaining delicate.  Top the cakes with sour cream and fresh herbs.  I recommend micro-basil (used here) or freshly chopped basil or parsley.  Serve immediately.