take a gander at gooseberries

another highly enjoyable weekend in vermont has come to a close. and once again there was no shortage of activity both in the kitchen and out. the garden is thriving, despite the heat wave, with a nice crop of yellow wax beans, a handful of fava beans, some cherry tomatoes, and plenty of spicy asian greens, lettuce, and arugula. even the bees were busy!

this weekend everyone was in the mood for a little grilling, and my mom found some savory rabbit sausages at the walpole grocery in walpole, nh. we had the meat, we just needed the rest of the meal. sam sifton’s article on biscuits this week helped steer us in a southern direction, so in addition to biscuits we added some braised kale. the only thing left to make was some kind of sauce that would compliment the sausages and give us something to dip our biscuits in.

conveniently, we had a pint of red gooseberries lying around that my dad had picked up during the week. gooseberries are an underappreciated summer fruit that look–and taste–like a cross between a cranberry and a grape. They’re a little sour for eating alone, but perfect for any kind of cooked preparation, with a bit of a sugary assist.

i considered making a crisp or jam with the gooseberries, but we had already baked a blueberry-peach pie the night before, so the last thing we needed was more dessert! however, the tart flavor of gooseberries also makes them a wonderful addition to many savory dishes. my trusty copy of the new best recipe pointed the way, and i made some changes to their cranberry-onion confit recipe to create a gooseberry-onion confit. the entire meal was a hit — the sausages were excellent, the biscuits light and flaky, the kale tender, and the gooseberry-onion confit sweet and sour and delicious!

gooseberry-onion confit

serves 6 as a condiment

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 pint red or green gooseberries, de-stemmed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper, ground

1. heat the butter in a large, heavy (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium-low heat. add the onions, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent, about 25 minutes.

2. add the sugar to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 15 minutes.

3. add the remaining ingredients to the pan and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the confit achieves a jam-like consistency.

4. the confit can be served hot or room-temperature, or stored in the fridge for a week.

besides adding a beautiful deep green color to the whole plate that complements the red hues of the confit, the kale adds a hint of earthy flavor and ensures that you get some important nutrients, specifically vitamins A, C, and K. since kale often goes well with vinegar, and since the confit was so delicious and slightly vinegary, i thought i would go ahead and add a spoonful of the confit to the braising kale. the result was a deeply flavored kale with wonderful sweet and sour notes.

braised kale

serves 6

1 large bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tbps olive oil

1/8 cup water

1 tbsp gooseberry-onion confit (above)

salt & pepper to taste

1. heat olive oil  in a large, heavy (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium-low heat. add the onions, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

2. add the confit and stir to mix. then add the kale, and cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. add the water and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leaves are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. season to taste before serving.

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