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Purple Kale Caesar Salad

kale casear

It was, Sunday, early evening, and we were settling into our seats in the bright 18 Reasons classroom in the Mission. The post-Dolores Park crowd flooded the sidewalks, ice cream or Tecate or fine leather dog leash in hand, peering into the space with curious if not slightly faded eyes. This was my first visit to 18 Reasons, and I was excited to break in my new membership. This wonderful Mission-based non-profit hosts cooking classes, dinners, and community events, funneling the profits into Cooking Matters, a program that teaches culinary skills in low-income communities around the Bay Area.

We sat on wooden benches at equally wooden tables, surrounded by fresh flowers, stacks of cook books, and whimsical paintings of produce hanging on the walls. I’ll spare you the details of what I learned about heritage grains (maybe another time), but the intro of the class went something like this: “First we’ll hear from our first speaker. Blah blah blah blah blah. And then we’ll take a quick salad break before hearing from our next speaker.” A quick salad break?!? Was I dreaming? Alas, I was lucid, and after a most enlightening hour learning about gluten allergies and other lies, we broke for greens.

I soon discovered that this wasn’t just any salad. It was Caesar salad. But not just any Caesar salad. It was Bar Tartine’s recipe for Kale Caesar tossed with Pain Bakery bread-turned-croutons. We guzzled the stuff, which needed no instruction.

Now, I like a good Caesar salad like any good American. I grew up begging my Grandma to make her famous dressing, slathered generously and tossed effusively with crunchy romaine and topped with crumbled garlic croutons. This was the real deal, but I also didn’t discriminate against the creamier bastardized Caesars of the world, which graced my plate many a dining hall repast.

Despite my grandma’s words of encouragement, I never had the gumption to give making the dressing a shot myself. And yet, one bite in to my bowl of salad-break salad and I was hooked. I needed this again, and I needed it soon. I hopped online and found the Bar Tartine recipe, got my butt to the grocery store, and gathered supplies. I was high on a feeling and I didn’t wanna come down.

I made this salad, night after night, until every last anchovy was called for and all the purple kale had been stripped, massaged, and consumed. I made croutons with homemade bread, and brought home a loaf of Pain Bakery’s walnut bread when I ran out of my own stuff. All in all, there were 5 meals of this salad in a row. If that’s not a rave enough review, I don’t know what is.

homemade croutons recipebar tartine caesar

They say “everything in moderation,” but if this salad is good enough to get me to eat raw, purple kale (and love it) that often, I say screw moderation, “everything with salad breaks!”

Though romaine is traditional, I really love the hearty texture and bold flavor of purple kale. It holds its own against the spicy, creamy dressing, which could easily steal the show if you let it. Don’t skimp on the croutons either – you want to toss these into the bowl right out of the skillet, when they’re still sizzling and crunchy with a little give on the inside. Together, these three simple ingredients make killer meal, a hearty side, or even just a reason to take a quick break.

hearty salad recipes

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 6-8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 2 large cloves or 3-4 small cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 thick slices day-old bread (country loaf, sour dough, ciabatta, whatever)
  • More olive oil and salt
  • 1 bunch purple kale
  • Parmesan cheese

Dressing:

  1. In a small food processor, puree the anchovies, garlic, and lemon zest until they form a thick paste.
  2. Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of lemon juice, and blend completely. Dressing should begin to liquefy and emulsify.
  3. In tiny batches, add the olive oil, blending to combine completely before adding more.
  4. Add the rest of the lemon juice and more olive oil in small (but less tiny) batches until you’ve reached the desired thickness. Add extra salt and lemon juice to taste.

Croutons:

  1. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Heat a few generous glugs of olive oil in a skillet until a little bubbly. Add the bread and a little salt. Toss to cover in olive oil and toast, tossing occasionally, until all sides are slightly browned and crispy.

Assembly:

  1. De-stem the kale, tear into small-ish pieces, and rinse. Give the kale a good squeeze to break it down a bit. Add it to the salad bowl.
  2. Add the croutons and dressing, tossing until the kale it nicely coated.
  3. Use a microplane zester to grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top and serve!

Kale Pesto

kale pesto

What do olives, feta, Dolmas, and kale have in common, aside from their Mediterranean origins? Easy – They were all considered utterly repulsive by yours truly, at one point or another. These delicacies have all, gratefully, recovered from their former habitation on my do-not-get-anywhere-near list and have since climbed the ladder into my good, no great, graces.

Kale is a particularly interesting case. I don’t quite know when I hopped on the Kale Caboose (possibly sometime around when this Instagram was taken), but I do know that I jumped aboard like a desperately unpopular hobo afraid of being left behind. If everyone jumps off a bridge, you probably shouldn’t, but if Bon Appetit says you should eat kale, you’d better oblige.

healthy pesto recipe

I started with simply sautéed kale. A bit of lemon and garlic made me nearly forget that what I was eating tasted all too similar to the innards of a lawn mower. I soon learned about massaging the kale! Not only was this green stuff the object of everyone’s affection…now it demanded to be pampered like a self-righteous bachelorette! Yet, like a 6’3 and brawny Swedish woman living full-time in Vegas, I obliged, and massaged the heck out of that damn kale till it was good and tender.

magic bullet recipe

With time, I became fond of my leafy, leathery, and all too trendy captor. I raved (and still dream about) Mei Mei’s Magical Kale Salad and would travel offensive distances for my helping of Sweetgreen’s Kale Caesar. I might have a case of Stockholm syndrome for my dearly beloved kale, but I’m happy being naïve enough to go on loving it.

homemade pesto recipe

This Kale Pesto has been in the making for quite some time. That’s not to say I’ve been tweaking and perfecting multiple batches before sharing with you. No! To be fair and honest, this is the first time I’ve made it. What I mean is, my willingness to potentially defile the great and sacred name of  “pesto” with a potentially malicious and bitter vegetable was no small accomplishment. It took a lot of gumption to get where I am today, but I am proud to say that Kale Pesto is actually, really and truly, good eats.

pantry raid

Now, when you make this – and I really hope you make this – don’t expect it to come out like pesto of the basil variety, because it won’t. This stuff is intense. Good intense! This pesto forgoes the stubborn texture of the raw leaves for the silky, rich, and entirely pungent flavors within. It’s sharp and green-tasting in the best way, and blends flawlessly with potent parmesan, citrusy Meyer lemon, and earthy pine nuts. It’s all brought together in harmony by the olive oil, which makes everything silky and whole.

magic bullet pestopine nuts and kale

Like traditional pesto, its uses are rather diverse. In the few days that it’s been in the fridge, I’ve mixed it with gnocchi, tossed it with salad, smeared it on crackers, and fluffed it into couscous. I can imagine it would also be delightful on turkey sandwiches, with over easy eggs, or with sautéed summer veggies. Unlike kale’s rather rigid posture, this pesto is malleable in every which way.

healthy pasta sauce

And, while traditional pesto will usually cost you an obnoxious amount of money for fresh basil, this recipe calls for less than a bunch of kale, leaving plenty of leaves left over for Swedish massages, should you be so inclined.

Ingredients

  • 8 leaves of your favorite kale (I used Dinosaur from my garden)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (But not the pre-shredded kind. C’mon!)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (Use Meyer lemon for a sweet touch)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt to taste.

1. Tear kale into pieces, removing the stiff stems.

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or super-awesome blender. Pulse until combined. You may need to use a spatula to coax ingredients together every so often. Add more olive oil if mixture is too thick. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, where the flavors will magically meld together.

Swiss Chard Mélange + VT Life Lessons

swiss chard melange

Spring Break is usually a week of reckless behavior and liver abuse at the beach/in a pool/atop a roof, wearing no more than a bikini and, maybe, a crop top. That is, unless you’re me.

I spent my break in tropical Burlington, VT.  And yes, this was by choice. I figured that I might not be sticking around New England for much longer, so I took some time to check out a town that’s been on my to-do list for some time now.

I didn’t exactly return home with a sunburn or a damaged liver, but I did bring back some important life lessons:

1. Everything tastes better with maple, especially lattes. The Chubby Muffin is a cute little café serving up sweet and savory pastries and strong coffee. I tried mine with maple syrup instead of sugar and boy, was I impressed. Later, at Muddy Waters, a café that feels more like a forest bungalow, I indulged in the Maple Latte. Maple syrup is steamed with the milk and then added to bold espresso for a mug of sweet, sweet perfection.

2. The world’s smartest (and dumbest) people work at Ben & Jerry’s. It wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. We took a tour with other likeminded sweet tooths (mostly under the age of ten) and saw behind the scenes. While looking down over the factory, we witnessed a huge spill that resulted in what looked like gallons of cream covering the entire factory floor. This was easily forgotten  with the help of the banana & cinnamon ice cream with chocolate chunks and caramel swirl that we sampled at the tour’s end. I’d like to hug the genius who came up with this combo.

ben and jerrys factory  secret ben and jerrys flavorben and jerrys

3. Beer is awesome. Okay, I already knew that, but Vermont beer is really awesome. I tried Switchback at Radio Bean, a funky venue/bar where I witnessed a 16-person band lie on the floor mid-performance. We also visited the Magic Hat brewery, where I sampled the Belgo Sutra, a dark Belgian Quad brewed with figs and dates. Yes, I said figs and dates.

magic hatradio bean

4. Cheddar should only be consumed after two years of aging. Shelburne Farms is a popular Burlington destination during the warmer months. Though it’s not open to the public at the moment, I did get to chat with a Shelburne cheese maker, who was slicing samples inside Burlington’s food co-op. I took home a hunk of 2 year aged cheddar that has changed me forever.

5. Swiss chard needs to become a staple in my diet. I’ve always been on Team Kale, but I couldn’t pass up the local Swiss Chard on sale at the co-op. And, just like that, I’ve officially converted to the dark (and leafy green) side. I whipped up the below recipe with my Burlington souvenir. It was the perfect healthy meal after a weekend of beer and Lake Champlain Chocolate.

sauteed swiss chard

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced/torn Swiss chard
  • 1 thick cross section of a large yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken sausage, sliced (Trader Joe’s does it best)
  • ½ cup yellow quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • White vinegar
  • Black pepper

1. Place quinoa and one cup of water in a small pot over medium heat. Simmer until all the water has absorbed, about 15 minutes.
2. Boil some water in another pot.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until just beginning to brown. Add sausage and cook until crispy on the edges. Add chard and sauté for about two minutes, until greens are soft and wilted.
4. Turn heat off and add quinoa to skillet, folding to combine.
5. Add a bit of vinegar to the pot of boiling water and poach each egg individually.
6. Serve in a bowl, topped with poached egg and freshly ground black pepper.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

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Brussels sprouts have recently joined the ranks of “trendy” vegetables alongside kale, chard, and farro. However, while (until recently) hardly anyone had even heard of kale and barely knew farro was edible, Brussels sprouts have been a staple in American homes, alongside meatloaf and casseroles, for eons.

Older generations tell frightening tales of the bitter miniature cabbage heads that kept them captive at the dinner table until there was nothing left on their plates  (or they fed the rest to the dog). I was lucky enough to never have been subjected to such torture (thanks mom and dad!). I was, however, forced to try all sorts of new age stuff like eel and fried crickets (no thanks, dad). Instead, the Brussels sprouts of my childhood were the purple pieces of lettuce found in spring salad mixes. Not too sure why I hated them so, as purple was my favorite color and I failed multiple blind taste tests with other types of lettuce, but I’d leave behind a neat little pile of purple lettuce on every plate. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t a fan either.

Because I was never force fed Brussels sprouts, I wasn’t nearly as frightened as my grandmother expected when she introduced me to her new-school take on those old-school veggies. She even had to stop me from eating too many, and in typical Jewish relative fashion, explained the side effects of overloading on fiber. I’ll leave the rest of that conversation to your imagination.

I was pretty impressed when Grandma threw these little suckers together. Though she’s an amazing cook (my personal Julia Childs) she’s famous for her more traditional recipes like Caesar dressing (I’ll never tell!) and lentil stew (drooling at the thought). When I made her recipe on my own, I added brown sugar to help the sprouts really caramelize.

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These Brussels sprouts are hassle free and will send your taste buds into shock when you realize that the fearsome specimens can actually taste…good! By coating the sprouts in a combination of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and olive oil and baking at a high temp, the outside leaves crisp up and become sweet and acidic. Pair that with the sea salt and you’ll almost forget you’re eating something healthy! The results are tender in the middle, crunchy on the outside half-sprouts (you’ll cut them in half so they cook more quickly) that taste like smoky, caramely, bites of heaven.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut down the middle (from top to bottom)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 pinches sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 400’ F

2. Place halved sprouts in a mixing bowl, add olive oil, balsamic, and brown sugar. Toss to coat.

3. Arrange Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping sprouts after 15 minutes.

5. Once the outsides of the sprouts are caramelized and sticky and the inside is soft, remove from oven and serve.

 

Spicy Arugula Salad

spicysaladaboveshot

With finals rolling around, all of us college kids are going a little stir crazy, so it’s nice to get back to basics. For some, this means junk food and caffeine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of salt & vinegar chips and Starbucks Doubleshots, but last night, I decided to relax my frazzled brain by reminding myself of a time when things were a little less crazy. Exactly one year ago, I was saying goodbye to Rome, where I had been living it up for five months. Nearly half a year filled with daily (okay, hourly) gelato runs and the best cheap wine ever is hard to give up, but I reluctantly boarded the plane that took me away from my European life and back to my American one.

Well, coming back was a bit of a shock. Food tasted weird and the “gelato” was crap, not to mention the whole English language thing. I distinctly remember one of my first dinners back at home in Los Angeles, as it was one of my standby favorites: Homemade pesto and pancetta pizza with arugula salad. The pancetta tasted flavorless and the arugula was, for lack of a better word, flaccid.

Back in Rome, arugula, or, rucola, is picked when it was young, crunchy, and full of spice. It tastes peppery and the little stems have the perfect bite. The miniature leaves were hard to get onto the fork because they were so sturdy. Like perfectly al dente pasta, as I learned, the leaves came alive off the plate instead of wilting into each other. Now, you all know how much I love Trader Joe’s, but my arugula obsession was hastily thwarted by their measly excuse for leafy greens.

I swore off the stuff for a while, until I recently discovered that my local corporate grocery store, Shaws, sells “baby” arugula. I don’t have the Roman stuff to compare it with, but let me tell you, this stuff is good. It’s got the peppery kick I missed and comes in a plastic box, just like it did back in Roma.

One of my favorite meals to make back in my via Nomentana apartment, just outside the city, was a simple one: rucola, fresh cherry tomatoes from my vegetable guy on the corner, sautéed chicken breast, and goat cheese (when I could get my hands on it). It sounds simple, but one of the best lessons I learned in Rome (other than not to walk down dark streets alone at night) is that the best meals involve very few but very high quality ingredients. I spent many nights in Rome with a big spicy arugula salad, a glass of wine (or two), and good book, worrying not about meetings, work, or any other stressors that fill my brain today.

With one too many Kettle Chips in my system and an obnoxious end-of-semester to-do list, I was more than thrilled to re-create my go-to Roman dinner, complete with crunchy, spicy arugula. The recipe is simple, and as long as you avoid limp arugula, you’re golden. Feel free to add some fancy stuff to the salad like sliced grapes, candied walnuts, or homemade breadcrumbs. Just make sure that whatever you do, you relax. It’s so easy to get caught up in our crazy lives, but it’s important to get back to basics and bask in the glory of delicious, fresh foods. Don’t worry, the salt & vinegar chips aren’t going anywhere.

Makes one serving

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper (like cayenne)
  • 2-3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 small handful cherry tomatoes
  • Goat cheese to taste
  • ½ lemon
  • More olive oil for drizzling

1. Using a microplane zester or a sharp knife, zest or mince garlic.

2. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.

3. Add chicken breast to skillet and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Flip and repeat. Sauté for about six minutes, until thoroughly cooked, flipping occasionally.

4. Slice tomatoes in half.

5. Place arugula and tomatoes on a large plate.

6. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over salad, tossing to coat salad with dressing.

7. Crumble goat cheese over salad.

8. Place chicken breast, unsliced, on top of salad, discarding burned garlic bits.

9. (Optional) Enjoy with a good book or magazine. My pick is naturally Bon Appétit.

spicysalad

P.S. Here are a few Pantry Raid approved arugula purveyors that you’ll find at the grocery store.

Creamy Argentinian Shrimp Pappardelle

I love Trader Joe’s. There, I said it. Trader Ming, Trader Jose, Trader Giotto. Every. Single. One of ‘em. It’s almost creepy how devoted I am. Just last night, I was at a party when my favorite topic, food (surprise, surprise!) came up. Somehow, the conversation shifted toward my grocery store of choice. Poor, unsuspecting Eric (name has been changed to protect his identity from harassment by other TJ’s extremists) stated, “Trader Joe’s sucks.” This kid didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

Trader Joe’s is the best grocery store there is. Somehow they’ve managed to make stocking up on perishables and boxes of rice the most fun, interactive event of one’s day (or at least mine). Not only is everything dirt cheap, but this mysterious Joe dude is constantly concocting new and unusual products (i.e. falafel chips, chocolate covered pomegranate seeds, etc). Every excursion to Trader Joe’s feels like an adventure and any trip to competing super markets consequently feels dull. There’s just enough variety at Trader Joe’s to mix things up, but unlike madhouses like Shaw’s and Ralph’s, you don’t feel lost in aisle after aisle of frozen personal dinners and every brand of bread ever created. Nor are there any of those fluorescent lights that make you feel like you’re a mouse in a science fair experiment, with pupils dilated, as you scurry about frantically considering which kind of orange juice to buy. Trader Joe’s is simple and beautiful. Did you know that there are actual people who work for Trader Joe’s as sign painters? Since when does a grocery store care about art?! Since Trader Joe’s, that’s when.

Back when I was a wee little one, most of my family’s groceries came from TJ’s. I spent my younger years consuming orange chicken, Pasadena Salads, and Tofuti Cuties (before TJ’s made their own, less delicious version called Soy Creamies. Not your best, Joe). Whenever we’d need a special ingredient that Trader Joe’s didn’t have in stock, we’d go to Ralph’s or Gelson’s or Von’s to pick it up. All of a sudden, nostalgic memories of Ritz Crackers, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Jiff Peanut Butter would flood my brain. My mouth would water, and my dad, as vulnerable as I, would toss everything into the basket. The bliss was always short lived. The next week, we’d be back at TJ’s stocking up on mochi and nineteen-cent bananas.

Now, I do all my own grocery shopping, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Sorry Mom and Dad, I’m getting two desserts this time, and you can’t stop me. Usually, I go to the giant Mecca that is the Brookline Trader Joe’s with a list prepared. It usually looks something like this: “eggs, spinach, snacks, arugula, treats, lunch, Tigers Milk bars, rice pilaf” plus whatever Bon Appétit/Smitten Kitchen recipes I’ve decided to take on that week. Usually, I leave with all these things, plus a bunch of other stuff to which I couldn’t say no.

The other day, however, I wandered into Trader Joe’s with Matt. I had my usual vague list in hand, but we needed dinner, and I hadn’t gotten that far. We wandered and wandered, which wasn’t ideal since it was TJ’s rush hour and supplies were running out fast. What we came up with is the recipe below. It’s refreshing but hearty, so it’s a year-round palate pleaser.

The Argentinean shrimp, which tastes more like rich lobster than actual shrimp, is hard to come by at TJ’s because it’s so popular. Make sure to stock up on a few bags next time you make a visit. The Kaleidoscope Chard is colorful and sweet, which goes well with the tangy lemon. The goat cheese ties it all together with creaminess that puts alfredo to shame.

The best part about this meal is that all ingredients come from the happiest place on earth. Don’t believe me? If you’re like our friend Eric, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Ingredients: (serves 2-3 people)
·      Salt
·      Egg Pappardelle Pasta
·      6 tablespoons Olive Oil
·      5 cloves garlic, sliced
·      3 cups Kaleidoscope Chard
·      1 bag Argentinean Shrimp
·      Freshly ground black pepper
·      2 Lemons
·      Goat cheese to taste

1. Boil salted water and add pasta.
2. In a deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once oil is shiny, add half of sliced garlic. Add chard and mix to coat in oil. Cover skillet and let chard sauté on low heat for 10 minutes, using tongs to turn and mix every couple minutes.
3. Heat other 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet. Once pasta and chard are almost ready (about 8 minutes for both), add rest of garlic to the second skillet. Add defrosted shrimp to skillet and lay each one flat. Then add black pepper and juice of one lemon to shrimp and flip after 1 minute. Cook on second side for 1 minute more and reduce heat to very low.
4. Add drained pasta and sautéed chard to shrimp skillet. Toss with tongs. Add juice of one lemon while mixing. Add a dash more olive oil if pasta seems dry.
5. Crumble in goat cheese, toss, and serve immediately.

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