Tangy Kale Salad With Dates & Toasted Nuts

This salad has become my go-to work lunch lately. It’s fast to prepare—you don’t even need to dirty a knife—it takes on additions well (sometimes I add garlic or anchovies), and it’s filling enough to hold me through the day.

I often switch out the toasted nuts for whatever I have on hand (walnuts, sliced almonds, slivered almonds, etc.). The only important part is that you toast the nuts. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes in a skillet on medium low until they change color a bit and they start to smell delightful. Oh, and if you do decide to use minced garlic, go with half a clove—for the sake of your coworkers.

Ingredients

1/2 bundle of curly kale

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar (I like white)

10 or so toasted nuts (walnuts, sliced or slivered almonds, etc.)

5 pitted dates

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Method

Take the kale bundle and use your fingers to tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Put all the pieces in a to-go container or the bowl you’ll be using.

Add the oil and massage it into the leaves with your fingers, then do the same with the vinegar. Do one tablespoon, mix, then the other.

Add the nuts (feel free to add beans here for more protein if you like), and then tear the dates into pieces and toss them into the mixture as well. Season aggressively with salt and pepper and let it marinate for a few hours if you can.

What’s your go-to packable lunch?

2 Recipes: California Breakfast Pudding & Sriracha Broccoli With Honey Butter

I thought I’d give you two recipes this morning, since I was feeling indecisive about which recipe to blog. Enjoy!

California Morning Pudding

Adapted from Food and Wine, specifically by Grace Parisi

Have you had chia seeds yet? They’re sort of the kale chips of the online food world right now;­­­ they seem seem to be everywhere. Given their health properties (hello, fiber, protein and omega 3s), rich history and interesting texture, they were bound to show up in my cooking rotation eventually. The seeds become boba or tapioca-like when soaked in liquid (in fact, some just sip them in water as a refreshing drink), but more importantly, they give me an excuse to eat pudding for breakfast.

I call this California Morning Pudding because its toppings: dates, oranges and almonds, are all from my home state. Their contribution to the dish is a layer of acerbic sweetness, which is the just the right way to be woken up on a cold winter morning. Oh, and I hate to oversell you new ingredients here, but Cara Cara oranges are another thing you should seek out if you ever get the chance. They’re the less bitter cousin of grapefruit, who has still inherited that same gorgeous blush.

Ingredients

2 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk

½ cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons of honey

3 Medjool dates, pitted and torn into pieces

1 Cara Cara orange, peeled and sliced (you can sub grapefruit or any other orange)

6 or 7 almonds

Method

Mix together the first 3 ingredients in a quart container (I used a leftover yogurt container). Shake or stir the mixture, cover and let it sit in your refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, give the mixture a good stir. Spoon about a cup or so of the pudding into a bowl and top with the dates, oranges and almonds. The leftover pudding will last for a week.

Broccoli With Sriracha Honey Butter and Toasted Sesame Seeds

I’ve been working from my pantry a lot lately. And if this is “cooking with what you have”, I’m thinking I should do it more often. Honeyed and spicy with just enough fat to add some flavor, this dish is great on its own as well as stirred into a salad or noodles.

Ingredients

1 cup broccoli, steamed in a steam basket or the microwave

generous squirt of Sriracha hot sauce (or more)

1 teaspoon of honey

½ tablespoon of unsalted butter or olive oil

toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method

Top hot broccoli with the rest of the ingredients, stir and enjoy.

Melissa Clark’s Spicy Calamari With Israeli Couscous

I’m not one for posting other’s recipes unless I somehow riff on them. But tonight I am singing the praises from my apartment that smells like lemon, garlic, butter and the sea—and I only have NY Times writer Melissa Clark to thank.

Her book, Cook This Now was just released in October, and it’s everything I like in a cookbook. The recipes are fast (which is nice for after-work preparation), flavorful, and even a little healthy (yes, Ms. Clark I noticed all those whole wheat ingredients!). Each chapter is separated by month, so you cook with what’s in season. Even though this recipe is from the February chapter, it shouldn’t be missed at any time of the year.

Since copyright issues are sticky, I’ll just give you the basics and implore you to go out and buy her book. I’d offer to lend you mine, but I’m already making 3 recipes from it this week…I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon. This recipe reminds me why I love seafood-it’s light but not dull, and almost demands to be washed down with a glass of crisp white wine. The (kind of) recipe:

Cook Israeli couscous according to the package (I like Bob\’s Red Mill) and toss with  a little olive oil. Heat more olive oil in the largest pan you have, and throw in a pound or so of cut calamari, red pepper flakes, parsley, basil, garlic and butter. Toss until opaque, about 4 minutes. Finish with an abundance of lemon. Hide the leftovers from your dining partner.

Porter-Soaked Refried Beans

* Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook *

I’m not a big recipe repeater. My dinner cravings vary week to week, so I don’t often cook something more than once. Then, a few weeks ago, I had some leftover pinto beans from a pot I’d made, so I set out to make Mark Bittman’s Refried Beans recipe I’d been meaning to try. With what I had in my fridge (bell peppers, dark beer and half an onion), I cooked up my own version. The result was a flavorful—a combination of warm spices, rich beer and the smooth texture that defines the best kind of refried beans (in my eyes). And without overselling it, I’ll just say that I made a pot of pintos this week just so I could use the leftovers for this recipe.

Ingredients:

¼ olive oil

4 cups cooked pinto beans

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ an onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of cumin

½ tablespoon of chili powder

¼ teaspoon of cayenne

kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper

¼ cup of dark beer (such as a stout or porter), more as needed

Method:

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or skillet.

When the olive oil is hot, add the beans. Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork until they’re broken down and about 75% smooth, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the bell pepper and onion and stir thoroughly. Add the spices and the salt and pepper. Raise the heat slightly to medium high. Keep mashing the mixture until the vegetables have softened, about 5 more minutes.

As the mixture becomes dry, add the beer to achieve your desired consistency (I enjoy my refried beans pretty smooth).

Taste your beans, and adjust the spices to your preferences. Remove from heat, and serve.

Serving suggestions: Tucked in burritos, along side brown rice, with cilantro, Dabbed with salsa next to eggs for breakfast. Tonight, I piled them in homemade tortillas, topped with chard, cilantro pesto and hot sauce.

Because None Of Us Have Time

Often, the rebuttal to cooking  is, “I would love to! But I have no time.” As my own life shifts from graduate student to a full time office folk, I can commiserate.

So I thought I would direct you busy people (and remind myself) of the “fast” category on my blog (over there on the right side). These are recipes you can pull together the night before work or in about ten-fifteen extra minutes in the morning. Also, some thoughts about fast cooking:

1) It helps to plan. Menu planning can feel a little OCD, but I learned a lot from local food writer Kathleen Bauer in this post.

The post on her blog, GoodstuffNW suggests cooking big batches of dishes that don’t require a lot of effort on your day off. That way, you have something you can reach for each night when you get home, or on your way out the door in the morning. Lately for me, that’s been a big batch of beans (cooked on the stove-so cheap & much more flavorful than canned), a batch of steel cut oatmeal, and usually some kind of seasonal produce (last week it was green beans with shallots, garlic, white wine and tomatoes).

2) Don’t be afraid to be simple. Just because you don’t have an hour to pull together a 50 step recipe with 35 ingredients doesn’t mean your food won’t be great. The best meals embrace simplicity, anyway like toast with garlic and a fresh tomato, or popcorn with olive oil and salt.

3) On the other hand, creativity is your friend. There is absolutely no need to stick to traditional. While leftover roasted vegetables, brown rice and soy sauce may not show up on a brunch menu anytime soon (or maybe it will, this is PDX after all), if it fills you up til lunch, it’s okay by me.


What are your go-to busy meals/ or what do you wish you knew how to prepare quickly?

Mary’s Salad

In my hometown of Santa Rosa, California there are few people who don’t have a childhood memory involving Mary’s Pizza Shack. At Mary’s, there were a few things you could always count on. You knew you could get breadsticks to nibble while you waited for your meal. You also knew that in order to retrieve said breadsticks, you had to make a journey up to the counter where teenage guys were tossing dough rounds into the air (oh what a shame when that plastic breadstick bin was empty!). It was a given that you’d  run into someone you knew, and that there was always some sporting event on the televisions. And even though your Dad told you not to, you’d always fill up on the warm sourdough they’d bring to your table with the butter strategically placed under the loaf to soften it. And while the good pizza (great even) was also a part of the Mary’s equation, it’s the Mary’s House Salad I still go back for to this day while visiting.

The salad is a standard Italian American antipasti plate when I think about it: salami, mushrooms, beans, vegetables and a tiny mound of grated cheese to top it off. While some of my friends swore by ranch or raspberry vinaigrette, my heart always belonged to their tangy Italian dressing. I set out to find a recipe (I don’t buy the bottled stuff) for that dressing, and ended up creating my own. The salad recipe below is slightly tweaked from Mary’s original, but it still captures the same spirit.

Italian Dressing, My Way

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons of kosher salt

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons of fresh basil (cut in a chiffonade style)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup of canola oil

1 tablespoon of water

Method

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a closeable ziplock bag. Take two tablespoons of the herb mix and place it in a bowl with the basil. Whisk in vinegar, oil and water. Put away herb mixture for later use.

My Mary’s Salad

3 cups of red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup of kidney beans

1/2 cup of canned beets

1/2 cup of canned green beans

2 very fresh tomatoes (I like Early Girls), sliced

3 large carrots, shredded

5 slices of salami, thinly sliced

1/4 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Mix together the vegetables and legumes in a large bowl, toss with  1/4 cup of dressing. Stir in the salami and top with shredded cheese, season to taste. Serves 2-3 people (with plenty extra salad dressing).

Quiche, Revised

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here

While quiche had its most glorified time in the ’80s, there is a reason why many home

cooks still are serving it up today. For me, it’s because my mother made a damn good one and it was the one of the first dishes I learned to cook. Others like it because of its simplicity: add vegetables and meat, cream, herbs and lots of eggs in a pie shell—45 minutes later, you have silk custard on a buttery crust.

While I still agree with this mindset, I recently set out to revamp my trusted quiche recipe so I can use up more of the vegetables that seem to pile up in my fridge at the end of the week. I cut down on cream and eggs to make more room for vegetables, which allows for more texture contrast in the filling. I still use a premade crust (though without a bunch of artificial ingredients in the list) for time’s sake, but if baking is your thing, by all means make your own.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup Gruyere, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup chopped herbs (I used thyme, parsley and chives)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pie crust (I like whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Method

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bring the olive oil to medium heat in a large skillet. When it’s hot, add the asparagus and leeks. Sauté until the asparagus is tender and the leeks are soft, about 8–10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix half and half, eggs and cheese in a small bowl with a fork or whisk. Whisk until the mixture is uniformly yellow. Stir in the herbs, salt and pepper.

Spread the mustard across the bottom of the piecrust so it’s an even layer. Next, add the vegetables, and top with the egg mixture. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean.