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?

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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.

A Guide To Fall Produce

Find my original article here

photo by Sage Warner

If you like to buy produce in the seasons in which they grow, you may notice that your bag of groceries has become heavier. Seasonally, tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini have left us; now we are blessed with root vegetables, squash galore and an abundance of apples. These foods may take a little more effort to prepare than just slicing a tomato and eating it with bread, but I guarantee that once you get the hang of it, they’re worth the wait.

Below is a guide to how to choose these lovely fruits and vegetables, as well as suggestions on how to prepare them. For more specific recipes on how to cook fall produce, watch for upcoming issues of the Vanguard, since I will likely be experimenting myself. On a side note, I am no farmer or produce expert, and the very best person to ask is those who are working at the farmer’s market or your favorite produce clerk at the grocery store. Now go out and explore—that way you’ll have some side dishes to bring home during the holidays.

Brussels sprouts

Best pick:

Sometimes you can buy these on their stalks (which is usually the freshest option), and they look a little like a weapon. The smaller the sprouts, the better condition they will likely be in. Also, avoid any yellow leaves.

How to cook:

Roasted sprouts are always nice, but when you shred them and sauté in olive oil, you get a crispy flavor you never thought could come from the little unpopular globes.

Parsnips

Best pick:

Thinner stalks are usually better; when they’re bigger, they have a tough exterior that make them stay tough even when you’re through roasting. Never had a parsnip? Just think of them as the carrot’s silky cousin.

How to cook:

When pureed with potatoes, they are creamy and delightful.

Carrots

Best pick:

Pick carrot stalks that are firm, not rubbery or bendable. I like the ones with tops still on and that are a vibrant and clean orange, but the dirtier ones at farmer’s markets are just as good—the just take a little extra preparation.

How to cook:

Shredded in a salad with a cumin/orange vinaigrette is always nice, or of course, added to your favorite mix of roasted veggies.

Squash (all varieties)

Best pick:

There are so many kinds of squash, you could try a new one each week for the whole season and never run out of options. Luckily, they last for weeks on end. One way you can be sure it’ll stick around for a while is by making sure there aren’t any soft spots on the shell. Most need to be peeled, but Delicata squash’s skin is actually edible.

How to cook:

Roasting and pureeing are always good options, and sage adds a warm, autumn taste.

Chard, kale and other greens

Best pick:

These are simple to choose—just pick firm, unwilted leaves, usually a dark green.

How to cook:

Sautéed with chopped garlic towards the end of cooking and then doused in sherry vinegar is a fabulous side.

Chestnuts

Best pick:

Choose big, heavy, full ones that don’t rattle when you shake.

How to cook:

Simply roasted in an extremely hot oven, these are good on their own. Just remember to score the flat sides with Xs before cooking.

Sweet Potatoes

Best pick:

Choose clean, undamaged tubers without soft spots or holes.

How to cook:

My all-time favorite way to eat a sweet potato is to bake it, and then dress in olive oil, chili powder and cilantro if you have it. You’ll never think to use marshmallows again.

Apples

Best pick:

Only buy a soft apple if you are cooking it. I like to choose ones without indents or holes, but I’m sure I’m just finicky. My favorite varieties are honeycrisp and pink lady, which both find a happy medium between tart and sweet.

How to cook:

I wouldn’t know; I like to eat these raw as a snack or an element of breakfast.

Pears

Best pick:

There are dozens of varieties of pears. A way to tell when a pear is ripe is to softly push near the stem. If it is soft, that pear is ready for eating. Barletts are juicy and sweet.

How to cook:

Slice and put on a plate with your favorite cheeses and nuts for a simple appetizer or lunch. ■