Mexikale Salad

Mexikale SaladSummertime is salad time in our household. Why heat up the house with cooked food when there are so many fresh, local vegetables available? As a celebration for the abundance of summer produce, I tossed together a baby kale salad with ingredients inspired by Mexican food. It was tasty, if I do say so myself. Since this is my blog, I guess that’s rather redundant, but there you go. Why the bad pun title, you may ask? Well, when it comes to Mexican food married with California cuisine, laid out on a bed of kale — I just couldn’t help myself. Blame the journalism training.

This salad is perfect on its own, but if you wanted to get even fancier, you could add some crumbled, blue corn tortilla chips and a sprinkling of queso fresco to create a taco salad. Whichever way you go, serve this bad boy with a beer. We paired our dinner with a Big Sky Brewing Co. I.P.A. I’m not a fan of I.P.A.s that beat up your taste buds with hops, but Big Sky’s version has enough of a malty backbone to make for an enjoyable drinking experience.

Mexikale Salad

Serves 2

2 oz of baby kale salad mix
7 oz of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of sweet corn kernels
1 large bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 large avocado, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
juice from one lime
1 Tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon taco seasoning

chopped cilantro for garnish

Place veggies in a large bowl.
Put jalapeno, lime juice, sour cream, and taco seasoning in a jar with a lid. Shake until well mixed. Pour over the salad and toss until everything is coated. Divide into two bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Kale and chickpea soupI have one of those recipes that I go back to again and again. It’s one of those dishes that makes you feel better after eating it, and it’s chock full of good-for-you ingredients. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to eat on a regular basis like kale and tomatoes and legumes.

Because it’s a soup, the flavors meld into a savory, sweet, and slightly earthy experience that’s even better the second day. The recipe was given to me by one of our local farmers, and then I changed it up a bit, i.e., I dumped a bunch of wine into the dish. The extra wine gives the soup an amazing tang, and you can use what’s leftover to drink with your meal. I mean — what a win-win! For the leftovers, I’d recommend pairing with a Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity and citrus flavors go really well with my favorite soup.

This recipe is going to be two-fold. The first recipe is the way I’ve been making it for years, and the second is what I did this past week — utilizing a crock pot so a delicious, wholesome soup was ready and waiting when I got back from my afternoon run.

Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup

serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
1 ½ cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked, or two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper

If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight. Cook them in at least four cups of water for three hours until soft. Be sure not to put salt in until peas are fully cooked. Cook the onions and thyme in the olive oil over medium until soft. Increase the heat and add the garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and 1/3 cup wine. Stew for 15 minutes. Add the cooked chickpeas and the 8 cups of liquid. Simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the peas absorb the flavors. Add the kale leaves and cook ten more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea Soup

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup

serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
Two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste

Layer all ingredients into a slow cooker except the kale, salt, and pepper. Place onions and garlic on the bottom, followed by the tomatoes, and then the chickpeas. Sprinkle herbs over everything and pour liquids in. Turn the slow cooker on to low, and let it cook eight to nine hours. Put in the kale and continue to cook on the low setting for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Simple and Fresh

kale-pastaI have been a leafy-dark-green eating fiend since the New Year. It began, of course, with collards. I noticed that I was eating them with an almost frenzied passion, so I figured my body must be in a winter greens mode. I always think it’s a good idea to listen to your body’s cravings — don’t go all “I must have rapunzel or I will die!” or anything, but it’s good to be aware.

Currently, the kale is wonderful — tender with just the slightest hint of bitterness. Searching for a way to incorporate it into a meal that we could eat for a few dinners, I decided to make a simple pasta dish with ingredients I had hanging around. It’s a bit healthier than a kitchen sink casserole, but it was still quite filling and delicious.

Sausage and Kale Pasta

serves 6

1 package einkorn spaghetti
2 links Apple Gouda sausage, sliced into half-inch pieces (I used Niman Ranch sausage.)
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped (I threw in a few grape tomatoes, as well, for color.)
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
7 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
salt, pepper, and roasted red pepper flakes to taste

Terroir_CorbieresBring a pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and follow package instructions.
In a large pan, saute sausage until browned. Add kale and cook until leaves turn a darker brown, about five minutes. Toss in garlic and butter and cook until butter is melted.
Take off heat and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing until everything is incorporated. Add pasta and toss again.

We paired the meal with Wine Enthusiast’s 2011 European Winery of the Year, Gerard Bertrand‘s Corbieres. It held black fruit and spicy vanilla notes with a slight touch of Brett. While I’m not usually the biggest fan of ol’ Brett, it was the perfect accompaniment to the kale, and the fruit balanced the sausage and cheeses in a very pretty way.

Salad Days

nectarine saladThere’s just something about the tender-green of baby kale coupled with the sweet tang of nectarines that I’ve been finding extremely satisfying of late. This crisp salad is a mouthful of summer and delicious enough to tempt me away from evening writing projects.

bellafinaDinner arranged, the challenge of pairing was presented — the sparkle of the dish was heightened with a Prosecco, perfect for a balmy twilight.

My choice of the Bellafina Prosecco was a happy accident, an impulse purchase that had then been absentmindedly shoved into the back of the refrigerator. Maybe it was actually kismet, as the flavors of stone fruits, lemon cream, and almonds were harmonious with the varying sweet and lush flavors of the salad. The wine’s orange bitter finish was paradisiacal with the kale. Isn’t it marvelous how good food and great wine always seem to find each other?

Nectarines & Baby Kale Salad

two handfuls of baby kale
1 nectarine, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 avocado, cubed
a sprinkling of tamari pumpkin seeds
a sprinkling of shredded coconut (Leftover, perhaps, from your coconut shrimp?)
drizzle of poppy seed dressing

Toss everything together and serve right away, appreciating the crisp, refreshing qualities of both the salad and the Prosecco.

Greens and Prosciutto

It’s the season of greens. Our local farms are growing a very diverse variety,  and confronted by so many beautiful choices in the produce department, I opted to make a meal of them.

Greens and Prosciutto Atop Pumpkin Gnocchi

extra virgin olive oil
1 package prosciutto
1 bunch dandelion greens, coarsely chopped, stems removed
1 bunch red chard, coarsely chopped, stems removed
1 bunch dino kale, coarsely chopped, stems removed
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 TB pine nuts
1 package pre-made gnocchi (I used a pumpkin gnocchi found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.)
grated Parmesan for garnish

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.

Add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet. Warm up over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until golden brown.

Add all of the greens and stir until everything is coated in oil and prosciutto has been turned to the top. Add garlic and cover, cooking about five minutes or until greens are wilted. Remove cover and stir in pine nuts.

Meanwhile, throw gnocchi into the boiling water. Cook to package directions. Drain.

Layer greens over gnocchi on a plate and garnish with Parmesan. We paired dinner with a wonderful Pinot Grigio.

Citrus-y Tempeh

When the warm weather hits, stir-fry reigns supreme. It doesn’t overheat the house, it’s light on the palate and light in the belly.

While looking for ways to cook up a quick tempeh for dinner, I stumbled across 101 Cookbooks and read her wonderful description of Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh. I had to try it, and of course, I tweaked it a tad.

Her version called for maple syrup as a sweetener, but I found that created too much sweetness when coupled with the flavors of the tempeh and the wild rice with kale that I made for the dish’s foundation. The original also called for cilantro leaves to garnish the top. I’d recommend that. I didn’t end up doing it, as I chose to use the last bit from my garden inside the dish and didn’t have any left for garnish. (My cilantro has now bolted, which means it’s time to dig it up and plant some kale.)

Here’s my altered recipe:

1 cup orange juice (Since citrus isn’t in season, I used a high quality, pre-made juice)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 ounces of tempeh
1 tablespoon olive oil

Warm up a large skillet over medium heat.
Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Add the ginger, tamari, mirin, cilantro, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
Cut the tempeh into small pieces.
Drizzle olive oil in skillet. Add the tempeh and sautee until golden. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze.  Stir once or twice while cooking to allow tempeh to absorb as much citrusy flavor as possible.
Serve the tempeh with the sauce.

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