Since we’ve had a long, (relatively) cool spring, my kale plants are still flourishing. I’m staving off bolting for as long as I can, but I can see that it’ll happen soon… so I’m enjoying lots and lots of kale now, while I can.
A friend clued me in to her favorite, super-simple way to prepare kale not long ago, and it has become a staple side dish around our house. You toss your kale with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast it, and top it off with a squeeze of lemon.
It’s so simple and so good!
Also on my list to try soon are kale pesto and green smoothies (I’m finally getting a Vitamix — look out!).
I keep seeing quinoa-stuffed sweet potato recipes floating around, and I’ve been meaning to try them out for a while. My version stuffs the sweet potatoes with a kale and quinoa mixture — how can you go wrong with three “superfoods”? Guess what, though? It’s not just about getting those high-nutrient foods in. The flavors also go really well together, and it makes for a hearty but not too-filling dinner.
I didn’t use any specific recipe as a jumping-off point, I just kind of winged it. I intended to use pine nuts, but I had pumpkin seeds instead, and I think they made a great substitution.
Even the hubby, who is a sweet potato skeptic, was impressed. Nora eschewed her own potato, but happily gobbled up her Daddy’s leftovers. Toddlers. She has also taken to calling anything green and leafy “kale” and picking it out of her food… but she happily ate up the stuffing, kale and all, in this dinner. Go figure.
1 small bunch kale,** tough stems removed and leaves finely chopped
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup grated parmesan***
Preheat the oven to 350°. Scrub the sweet potatoes and place them directly on the rack with a sheet of foil below to catch any drips. Bake for 1 hour, or until tender. Set aside to cool. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the grain spirals out, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, and then add the chopped kale. Stir until wilted but still bright green, about 5-7 minutes.
Stir in the pumpkin seeds and stir until a little toasted. Add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine.
When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the top ¼-inch of each one and scoop out the insides, leaving about ¼-inch of the flesh around the edges.
Mash the removed sweet potato in a large bowl, and then add the quinoa mixture. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the sweet potato shells on it. Fill each shell with a generous portion of the quinoa-sweet potato mixture, rounding the top. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sweet potatoes are heated through.
* This will make about 1 cup of cooked quinoa. If you happen to have already-cooked quinoa, then by all means, start with that instead, as it will allow you to skip a step. I like to make big batches of quinoa and freeze the leftovers in 1 to 2 cup increments, as it freezes well. ** I used lacinato kale, which is what we grow in our garden (it’s my favorite variety for its softer leaves and milder flavor), but any kind of kale will do. *** This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.
One of my favorite meal formulas this winter is to throw some greens and maybe another veggie on top of polenta, top it with an egg of some sort, and call it a day. The possibilities are endless, and the results are always tasty.
When I was developing meals for Cooking Planit, I knew one of those combos would be perfect, so I started experimenting. Creamy polenta topped with garlicky sautéed kale, roasted delicata squash and a perfectly poached egg turned out to be our winner, and it was absolutely delicious.
The delicata squash is optional, and in fact it isn’t included in the Cooking Planit meal, since it can be hard to find. You can easily substitute any other winter squash, but I love delicata because it’s pretty and you don’t have to peel it. It’s a win-win.
Head on over to Cooking Planit to find the recipes for this meal, as well as several others I collaborated with them on. Not only will you get the recipes, but Cooking Planit will organize your shopping list and tell you how to order all the steps so can cook your meal efficiently and with a minimum of stress. Can’t beat that!
This pasta is so sublime, it needs a better name. Sure, it is orecchiette with kale and breadcrumbs… but that doesn’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicately spiced it is, and it doesn’t evoke a pasta that made me yearn for seconds. And that is what it is.
It’s also a great entrée to kale, if you are phobic. The kale is cooked down and chopped so finely that you’ll practically never notice it’s there, if you’re not into that sort of thing. Which my 2-year-old isn’t… and she still gobbled this up. Mostly from our plates rather than hers, but I’ll take what I can get!
1 lb lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), tough stems removed
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed, divided
1 lb orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp tomato paste
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the kale until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the kale and transfer to a rimmed cutting board. Cool slightly and press out the moisture, then chop.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and 1 clove of the garlic and toast, stirring and tossing often, until golden brown.
Return the kale cooking water to a boil and add the orecchiette. Cook until al dente, per the package directions. Drain, reserving 1½ cups of the cooking water.
In a large saucepan (preferably the pot you just got done cooking the pasta in), melt the butter and the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the tomato paste, crushed red pepper, the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and a healthy pinch of salt.
Stir until fragrant and mixed, and then add the chopped kale and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Simmer until the kale is warm, about 3 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta, another ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, half the toasted breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese. Stir over low heat until well mixed and then add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm, topped with the remaining breadcrumbs and additional parmesan cheese.
I love “kitchen sink” recipes — you know, the kind of recipe that you can just throw whatever veggies you have in the fridge into. A stir fry is classic, but when you have lots of root vegetables, as I tend to in the winter, a vegetable gratin-soufflé is my go-to. Even better, it’s super-easy to put together with ingredients I always have on hand, like milk, cheese and eggs.
This all started when I decided to pull a carrot from our backyard garden this weekend. I planted tri-color carrots from seed this fall, and I’m always hesitant to harvest carrots, since you never really know how they’re doing down there. Of course, there’s only one way to tell: pull one up and see.
I was gleeful at the results. What a beautiful, straight, maroon carrot! How cool is that? I had to run around to the front yard, where the hubby was playing with Nora, to show them. My neighbors all think I’m crazy, I’m sure. But look how pretty!
In addition to the carrots, I roasted a parsnip, a couple of baby beets and small head of romanesco cauliflower to toss in. Of course, the whole dish turned pink (as is usually the case when beets are involved), but it was tasty! We ate the gratin-soufflé with a side of wilted kale from the garden* dressed with a little balsamic and topped with a sprinkle of parmesan.
Dinner is served.
* How much do I love eating all these food from our very own garden? Lots!
Author: Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
3 cups vegetables, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 cup milk
½ cup grated Gruyère or other cheese
2 eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease an 8- x 10-inch gratin dish or other shallow ovenproof dish of similar size.
Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes, tossing once to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven when fork tender and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in a skillet and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Combine the onion and the roasted vegetables in a large bowl.
In the same skillet, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and brown the breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk and heat until bubbly and warm. Add the breadcrumb mixture to the bowl and stir in along with the cheese and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg.
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or by hand if you’re looking for a workout), beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the vegetable mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and browned, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
I have been a mess as far as meal planning goes this week. When nap time rolled around the other day, I hadn’t a clue what I was going to cook for dinner. That’s an issue because, for clingy toddler reasons, I generally prepare as much of the meal during nap time as I can, and then finish it off right before we’re ready to eat.
I did a little quick thinking. Something I’ve had posted on my board to try for a while is some variation of kale and white bean soup. We have kale growing like weeds in the garden, and I always try to keep dried white beans on hand, so the staples were there. I found this recipe on Epicurious, which calls for a quick soak of the beans (which only takes an hour) rather than an overnight soak.* Perfect!
Dinner is served.
*Of course, you can always just do a quick soak instead, but I never seem to think of it.
I put the beans in to soak, but before I knew it, nap time (such as it was that particular day, which never seems to be great these days) was over. So, I ended up making the soup in fits and starts as toddler mood swings (which tend to be dramatic in the absence of a good nap, I fear) would allow. Good thing it’s a fairly non-demanding recipe.
For the effort expended, this is definitely a keeper. The toasts are a must, since they really elevate this to hearty meal status.
Author: Adapted from this recipe published in Gourmet, February 2002
Recipe type: Soup
½ lb dried cannellini or other white beans
1 onions, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 (3- by 2-inch) piece parmesan rind**
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1 small bunch kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely torn
4 thick slices rustic Italian bread
4 oz shredded mozzarella
Cover the beans with water by 2 inches in a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for an hour. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse.
Wipe out the pot and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the drained beans, vegetable stock, 2 cups of water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are just tender, about 50 minutes. If the liquid level drops too low, add additional water.
Stir the carrots into the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the kale and the remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, make the toasts. Preheat the broiler and Set the slices of bread on a baking sheet about 4 inches from the heat. Toast until golden, about 1 minute, and remove. Turn the slices over and sprinkle with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is a little browned and hubby, about 1 minute more, and serve with the soup.
** I always keep a couple of these in the fridge when I’ve grated them down to the rind. They’re great to throw into a tomato sauce, or they come in handy in a recipe every now and then.
Thanksgiving is kind of the Super Bowl of the foodie world. I’m only hosting a small dinner this year (the three of us plus my dad and his wife), but that certainly will not stop me from planning a fabulous menu. Enter Cooking Planit, a new online tool for home cooks that started up right here in Austin.
Cooking Planit has a wide variety of meals and sides in its database, but there’s a twist that makes it better than any old recipe site. Once you pick your recipes, it generates a grocery list for you, and then helps you organize what to do when, so that your meal gets ready right on time. I love the grocery list feature, but I will say that I am far too entrenched in my haphazard ways in the kitchen to change now. I like my haphazard style. It works for me… but that’s just me.
But, onto the real deal: the side dishes. Over the next few days, I’ll be cooking my way through several of Cooking Planit’s chef-created sides as a trial for the main event. Who will make the cut? Can you feel the tension in the air? I’ll also be providing a few of my own tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipes in the hope that they may find their way to your Thanksgiving table. So, without further ado, let’s get this party started!
With our kale going like gangbusters out in the garden, it was a no-brainer to try this deliciously simple kale salad recipe first. I cooked it up with ingredients I already had on hand, and it was ready in about 5 minutes flat, no joke.
I served it alongside a quinoa-stuffed acorn squash for dinner one night this week, and it was delightful. I didn’t have pine nuts on hand, so I substituted walnuts, and it was fine (though I do think the pine nuts would be better).
Does it make the cut for Thanksgiving? The jury is still out. I love the idea of using our garden’s bounty on our Thanksgiving table, but a salad just seems a little non-Thanksgiving-ish for some reason. We shall see.
2. Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Next I decided to try out a recipe for cream cheese mashed potatoes. Hey, I like cream cheese, I like potatoes — what could go wrong? Turns out, not much.
These are fluffiest, creamiest, richest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Plus they’re a snap to throw together. Hey, if I can pull it off while my kid is watching Signing Time, anyone can do it. Speaking of kids, Nora couldn’t get enough of these potatoes. She kept stealing them off my plate.
Soup weather is officially here! Now I can post about the lentil soup we enjoyed the other night without being a weirdo. Lentil soup is one of my favorite cold weather foods, and since I am fighting off yet another cold, it’s also a great (and healthy) soother.
This is a bit of a different take on standard lentil soup, but I loved the spicing, and it was great to use kale from our garden. This recipe is, once again (surprise!) vegan. Don’t discount it because of that, though — it is tasty. I steadfastly resisted the urge to add paramsan cheese, and I don’t regret it.
Nora’s take: “This is really tasty!” Now that warms a mama’s heart.
True confession time: I really don’t think I could ever be a vegan. I rely so much on eggs and cheese as protein sources, and, honestly, I just like cheese way too much to give it up. I’m always a tad skeptical of recipes labeled and vegan, since I tend to assume (often wrongly) that they’ll be bland and tasteless, or just not my thing.
All that said, dishes like this one make me think about changing my mind. I stumbled across this gem on my daily blog hop, and tried it out for a weeknight dinner soon after.
It was quick and easy to whip up with stuff I already had on hand, and the whole family loved it. What’s not to like?
Author: Recipe lightly adapted from this one from annelee
8-10 oz extra-firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp rice flour
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 small bunch of kale, tough stems removed, washed and chopped roughly
Place the tofu in a single layer on folded paper towels. Using another layer of folded paper towels, press the excess moisture out of the tofu using gentle pressure with your hands or a large book.
Meanwhile, add the quinoa and stock to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium low heat until the stock is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Mix the soy sauce and pepper in a medium bowl and add the pressed tofu, tossing to coat. Mix the rice vinegar, corn starch, and rice flour in a smaller bowl and mix well. Add the vinegar mixture to the tofu and toss until coated.
Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook, allowing to brown before turning, on all sides until golden brown. Remove the tofu from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels.
Add the kale to the same frying pan and lower the heat to medium low. Sauté until the kale turns bright green. Add a dash of rice vinegar and salt to taste.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and divide between bowls. Top with the kale and tofu and serve with a little soy sauce.
With the end of kale season nearing, and temperatures rising, I decided to try a kale salad with the big bunch of curly kale that showed up in our CSA box this week. There are legions of kale salad recipes out there, but nothing quite struck my fancy until I stumbled upon this recipe on Epicurious.
This simple salad is perfect for showcasing the kale, and besides, I’ve loved ricotta salata ever since I discovered it. It’s a delightfully salty cheese with a great, fresh flavor — perfect for crumbling over salads or pasta.I added some quinoa and toasted pine nuts to make it a bit more substantial, and called it a meal.
It was perfect for one of those hot evenings, when it was just asking too much to turn on the stove. Even better, the salad keeps well in the fridge, and it made for a delicious lunch the next day.
Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts, and Quinoa Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet, January 2007
1 bunch kale, stems and center ribs removed
2 shallots, finely chopped
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 1/2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata (about 2 oz)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups prepared quinoa (from 1/2 cup dry)
Cut the kale crosswise into thin slices. Whisk together the shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.
Toss the kale, ricotta salata, and pine nuts in a large bowl with the dressing, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the salad on a bed of quinoa.
I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer and editor, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky, demanding and truly awesome 2-year-old girl. I love all things food and drink, and I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking now that I’m not spending most of my days locked in the office, but I often have to improvise, since having the ankle-biter around makes it more challenging!