Winter Kale and Kamut Salad

winter kale and kamut salad

I miss kale.  It’s only been about a week since I’ve had any, but I am definitely suffering withdrawals.  And, though I do not miss winter at all, I could use a huge helping of this salad.

What makes this salad particularly special is the way the flavors and textures play with each other.  Not to mention the way they deliver a wholly satisfying meal.  Yes, a vegetarian salad can be wholly satisfying for EVERYONE.  I promise.

This goody was a huge hit each and every time I made it in the past 3 months.  And, I made it A LOT!  The original recipe comes from one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Bon Appetit.  Anytime I see anything with kale, I try it.  Kale is versatile and quite easy going, going from sautés to soups, smoothies to salads and every time you eat it, you are racking up credit, giving yourself a huge dose of nutrients.  Consider it delicious, preventive medicine.

I’ve talked about kale once already, but here’s a quick reminder.  There are 3 main “anti-s” to remember about kale; antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic.  Seriously.  This is key about kale because oxidative stress (taken care of by antioxidants) and inflammation gone out of control (why we need anti-inflammatory nutrients) are 2 conditions that lead to serious health problems and diseases such as cancer.  Not to mention that kale can also reduce cholesterol and it is superb at helping the body detox.  Kale is also one of those foods that makes you happy!

This incarnation of the salad (there have been many versions) came about mostly because I needed to use up ingredients in my fridge and pantry.*  The original salad is delicious, but after many adaptations and experimentations, this is my favorite.  The pecans add much needed crunch and kamut is a yummy, nuttier, sturdier alternative to barley.

Let me know what you think!

You’ll need:

1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil (approximately)

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T champagne vinegar

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T coconut sugar (I usually replace brown sugar with coconut sugar.)

1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-1″ pieces

1 shallot, minced (roughly 1/4 C)

2-3 golden beets, roasted and cut into 1/4″ dice

1 C kamut, soaked, rinsed and cooked off

1 avocado, diced

1/2 C pecans, roughly chopped

1/2 C Bulgarian feta, crumbled or cut into small dice (regular feta is delicious, too but this is what I had left…for a vegan option, omit the cheese and you’re still left with a pretty stellar salad:)

To make:

1. Whisk together 1/4 C olive oil, the vinegars and lemon juice and season with sea salt and pepper.

2. Add kale and shallots and mix thoroughly to make sure the kale is evenly coated.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours before assembling salad.  This will wilt the kale making it tender for every bite.

3. Once cooled, add the beets and the kamut and mix to coat evenly.  You may need to drizzle some of the remaining oil in.

4. When ready to serve, add the avocado and feta (if using), drizzle with more olive oil and a splash of champagne vinegar to brighten it up.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper.  Stir gently and serve topped with chopped pecans.

5. The other genius of this salad (kale is first) is that it’s sturdy enough to be made 2-3 days in advance.  Just cover and chill and add avocados, feta and nuts when ready to serve.  Thanks, Bon Appetit!

6.  Enjoy!

*Since I was moving, I had to use up everything I could in the kitchen.  It’s incredibly inspiring to cook when you have to constantly substitute and re-invent things with new ingredients.

 

Advertisements

Sámara Organics Market and Café

IMG_0365

Playa Sámara is a beautiful beach on the southwestern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.  It is an unassuming place, laid back, sleepy even but the beach (and nearby beaches, too) is nothing short of AMAZING.  The same goes for the locals in town, the Ticos (native Costa Ricans) and expats alike.

The first time we visited was nearly 8 years ago.  We loved it.  We got married there.  It’s fair to say that Sámara holds a special place in our hearts and so we promised we’d return with our first baby.

Claire loved it as much as we did; the white sand, the calm and warm waters, the Pura Vida attitude that permeates each moment.  We were happy to see that not that much had changed in 8 years.  No Club Meds just yet.  What we did find that was new was an organic café and market.  Let me reiterate with proper emotion:  An ORGANIC CAFE AND MARKET IN SAMARA!!!  I met Angelina, one of the founders, and immediately felt a kinship with her.  The kind you feel when you’re part of a community that has no boundaries.  Ours happens to be about the food we eat and our interest in making the best choices for our own health, that of our families’ and that of the planet we inhabit.  It’s about our shared understanding about the true meaning behind ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ and the responsibility we feel to feed our bodies well, to share what we know, and to respect the Earth that bears our food, all of it.  It’s a wonderful feeling to travel the world and meet people like Angelina who are making a difference, one small step at a time, to better their communities.

Sàmara Organics is a lovely market and café that serves up delicious salads, sandwiches, soups and fresh fruit and vegetable juices.  They also serve the native gallo pinto for breakfast!  It’s a foodie’s paradise tucked away in this little beach town.  I was SO grateful to Angelina and her passion for organic food especially because we had a new little eater with us.  I was also so inspired by her story.  I knew you would be too, so here is a short conversation about Sàmara Organics.

And, if you’re ever in the area, DO stop by for some delicious food and drinks and please tell Angelina we say hello.

IMG_0366

GG:  What was the food situation like as far as organic vs. conventional food before you started Samara Organics?

Angelina:  We moved to Samara about six years ago.  At that time we could find no organic food except in AutoMercado, 4-5 hours from here.  They had organic produce, soy products and other non-meat alternatives.  It was very exciting.  With a year or so of that we could find soy, almond, and rice milks which was a real treat.  For years we talked of opening a market to offer the products that we previously had stuffed our luggage with and smuggled down.  About two years ago I made some connections with folks from the Nosara Farmer’s Market and found locally made cheeses and organically grown produce.  I organized a mail list and started to sell it out of my car essentially with no mark up.  Just passing it along directly to other folks interested in the same.  The response was light but there were some folks.  The challenge with Samara, unlike Nosara, is our community is less affluent with less discretionary income so it was and still is a challenge to get folks to pay double for organic produce or cheese that are made without preservatives.  We really try to impress upon folks the importance of buying local – not only for the benefits of conserving our global resources but also the long term benefit of supporting a sustainable economy for our area.

GG:  What percentage of the food is locally grown/produced vs. imported?

Angelina:  Good question.  Organic produce remains a very small percentage of what is grown.  Monsanto has a foothold here and farmers can make more money by growing conventional.  We have a few imported items that we offer only to bring people in.  And, really even imported produce is a better option than some of the other snack food options with high fructose corn syrup that so many of our locals and expats turn to for a quick bite.  It is all trade offs and as one of my professors taught me…”learn to live with your contradictions”.  We don’t strive to be purists…we strive to offer healthy alternatives that support the locals that make responsible business decisions.  Our store gives us the opportunity to educate, to be there and teach and share when the light comes on about how to feel better through diet.

GG:  Are Ticos interested or aware of the organic label?

Angelina:  Very few.  The same is true for most expats.  The tourists are the ones that get it.  I am grateful for these tourists as we would not be in business without them.  We are, however, learning that we need to find different ways to reach the community because they haven’t a strong enough connection to the value of organics. Plus media gives them an out by running articles that state there are no real proven benefits of organic produce.  Please…  Also, here organic designation is prohibitively expensive for the small farmers so even if they are pesticide free they still don’t have certification.

GG:  What are the standards for the organic label in Costa Rica?

Angelina:  We have done some farming here however not to the level where we have been able to dedicate resources to understanding the certification of the law.  It remains the frontier here in Costa Rica in so many ways and cultural dynamics make it difficult at times to ascertain procedures, protocols, etc.

GG:  Who are your purveyors and how do you ensure organic practices?

Angelina:  We know of two distributors that sell organics and they have direct relationships with the famers and the produce comes with “organic” labeling.  At this stage we have not had any farm visits except for one and really the distributors are not eager to share their sources as there is more demand than there is produce to go around.

GG:  What are your biggest challenges?  Especially being in a foreign country!

Angelina:  Costs.  Costs continue to rise here as the popularity of this beautiful country increases.  Fixed income retirees don’t want to spend the money and many are often fixed in their beliefs so they don’t see the value.  We are grateful for the toursits but really our biggest challenge is finding easy access to quality product at an affordable price.  We have a fantastic organic produce distributor in San Jose but it costs us $150 to get the produce to our store – this is more than we make on the order.  We usually run a loss on our produce to just bring people in and compete with conventional produce often offered by the Walmart Pali stores that have huge purchasing power.

GG:  Was there anything easy about getting started?

Angelina:  Ha, not a thing! But, super rewarding to meet people like you that get it and are so grateful that they found us and they have this choice.  Many have commented it was the one thing missing for the idyllic Samara.  This makes us very happy.  We are close to going all vegetarian and offering some raw food options but again our tiny pueblo really just isn’t ready for it.

IMG_0368

GG:  It’s often assumed that food is better outside of the U.S. because there are probably fewer factory farms and mono-culture farms.  Is this true for Costa Rica?  For example, is the meat better because it comes from some small farm nearby where cows are probably fed grasses, etc.?

 Angelina:  In some ways this is true as chemicals are expensive and there are many here that still do it the “old way” but just the same studies show that use of pesticides continues to grow here in CR and with that it becomes cheaper and cheaper to do the wrong thing.

GG:  How and where did you start?  How did you know the food wasn’t organically grown?

Angelina:  I have had a varied and fulfulling career.  Before I left the US I worked as an Executive Director for a nonprofit environmental education group that offered free services to kids.  I have been into the movement for a very long time and my commitment has only increased over the years.  We opened the store about a year ago and have a long way to go and big dreams but we are also becoming more realistic about what we can accomplish.  Generally if were buying produce from a store we assumed it was conventional and I think that was a safe bet.  Chemical companies are deeply engrained throughout the world and working hard to stay in business.  It is almost punishing to run against this strong infrastructure.

Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter

(with a touch of nutmeg)

Makes about 1 C

honey cinnamon cashew butter

I’ve already learned a few things this year:  1.  Recycled resolutions are just as good as new ones, 2. Writing your goals down is a good practice, 3. Starting the New Year without any kind of hangover is the best way to go and 4. Claire Berlin has a food addiction.  Her addiction is to cashew butter.

I made a bunch of these Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butters as host/hostess gifts over the holidays and was lucky to have a few jars left over.  Now that Claire is past the 1 year mark, nuts and honey are foods that have moved to the OK list.  She seems very pleased with that!  As far as food addictions go, this one isn’t so terrible.  It makes a great nutritious snack with some celery sticks or apples, for babies and adults alike.

Cashews are the lesser known nut in the nut butter melange.  Peanuts obviously, but then almonds took over as the go-to nut butter.  And for good reason!  But cashews, oh cashews are mild, sweet and delicate in flavor.  They are so rich, too.  Cashews are MY go-to nut, especially when I’m making nut milk and butter.  Have you ever tried ice cream made from cashew milk?  It’s heavenly!

Cashews are originally Brazilian though we do get cashews from East Africa as well.  Have you ever noticed that you never see cashews in their shell?  It’s because their shell contains a toxic oil called cardol, which like its relative poison ivy, burns the skin if you touch it.¹  So, they roast the cashews, crack off the shell and roast again and voilà, they’re safe for consumption!

As far as nuts go, cashews have much less fat than other nuts and, most of its fat is unsaturated.  Cashews’ fatty acids contains oleic acid which promotes good cardiovascular health.  They are also high in antioxidants which may seem surprising.  Cashews are high in copper and magnesium.  Copper “plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin“²  Likewise, magnesium is responsible for several functions in the body including balancing our calcium intake, as well as regulating nerve and muscle tone.²  And, contrary to what many believe, nuts help you lose weight, NOT gain it!  (Any resolutions coming to mind??)

So, jump start your resolutions and/or goals this year with a spoonful of this sweet, creaminess!  Your heart will thank you, your bones will thank you, your cells will thank you, your waistline will thank you and your taste buds will simply adore you.  Not a bad way to start the new year!

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year, friends!

You’ll need:

2 C raw, organic cashews

3/4 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t (scant) nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible

2 t honey

2-3 T organic coconut oil*

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it resembles nut butter.

2. This sounds easy but it takes some time.  You’ll have to stop the food processor several times to scrape down the sides and bottom.  You may also have to adjust the oil for a creamier texture or add more nuts if you want a chunkier, thicker butter.

3. Place in small jars to give away or save it all for yourself!

4. Enjoy, Enjoy!

*Because of the use of the coconut oil, the cashew butter will get hard after it’s been in the fridge for a while.  It can be made without it, but the texture will be much thicker.

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=98