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.

 

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Spicy Kale Chips

Yields a bunch of chips (about 3 cups)

That it’s taken me this long to write about kale is a mystery.  It’s arguably my favorite green and it is a staple in my kitchen.  Whether I saute it with garlic, nuts and dried cranberries (or solo!), shred it in soups, make pesto with it, eat raw in salads, or as in this recipe, make it into a ridiculously addicting and nutritious snack, kale always seems to find a way to sneak its way onto our plates from breakfast to dinner.

Rebecca Wood says that kale is the grandmother of the cabbage family.  When I think of that statement, I think of old, wise, strong and hearty and indeed kale is all of those things.  Kale is strong enough to endure frost and snow and its flavor is even sweeter after all that work.  Wait, kale is sweet?  Yes, kale is sweet but lightly, so that the bitter and pungent flavors play well with the sweetness. What you get is mouthful after glorious mouthful of yummy, earthy, warming flavor!

Now for the kale’s wisdom:  As the grandmother of the cruciferous veg, you can bet that it packs a real serious punch against cancer, especially breast, colon, ovary, bladder and prostate cancer.  The fiber in kale also does wonders for reducing cholesterol.  It’s deep green hue means that it is an incredible source of chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll has antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties.  Kale is kryptonite to free radicals and oxidative stress!  And, in the event some of you are still on your detox regimen, “kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system. New research has shown that the Isothiocyanates made from kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level.”¹  Is that good news or what?

I know that detoxing isn’t an easy process, especially if it’s the first time you embark on that journey.  But, this crunchy snack is sure to help!

If you’ve opted out of the detox route for now, don’t fret, kale really is for everyone!

You’ll need:

Preheat oven to 200°

1 large bunch of curly kale (I’ve never made these with Tuscan Kale, but let me know how it comes out if you give it a go!)

1-2 T extra-virgin olive oil (I used the oil reserved from my garlic confit for added flavor.)

1 t sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Red chili peppers, sliced or red pepper flakes, to taste

To make:

1. Stem and wash kale and set on clean kitchen towels to completely dry.

2. Spread kale leaves evenly  on a sheet pan and drizzle 1 T of oil on the leaves.  Toss them to make sure all leaves have some oil but aren’t truly “wet”.  1 T is usually enough since you don’t want the leaves weighed down by the weight of the oil.  If you have a super large bunch of kale (lucky) then you can go with the other T.

3. Add sea salt, ground pepper and chili peppers/pepper flakes and toss to coat evenly.

4. Set the sheet pan on the middle rack and set your time for 15 minutes.  Check back and turn leaves over using tongs.  Let the kale cook for another 15 minutes.  You may need to adjust the time depending on your oven’s heat and circulation.  A convection oven tends to produce drier, lighter chips.  (If using a convection oven, you can set temp to 175°.)

5. Remove from oven when done and enjoy right off the sheet pan (I usually do) or wait till it cools before putting it into a serving bowl.

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

Red Quinoa, Corn and Peaches?

Makes 8 C

Yes, most of the food that will make its way onto these pages will be optimal runners’ food…at least until the marathon in November.  However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t optimal food for everyone.  The more I cook for specific needs, whether it be to maintain wellness, to enhance a physical regimen, to curb an illness or to prevent one, I find that a lot of the same principles apply.  Not all and not for everyone, but there are similarities.

I use both the red and white varieties of quinoa most often.  There are some differences between the two, but nutritionally speaking they are both superstars.  I often prefer the nuttier and slightly more bitter taste in the red quinoa.  It somehow feels more special.  You may remember that I made and posted a different quinoa salad here before.  So, why another?  Because quinoa is that special.  It’s a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids.  It’s gluten-free and it’s versatile and delicious!  They are high in magnesium (necessary for muscle contraction, runners…remember?), iron (production of hemoglobin and oxygenating blood and therefore fighting fatigue), the anti-oxidant Vitamin E and the B Vitamins.  They’re low in fat and what fat there is, it’s unsaturated.  (Remember, we NEED FAT in our bodies!  Good fats…not trans fats!)  They are also fiber powerhouses.  This little seed goes a long way without taxing the digestive system and is one of the best fuels for fitness and endurance.  (Incan warriors ate quinoa before going to battle!)  It’s also a great food to introduce to babies when they’re ready for “grains”.  (Claire will be ready soon:)

Why peaches?  Honestly, because I didn’t have mango.  And thank goodness I didn’t!  I had beautiful peaches from our new CSA (I’ll be talking about this CSA a lot) and figured why not try it.  The sweet almost tart taste of the peaches plays so well up against the hearty quinoa, black beans and grilled corn.  The texture combines beautifully, too.  I surprised myself with the flavor of this salad.  I love when that happens!

You’ll need:

1 C red quinoa

3/4 cup black beans, soaked overnight (or 1 15oz. can)

1 C sweet corn, grilled (leave husks on 1-2 ears of corn) OR 1 C frozen corn, thawed

1/2 C red onion, diced (1 small red onion is about right)

1/2 C cilantro, roughly chopped

1 peach, diced

For the dressing:

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C freshly squeezed lime juice

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 T dijon mustard

1 T maple syrup

1 t sea salt (or more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make:

1. Rinse and soak the quinoa in a saucepan for 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse again.  Add 2 C water to quinoa and cook over high heat until it reaches a boil.  Then, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until the water has evaporated.  Let cool.

2. Get the beans going!  Drain, rinse and add beans to a saucepan with enough water to cover.  Cook on high heat for 10 minutes while removing any foam that accumulates.  Reduce heat to medium, add kombu and partially cover, cooking for 40 minutes or until just tender.  (You don’t want them too soft, but these are dense little beans so make sure they’re all cooked through:)  Drain and let cool.

3. If using, grill the corn.  I leave the husks on when grilling (or you could roast like this too) for added depth in flavor.  About 10 minutes on high is usually good.  Make sure you rotate for even cooking.  Remove husks and cut kernels off.  Should yield about a cup.

4. Mix all dressing ingredients and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

5. Mix quinoa and beans in a large bowl.  Add corn, red onion, peach, cilantro and toss with dressing.

6. Let sit for about an hour in the refrigerator to let the flavors settle and to let the quinoa absorb the dressing.  This salad is worth the wait!

7. Enjoy!  (I enjoyed it with avocado on the side and some extra peaches just for fun!)

Golden Beet Slaw with Tahini Dressing

Makes 3 C

Variations on classics are never ending in the kitchen.  It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy cooking and sharing what I cook.  We don’t usually think of beets in the midst of the summer heat.  Especially not when there are berries and lovely greens all over the place.  It seems like we should just leave these root veggies alone, till fall.  Seems!  Beets are actually harvested through summer.  Golden beets are a delightful sunny color (or sometimes they conceal a beautiful orangey fuchsia in their center) and have a crisp refreshing crunch especially when eaten raw as in this recipe.  (They’re also delicious pickled!)  The main reason I got these beets?  Claire.  It just felt like a good time to introduce her to what Tom Robbins calls “the most intense of vegetables”.  He also said, “beets are deadly serious”*.  Let’s find out why.

They belong to the chenopod family, along with chard, spinach and quinoa.  (The beet greens are not only edible, they’re delicious, too! Sauté or eat raw in salads.)  Beets are special in that their overall phytonutrient content has a special, beneficial relationship with our nervous system.  Their pigmentation is a result of betalain antioxidant pigments (as opposed to beta-carotene for golden beets or anthocyanins for red ones) which makes them very unique.  They are also high in Vitamin C and manganese (also antioxidants) which further enhances their potency.¹  To refresh our memories, antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals roaming around. Free radicals occur as a result of the food we eat, the air we breathe, the stress we manifest, etc.  Thank goodness beets are deadly serious!  They are also serious about being anti-inflammatory which wards off everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer.  Additionally, they’re incredible detoxifiers and therefore essential to any detox program. Beet juice anyone?  And finally there’s our buddy fiber keeping things in check.  It seems that the fiber in beets is pretty special, too.  Extra good news for our digestive and cardiovascular systems.¹

Put simply:  Super unique antioxidant power + incredible anti-inflammatory power + special fiber = serious anti-cancer!  (“Betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes.”¹)  We should throw beets a party!

Given all this, I figured these beets should be treated with a certain amount of respect.  The dressing was my way of doing just that.  Another influence from my family’s sojourn in the Middle East, tahini is likewise special and this dressing is sure to wow your palate.  Trust me on this one!  (More on tahini for another post.  I use it often.)

In the meantime, get serious about making this slaw.  Happy tastebuds, happy body, happy spirit!

You’ll need:

3 C beets, julienned or shredded (about 3-4 medium beets)

1/4 C golden raisins (optional)

2 T parsley, finely chopped

1 T sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:

2 T tahini

1 T brown rice vinegar (I’ve also used champagne vinegar and apple cider vinegar with equal success.)

1 T maple syrup

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 t ground cumin

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1. Trim ends of beets and peel with a vegetable peeler.  I chose to julienne the beets instead of shredding them this time.  I used a mandolin to get even planks and then cut 1/8″ rods using a chef’s knife.  I think it looks a bit nicer and I love the extra cutting practice.  (I have many times shredded the beets in a food processor however, and it’s just as delicious!)

2. Combine julienned/shredded beets with raisins and set aside.

3. Mix all dressing ingredients together and whisk thoroughly until well combined.

4. Add dressing to beets and raisins.

5. When serving, top with sesame seeds.

6. Enjoy!

*Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49  (There’s some great detailed info on this site about the phytonutrients and overall health benefits of beets.  Enjoy!)

Garlic Confit

Makes 1 C

The very word confit conjures images of haute food, ultra gourmet, inaccessible restaurants, maybe even a dress code?  It does sound fancy but it’s often the simplest things that are the most prized.  I guarantee you will climb a few ranks as a gourmand with this confit sitting in your fridge.  I also guarantee that once you try it, you’ll find it makes a great staple, too.  Don’t be surprised if you’re making batches of this weekly and/or giving some away.  There’s something about sharing something delicious.  It’s like sharing joy.

Confit is the fancy way of saying ‘cooked for a long time, submerged in broth or fat, for flavor and preservation’.  Back in the good ol’ days before refrigeration, people had to get creative about preserving food.  (This is really interesting to study as different parts of the world used different methods best suited to their environment.  Thank goodness because the flavors are bold and the nutrients multiplied!)  Confit originated in Southern France and was a way to preserve meat.  Do yourself a favor and try duck confit.  (Remember I was vegetarian for nearly a decade, so such recommendations don’t come lightly!)

Garlic.  Oh Garlic.  It’s got a smelly reputation that apparently repels vamps.  That’s not all this member of the allium family is capable of.  Here’s the rundown:  Garlic is anti-carcinogenic (especially good for colon cancer), anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal.  It is amazing in reducing blood pressure. (Click here for a great explanation on the contraction and dilation of blood vessels explaining blood pressure.)  It is also a blood sugar and cholesterol regulator.  It reduces fever and helps combat colds and flus.  Have you ever tried garlic lemonade?  It’s a great home remedy to add to your repertoire.  (Recipe coming soon via my sister.)  Garlic is great at eliminating toxins from the body.  For some, it is considered an aphrodisiac and therefore verboten in the diet for Buddhist monks as well as strict followers of Hinduism.  That’s a lot range for a little bulb.  That explains why it’s used universally as seasoning and as a home remedy…pretty much since the beginning of time!

So, what to do with all that confit you’re cooking up?  It’s great to season soups, vegetables and meat.  It makes a great addition to marinades and salad dressings.  And, it’s great alone, smeared on a crispy piece of country bread.  Yum!

You’ll need:

2 heads garlic (roughly about 1 C), cloves separated

1 C (approx) extra virgin olive oil

+ water and ice for blanching and shocking

To make:

1. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  In the meantime, fill a bowl with water and add 2 C of ice.  Blanch the garlic – Add the cloves to the boiling water and let stay for 30 seconds.  Promptly remove cloves from boiling water.  Shock the garlic – add it to the ice water.

2. Peel the skins off the garlic and trim off the root ends.  Let cloves dry in a clean kitchen towel.  (I also cut the fatter cloves in half for evenness in cooking.)

3. When dry, add the cloves to a saucepan and add the oil.  The oil should fully cover the garlic.

4. Heat over low-medium heat until small bubbles start to form and then reduce heat to low.  Skim any skins that come to the surface and stir the cloves so that they cook evenly.  Your confit is done when the gloves are a golden color and look soft.  It should take about 40 mins.  Let cool in saucepan before adding to jar.

5. Store in an air-tight container for 7-10 days.  Don’t forget to use the oil, too!  You’ve worked hard at it!

6. Enjoy!

Mango Tango (Salsa)

Makes 1 1/2 C (approximately)

This dish came about on a whim.  My husband was braising then grilling short-ribs; it’s a long story with a delicious ending.  He said that some kind of sauce would be good.  Sauce led to salsa and salsa led to tango.  (In dance, I prefer tango to salsa and this “salsa” was more reminiscent of the former.)  As happens often in our kitchen, my husband and I bounce ideas off of each other until something magical happens, kind of like a tango.  We got lucky because the magic happened on the first try.  Since then (last week) I’ve made this tango 3 times and it has officially become a staple in our kitchen.  From the short ribs it also made it onto grilled chicken, fish and just as a dip for good ol’ (organic, non-gmo) corn chips.

So, what is it about mango that makes salsa more like tango?  Well, tango is sophisticated, elegant, beautiful, and sensual.  One would argue that so is the delicious, succulent flesh of ripe mango.  It’s a fruit native to tropical regions in the world (it’s the Colombian in me that craves this fruit like nothing else except maybe avocados) which is why during summer, it just seems natural to eat it.  It’s a great source of Vitamin A and other cancer fighting anti-oxidants.  It’s especially good for the gallbladder, reducing cancer risk by up to 60%.¹  New research has also shown that the quercetin, isoquercetin and other anti-oxidant compounds protects against colon, prostate, breast cancer and leukemia.²  Mangoes are also very alkalizing in nature which is good for our overall health.  (The body prefers to be slightly more alkaline and the Standard American Diet is NOT alkaline forming!)  Mangoes have potent digestive enzymes which help with poor digestion. They seem to contribute to healthy, glowing skin and they are an aphrodisiac.  Tango or what?

You’ll need:

1 C cherry tomatoes, halved

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 champagne mango (the small, juicy, yellow ones), diced

1 scallion, thinly sliced

2-3 T cilantro, chopped (I go heavy on cilantro because I love it so I used a full 1/4 C)

1/2 jalapeño, diced (If you’re not a chicken like me, go for the full jalapeño, but 1/2 seemed to be just the right amount of heat. For extra kick, add some of the seeds, but do so with caution.  Also, don’t do anything crazy like touch your eyes after handling the jalapeño!)

2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice (limes would be fantastic, but I didn’t have any)

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1. Take half of the tomatoes and add to a saucepan with the olive oil over low-medium heat.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes until just soft, to help release some of the juices.

2. Place all the tomatoes in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Adjust the lemon juice and salt accordingly.  Let sit in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to let all those flavors dance and mingle and love each other.  Then remove a few minutes before serving.

3.  Serve over any protein, as a dip for chips, add avocado and make a salad.  The possibilities for this tango are endless!

4. Enjoy!

¹Rebecca Katz, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen

²http://realfoodforlife.com/10-health-benefits-of-mangos/

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Adapted from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

My husband’s current obsession, besides our daughter’s belly laugh, is curry.  He seems to be leaning more towards the Thai curries but he’s happy with any curry really.  Curry is a mystery.  And that’s just because it means so many things to so many people in so many places.  Even in Japan, a common lunch was curry rice which I always thought surprising since curry isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Japanese cuisine.

There is the curry leaf, which until recently I didn’t even know existed.  My mother-in-law planted it one year and the strong aroma quickly took over her herb garden.  It is used quite commonly in India and imparts a distinct curry taste, the original I guess!  The more well known is curry powder; a blend of varying spices that mimic the flavor of the curry leaf.  Curries are unique to each family and region, much like German towns each have their own delicious microbrew.  It’s one of the more amazing things about food.  A dash of this here and a bit of that there and you’ve got a completely new dish.  It’s beautiful and it keeps us and our tastebuds always wanting more.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role of Ayurveda in this spice.  Ayurveda is a traditional medicine practiced in India for over 5,000 years.  It recognizes 6 tastes; sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent and bitter and they’re all found in curry powder.  Under Ayurvedic principles, eating all 6 flavors in one meal is both balancing and satiating.  If you feel balanced after a meal, you’re not likely to go searching for dessert (sweet) or any other flavor.  You’ll feel completely satisfied.  If you haven’t enjoyed an Ayurvedic meal, I highly recommend it, if only for the experience and then you can decide for yourself.

The superstar in curry is turmeric and I’m glad to finally get to write about this spice.  Turmeric is pretty ridiculous when it comes to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial powers.  Turmeric is used to heal many conditions, one of which is cancer.  According to Rebecca Katz in The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, when eaten with a cruciferous veg (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) the curcumin present in turmeric has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate tumors as well as to keep tumors from spreading to other parts of the body.  It is used to heal wounds and is good for conditions such as arthritis.  It’s also a wonderful digestive aid.  And, it’s one of the highest known sources of beta-carotene.  Move over carrots!  Or better yet, sprinkle some of this spice on some roasted carrots!  Hmmm, sounds like another dish in the making.

You’ll need:

1 lb roasted chicken (I used legs and thighs), shredded

1 C seedless red grapes, halved

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 C cilantro, chopped

2 t fresh ginger, grated

1/2 t sea salt (or more to taste)

1 T curry powder

1 t lemon zest + 1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 oz. Greek yogurt

To make:

1. Combine the chicken and the grapes and set aside.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add chicken and grapes and mix well until chicken is thoroughly dressed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and blend:)

3. Serve over a crisp bed of greens such as romaine lettuce or stuffed into pita bread:)

4. Enjoy!

*Vegetarian option: Substituting extra-firm tofu for the chicken is a great vegetarian option.  I would cook the tofu as in this recipe, for a bit more added flavor, crunch and aesthetic, but it’s definitely not necessary.  Enjoy!