Tag Archives: kale

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Israeli couscous salad with cumin orange vinaigrette

Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”

Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:

preparing for alien onslaught

But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!

When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!”  🙂

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
Serves: 6-8

Salad:

1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **

* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?

how to prep a kumquot

Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

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Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles


Knowing how much I adore Bali (who wouldn’t love that tropical paradise where you can get $4 massages?!), and probably remembering how much I talk about my favorite noodle and nut dish that I eat whenever I’m there (if allowed, I would bathe in this dish), my neighbor Martha and her daughter Jamie shared this fabulous and quick-to-prepare recipe with me. It’s from The Accidental Vegan cookbook and is an elegant vegetarian adaptation of a traditional Indonesian dish that is simply divine. Unlike my other favorite dishes that pretty much explode with flavor, this meal lightly dances on your taste buds with a slightly sweet flavor and a lovely nuttiness. It’s got loads of protein to fill your belly with joy. Plus, it’s quick, simple and delicious! Whether you’re trying to please a carnivore’s tummy, a vegan’s palate or a picky kid’s appetite, this dish delivers.

This is the sweet little Indonesian great-grandmother who taught me how to make this dish. See, I wasn't joking when I said her kitchen was blackened!

I learned how to make the traditional version of this dish in the blackened kitchen of an ancient Balinese great-grandmother who used Indonesian candlenuts to make this dish. It can be challenging to find candlenuts outside of Asia, but don’t worry – the other nuts listed below make fantastic substitutes. I’m also happy to report that you can use an actual range to cook this meal instead of the little cooking fire that the ancient great-grandma used. Although I’ll admit it was fun to cook with her, even though she didn’t speak a word of English and my mastery of the Indonesian language is restricted to massage- and surfing-related terms.  Unfortunately I didn’t remember almost anything she taught me since she bestowed on me the gift of an aromatic leaf that she indicated I should chew on while cooking. It made my lips numb. Being unable to feel my tongue, I accidentally swallowed the masticated leaf, which made the old lady’s eyes bulge in alarm – apparently you’re just supposed to chew it and spit it out. Who knows what it was – all I know is that I didn’t remember anything else that followed, except that I had monkeys sitting on my shoulder and that the flames in her cooking fire magically transformed into technicolor aliens that waved forks at me. So thank goodness for the Accidental Vegan cookbook for recreating this recipe!

I made a few changes to get the flavor to be a closer approximation to the dish I love eating in Indonesia, and I think the end result is divine. By the way, if you have sweet soy sauce, which is what is typically used in this dish, you can use that instead of the soy/molasses combo. You can find it in most Asian food stores. But I doubt your local Asian food store stocks that weird Indonesian chewing leaf with numbing and hallucinogenic properties. You never know though!
Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles

From fridge to table: about 10 minutes

Serves: 4

1 pound dry Asian noodles (such as udon or soba)
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (aka “filberts”) with the skins rubbed off
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1.5 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts (kale is also a great substitute)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp molasses
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles; cook until al dente. Drain noodles well then run under cold water so they don’t get gummy.

Meanwhile, put the nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Heat the olive oil in a wok over medium low heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Stir in the nuts, sprouts, soy sauce, molasses and sesame oil and cook for another few minutes until everything is heated through. Add noodles and toss everything with tongs until the noodles absorb the liquid. Serve hot.

Hmm, maybe I wasn't hallucinating?!

Kale Chip Fail

Damn. Today I pressed my luck and got The Face from John.

In retrospect, I should have recognized how risky it was to try to replace his beloved barbeque potato chips with homemade kale chips. John has eaten potato chips with his lunch pretty much every single day since he was old enough to chew, so I shouldn’t have underestimated his resistance to disrupting his lifelong routine, nor his undying love for Lays. But a lady I met in line at the Farmer’s Market went on and on about how much her picky, fast-food loving children love kale chips and beg her to make the chips for them, so figured it was worth a try.

I thought: “Hey, kale chips are crispy and salty too, so maybe he won’t notice!” Plus, they’re nutrient-rich and have a wonderfully unique flavor. He should love them, right? WRONG.

With a look of grave dismay, he started at the crispy dark green intruder on his plate, apparently trying to vaporize it with his intense glare. Caving to my pleas, he agreed to try one, or rather, a 1 square millimeter corner of crispy kale. ‘That is seriously disgusting,” he declared. “It’s worse than the dried seaweed strips that they always try to get me to eat when I’m in Japan.”

Oh well, I guess that means more kale chips for me! Since the vast majority of people who try kale chips love them, I’ll still include the recipe just in case you’d like to try it, too. If you try them, please post a comment to let me know how you like them. But if you’ve got a die-hard potato-chip lover like John who you’re trying to convert into being a kale chip fan, prepare yourself for a potential face-off with The Face!

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, center rib removed and leaves torn into large chip-sized pieces (personally, I like using dinosaur kale for chips since the texture lends itself well to this recipe)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Smoked sea salt*, to taste

Optional: lime, or brown sugar, or chili powder

* Smoked sea salt imparts an incredibly smoky flavor that is just simply delicious. I get mine from www.SpiceHound.com.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Completely dry the kale – this is essential or else it won’t turn out crispy. Toss kale with olive oil and spread out in single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. If using lime or chili powder, sprinkle it on sparingly. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until kale is crispy. If using brown sugar (which creates a lovely and subtle salty-sweet flavor), sprinkle it on after removing the kale chips from the oven.

Superhero Stir Fry Side Dish: Kale and Chard in a Spicy Teriyaki Disguise

Does anyone remember The Superfriends? It’s a vintage cartoon that features a dream-team alliance of seriously bitchin’ superheros. A couple nights ago I had a dream about The Superfriends, which went something like this: “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate! Form of: the healthiest, most cruciferous vegetable on the planet to protect against cancer and fight cholesterol!” (And then POOF!, he turns into kale). Then the female side of the daring duo says: “Shape of: a super-vegetable that contains 13 different kinds of antioxidants and betalain to fight aging, heart disease and inflammation!” (And then BANG!, she turns into Swiss chard).

(Yeah, that was a weird dream! But not as strange as the one in which my body was made of nougat – now that was seriously bizarre. Perhaps I should lay off the margaritas before bed).

Anyway, I woke up inspired to make a side dish with these fabulous superhero vegetables. But as spicy-sweet, nutty and flavorful as these thick-leafed veggies taste to me, I know they will intimidate my veg-shy carnisaurus. I mean, c’mon, the guy grew up eating something called “Scrapple,” a pressed-together mess of pig scraps. (Ew!)  Its tag line could be “From the Rooter to the Tooter!”  Let’s face it, kale and Swiss chard are pretty advanced veggies that can terrify people (like my husband) who don’t frequent the farmer’s market. So I decided to disguise these Superhero Veggies in a flavorful cape of spicy miso teriyaki. And guess what, John flipping LOVED THEM and asked for seconds! I knew he couldn’t resist the savory-sweet, hot teriyaki flavors. Woohoo, score one for Team Veg! Bonus for the cooks: this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to make, from fridge to plate.

Maybe my dream wasn’t so bizarre after all. These awesome SuperVeggies deserve to star in their own show…okay, maybe not as a crime-fighting duo, but perhaps as the stars of your next dinner!

Superhero Stir Fry: Kale and Chard in a Spicy Miso Teriyaki Disguise
Time to prepare: 10 minutes
Servings: makes enough for 4 side dishes
  • 1-2 tbsp oil that can take high heat (like grapeseed or peanut oil)
  • half bunch of kale, leaves torn in two or three parts (your choice of dinosaur kale, red, purple, etc. Get crazy, my friends!) (Lucky for me, my favorite farmer’s market vendor, Happy Boy Farms,  sells pre-mixed bags of kale and chard)
  • half bunch of Swiss chard, leaves torn in two or three parts (your choice of color)
  • 4 cloves garlic, either smashed or chopped
  • up to 1/4 cup of spicy teriyaki sauce (I used Kikoman’s spicy miso teriyaki and it was delish in this dish!)
In a big old wok, heat oil over high heat. Once heated, toss in the kale and chard. It should totally fill your wok to the rim (see photo above), but don’t worry, it cooks down to about 1/4 of the size (see photo below). Stir frequently for about 8 minutes until the leaves wilt and start to brown a bit, then add garlic and stir-fry for about a minute more, stirring constantly. Test the veggies to see if they’re wilted enough to eat – they should be slightly browned and soft. Then turn off the heat and immediately add teriyaki – do a little at a time, mix, taste, and add more as you like.

This makes an excellent side dish, but you can also make it a main dish by tossing in some super-firm tofu about half way through. The sauce cloaks the tofu too, which makes it appealing and edible for carnivores. Enjoy!