Dreaming of Kale

My daughter had a dream. About kale. I’m not even kidding. She dreamed about a kale salad with a lemony dressing, dried cranberries and toasted nuts. She woke up craving kale and asked if we could have it for dinner. How often does that happen? Not often.

Another time she had a dream where she was a piece of celery and she was so sad because no one wanted to eat her. I couldn’t do much about that one. But this…this I can do. What can I say? I make dreams reality. I can also say this is probably the best kale salad I’ve ever made. The lemony vinaigrette is positively drool-worthy.

The other thing she’s been requesting lately is steak. I love steak but I really don’t make it much. It paired nicely with the bright salad and the wonderful, wonderful, warm crunchy/squishy croutons. Mmmm.

Want to go vegetarian? Just skip the steak.

 

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Flank Steak

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Flank Steak

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Seared Steak

For Steak:
1 pound flank steak
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Salt & pepper

For Salad:
2 bunches lacinato kale (dinosaur kale) – remove ribs and slice into thin ribbons, you want about 8-10 cups or so.
Zest and juice from 1 big lemon or 1 1/2 small lemons
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 oz. feta, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds
Salt & pepper

For Polenta Croutons:
1 tube of prepared polenta, cut into cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt

In a shallow bowl or ziplock bag, place steak and rub both sides with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Let sit and marinate for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the salad and croutons.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Let it heat up for a minute and then add the polenta cubes. Let them cook, turning the cubes every couple of minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with sea salt.

To make the salad, in a large bowl whisk together lemon juice and zest, rice vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dijon, shallot and a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Add kale, cranberries, feta and almonds. Gently toss until all of the kale is lightly coated (I find this easiest to do with my hands).

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add steak. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Thinly slice against the grain.

Serve a mound of salad topped with sliced steak and polenta croutons.

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Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Last night after dinner, my boyfriend came home and the first thing he says to me is “what’s so sticky all over the counter?” Oops. My grapefruit got away from me. I’ll admit to getting getting a little wild while segmenting my grapefruit all fancy like you’d see on Chopped. After that,  the the salad looked so good I just forgot about all the flying drops and dove right in. And why wouldn’t I? This thing is a sweet and savory masterpiece.

Salad season is upon us, as evidenced by the wonderful spring lettuces now available at most farmer’s markets. I picked up a giant head of butter lettuce last week and some of it found its way into this salad. For variety (and because it was there) I also added some baby spinach. You can use whatever kind of greens you like or have lying around. If you are short on time or energy for taking apart messy grapefruit, you can buy segments in a jar in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for one that doesn’t have added sugar.

I don’t remember which magazine I was reading when I found this dressing. It sounds so simple but the combo of grapefruit juice and sesame oil is just wonderful. All it needs is a little salt and pepper to give it a little punch. The goat cheese adds some creaminess and tang and oh my, it’s all so good. I know it sounds weird, but next time you have a pile of greens staring at you, give this one a go. So simple. So yummy.

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

3-4 cups mixed salad greens (I used half spinach and half butter lettuce)
1 pink grapefruit (or grapefruit segments in a jar if you prefer)
2 oz. goat cheese
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. sesame oil
Salt & pepper

Place greens and chickpeas in a bowl.

Over a small bowl, segment grapefruit, reserving liquid. I do this by cutting the peel off and then using a knife to get the segments out. Squeeze the leftover membranes over the bowl to get the rest of the juice out. You’ll probably have at least 2-3 tablespoons. Add the grapefruit segments to the greens. Add sesame oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to the small bowl of grapefruit juice. Whisk to combine.

Toss the greens and chickpeas with the dressing. Top plates of salad with crumbled goat cheese. This makes enough for 2 people, or one super hungry salad machine.

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Polenta Stuffed Portobellos

In anticipation of the upcoming season, I signed up for the same CSA I used last year. For those of you who haven’t heard of CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and basically means you sign up with a local farm and receive a share of whatever they happen to pull out of the ground every week during the growing season. My family and I loved doing this last year. Not only did we have enough food for $25/week that we had to work to eat it all, but we got to try a lot of new things that we may not have otherwise purchased, and everything was just about as fresh and delicious as it could possibly be without going out and picking it yourself. I am not a talented gardener, and I don’t have room to do it even if I was so this is the perfect way for us to have local, farm fresh veggies all through the summer and fall.

Shortly after signing up, I happened upon this gorgeous cookbook, The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson, and it was just bursting with simple and gorgeous vegetable dishes. I couldn’t resist. For those who know me, you know I have a tragic cookbook addiction and it had been a while since I had fed the beast. I needed it. Really, I did.

This is the first recipe I made out of my new little treasure. I made a few minor changes based on the contents of my fridge, but I have to say, these are deceptively simple. For a vegetarian dish I found it to be filling and complex, and the mushrooms add a nice “meaty” texture that was quite satisfying. Her photo shows a beautiful portobello with a dainty scoop of polenta and a sprinkle of veggies. Mine were less pretty since I just piled everything on there (who are we kidding, the creamy polenta is the best part!), but they were every bit as delicious. I’m guessing after she took that photo she piled some more stuff on hers too.

Don’t like mushrooms? I would make this same recipe with sweet bell peppers or a slab of grilled eggplant (and probably will!)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos
(from The Forest Feast)

4 portbello mushrooms
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 pound brussels sprouts
1 red onion
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375˚. Put portobellos on a baking sheet. Remove stems and discard. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender.

While portobellos are cooking, thinly slice brussels sprouts and red onion. Heat a skillet to medium, add a drizzle of olive oil and/or a tbsp. of butter and cook slowly to caramelize, about 15 minutes (turn down to medium low if veggies are browning too quickly, you want them nice and soft, not scorched).

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Add polenta and stir. Turn heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add 2 tbsp. butter and parmesan cheese. Stir well until everything is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste (I always wait until after I’ve added the cheese since it can sometimes be very salty on its own).

Assemble mushrooms. Start with the mushroom, add a big spoonful or two of polenta and top with vegetables. Finish with a sprinkle of cheese if desired.

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Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberries are everywhere during this time of year. I’m always so happy to see the first fresh ones popping up in the grocery stores and farmers markets right before Thanksgiving and so sad to see them going away shortly after Christmastime. So during that period I tend to perhaps overdo it a bit on the cranberries. Muffins, bread, salad, pork loin, you name it, it will probably get some cranberries thrown in there somewhere.

This recipe is so easy and doesn’t have any weird ingredients, or very many ingredients at all, in fact. I love it because the bars are just slightly sweet, more of a shortbread sort of taste, and then you get a burst of tangy cranberry in every bite, and it is just heavenly. I’ve made these at least four times so far this season and every time I make them I wish there were more. With so many overly sweet and rich desserts during the holidays these were a refreshing change. We even ate them for breakfast.

I don’t know about you, but a couple of bags of berries will be finding their way into my freezer so I can be enjoying these long after cranberry season is over.

Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberry Cake Bars

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

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Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

You may be sick of turkey. Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago and let’s face it: most of us overdose on the bird, and then the leftovers, and then we don’t want it for another year until it’s time to gorge again while giving thanks.

I, on the other hand, take advantage of the turkey sales at Thanksgiving time so I can have turkey the rest of the year too, because I like it and it’s so versatile to use in lots of recipes. This year I was also given the gift of a smoked turkey by my uncle and that stuff is just heavenly. Since my freezer was apparently designed by Keebler elves and won’t hold one frozen turkey, let alone two, these two feathered friends were instantly shredded and put into freezer bags and packed nicely into my tiny freezer, ready to use for whatever strikes my fancy. If you don’t happen to have a cache of frozen turkey at your disposal, simply purchase some cooked turkey from your deli or roast a small turkey breast or leg for this recipe. Or substitute other meat or veggies if you’d like, it’s your dinner after all. And quiche is a great way to use up whatever leftovers you may have lying around. Chicken would work great in this as well.

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

1 pie crust (homemade or premade – I like the Pillsbury ready-to-use, refrigerated crust)
1 cup cooked smoked turkey, chopped or shredded
1 cup mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced
1/4 tsp. dry Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper
5 eggs
1 3/4 cup half n half
4 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425˚.

In a skillet, head a drizzle of oil or butter in the pan and add the leek, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Add Italian seasoning. Cook a minute or so more until veggies are soft and then remove from heat.

In a bowl, beat 5 eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper and the half n half. Set aside.

Unroll dough and press into a 9 inch pie pan. I like to dust the bottom of the crust with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick. Crimp edges. Put turkey in the bottom of the crust. Top with veggie mixture. Place dollops of goat cheese all around. Pour egg mixture over the top.

Carefully place in the oven. Cook at 425˚ for 15 minutes. Turn temperature down to 375˚ and cook another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Slice into wedges and serve. Yummy hot or cold.

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CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Man, there are days when I am the laziest cook. Those are the days when we either A) Eat out, B) Make a sandwich or eat leftovers, or C) Make something like this where you plop everything on one pan, cook for 10 minutes and eat! While I would love to say I choose C every time, I think we all know that my pants would be on fire. However, I will say with complete honesty that when I do choose C, I am happiest with the results. This dish is not only fast and easy to make, but healthy and delicious as well. The trifecta for the lazy cook who still likes decent food.

This is a quick, quick, quick Asian-inspired fish dish. You can use any green vegetable that catches your fancy, but the baby bok choy and shiitake mixture goes very nicely with this and keeps with the Asian flavor profile, especially if you hit it with a dash of soy sauce at the end.

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Salmon or Steelhead fillet
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. miso paste
1 tsp. soy sauce

Baby bok choy
Shiitake mushrooms
Olive oil

Turn on your oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small bowl mix brown sugar, miso paste and soy sauce. Lay your fish fillet on one end of the foil and pour sauce all over the top. Smear around to cover the entire surface.

On the other end of the pan spread out the baby bok choy and scatter with the shiitake mushrooms. Drizzle veggies with a bit of olive oil.

Put the pan in the oven. Broil for 8 minutes. Check the doneness of your fish by sticking a fork in about an inch from the edge and pulling away a bit. Does the fish flake off? When you pull the fork back is the fish still red in the middle? When fish is done it will flake easily and the color will be a light to medium pink in the middle instead of red. Stir around your veggies (if they look done already you can remove them). Your fish may need a couple more minutes, depending on the size of your fillet. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Remove and serve immediately. Season the veggies with a dash of soy sauce.

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Roasted Veggie Salsa

Salsa is my favorite condiment. It goes way beyond chips for me. It goes in omelets and frittatas, it goes in salads, it lands on top of chicken and fried potatoes. It gets eggs poached in it like this. I almost always have a batch of it in my fridge. You never know when you’ll need some.

It may be the first week of fall, but the weather is still nice and farmer’s market (at least here in Oregon) still has beautiful tomatoes. All of the ingredients for this showed up in one of my weekly farm boxes and on the grill and into the fridge it went immediately. This is a great way to use up ripe tomatoes if you have a bunch. After you turn them into salsa they last for weeks. If you don’t happen to have fresh tomatoes, or if you read this in the middle of winter when there are no good ones available, just use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead. It works like a charm, and best of all, you can always have one hiding in your pantry for when the salsa monster rears its head.

This recipe is very similar to my normal, un-roasted veggie version, but kissing those veggies with a little heat and getting that char flavor in there does add more depth and oomph. Take the extra few minutes and give it a shot!

I need more chip to dip.

I need more chip to dip.

Roasted Veggie Salsa

1/3 – 1/2 red onion, cut in big wedges
1 jalapeno (or less if you don’t like it spicy)
4-5 tomatillos, peel husks and wash
3-4 tomatoes (or you can use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
A handful of fresh cilantro (1/3-1/2 cup or so)
1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Heat a grill pan (or grill, or broiler) and coat with cooking spray. Lay out all your vegetables. Let them grill until they are starting to turn black. Turn once or twice to cook on other sides. Your onion may stay in a wedge or it might fall apart. It will be fine either way. Put everything in a blender. Add seasonings, lime juice and cilantro. Blend until everything is chopped and combined. If you prefer a coarser salsa, pulse in a food processor instead of using the blender.

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Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

The potluck is big in my family. At every family gathering there is a tasty spread, sometimes more varied than others. There was the year of six potato salads. All very similar since we all use my grandma’s recipe with our own little twists. But that’s another story. While I love potato salad, I usually opt to bring something for potlucks that is a little more temperature friendly. Call me paranoid, but mayonnaise-based food sitting out in the sun or at room temperature for hours makes me nervous.

This pasta salad is the answer to all of your potluck questions (or what to eat for your midnight snack questions). It tastes great hot cold or in between. It can be made ahead. As the veggies and noodles marinate in the beautiful vinaigrette, they just improve with time. And you get to use up all the extra veggies in your fridge. There is no downside here. Make this. Make it today. Don’t wait for the next potluck. You will love having this in your fridge.

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

1 or 2 summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup olives, halved
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 banana peppers or sweet peppers, sliced or diced
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 package rotini

In a large bowl combine pesto, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add all veggies, stir to coat and let sit for at least an hour.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Add to bowl with veggies and cheese, toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Eat!

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Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

As you can see I’ve lost track of what CSA week I’m on. I’m still getting boxes and barely keeping up with using it all (but doing pretty well!). Overall I’ve been really happy with the box contents, especially the recent addition of melon, pears and apples! The only problem with pears is they ripen quickly after they are picked so we had a few heading over the hill before we had a chance to eat them. To solve that problem, I made a triple batch of this bread, which I turned into two loaves and a dozen muffins. Although I liked the loaves, the muffins went like hotcakes so I will probably make more of those next time. Hotcakes? Hmmm… yes.

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread
(slightly adapted from Cooking Light)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped peeled ripe pear
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in pear; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk and next 5 ingredients (buttermilk through egg) in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

For muffins, spray a muffin pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack or serve warm.

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

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