Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate

Yes this is an iPhone shot and you’re lucky to get that these days.

A post! A post! Yeah, I can hardly believe it either, haha. Want to know how I managed it? A paragraph at a time, that’s how. In between model fittings I added to this post bit by bit until it was decent enough to be worthy of the public eye. Or the internet public eye that is. There is a bit of a difference. 😉

This salad was a wonderful breath of fresh air to me as I had been searching for ways to get more kale into my diet. I really liked kale, but had struggled with preparing it myself in the past. Sauteing the deep green leaves on the stovetop was an easy way to start. As the queen of leftovers, though, I found sauteed kale to not be very palatable after the second day. Kale chips weren’t bad, but were difficult to pack without crushing and took time to make in my mini-oven as each batch had to be quite small. The few salads I tried with these tough, ribbed greens were nearly inedible – I am not polygastric, thank you very much.

However, I knew I was on to something when I read about this Overnight Kale Salad. The zesty marinade sounded delicious. The toss-and-leave strategy was perfect for busy/lazy bums like me. And the recipe called for cheese and pomegranate: two of my favorite things. My only concern was that the acid wouldn’t wilt the tough kale leaves enough to be edible or perhaps be too effective and turn my kale into a soggy mess. I needn’t have worried, the end result is a totally delicious, fully edible salad that has been tested by yours truly again and again.

Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate (adapted slightly from Women’s Health)

Ingredients:

3   T   white wine vinegar

2   cloves garlic, finely minced (~1 rounded T)

1   T   honey

1   T   EVOO

1   t   salt

pinch of black pepper

little squirt of fresh lemon juice

1   bunch of dinosaur or curly kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-sized pieces

1   C   pomegranate seeds

1   C   grated, fresh parmesan cheese *

* Note: I go a little crazy with the pomegranate and cheese because they are just so good and I love lots of texture in my foods (crunchy seeds, soft cheese, firm kale). Feel free to scale back a bit here if you wish. I won’t judge.

Procedure:

1. Whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, EVOO, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl, toss kale with dressing until coated evenly. STOP: don’t panic! The dressing will seem ridiculously light, I know, but the kale will wilt to nearly half its size in the acid bath. Try these proportions after fully resting first before doubling your dressing or you may regret it.

3. Cover bowl air-tight with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight in the fridge. In the morning, give the salad a good toss before serving – it should have about half the volume as before. Will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge (gotta love vinegar).

Beezer’s Notes:

This has become one of my favorite salads of all time and is perfect for winter when you’re struggling to be healthy while still satisfying that cold-induced hunger. Now I know I’m technically posting this in the Spring, but since we’re still getting snow here I think I’m justified. Another bonus? This lovely dish tastes even better as leftovers! The longer it sits the more the flavors develop and meld, so it is perfect for those of us who want very flavorful meals in very little time.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥        

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Zucchini Fritters

Ack, I know I know: it’s been several weeks since my last post and I’m sorry. With nicer weather I find myself spending more time outdoors during the daylight hours, which means making up for lost work-time in the evenings on my home computer. While having a more flexible schedule is great, my normal blog-time is more and more frequently being used for data-processing time. Now while I can’t show you what I’ve been working on with my research (unless you know Python it would look like gibberish to you anyway), I can catch you up to what I’ve been cooking. And baking. Wow, there’s been a lot of baking recently.

I was tempted to just post my most recent dessert achievement (sneak peak tweeted here), but was then afraid that I’d never get around to sharing all the dishes in between – it has happened before. So, you’ll just have to be patient for a bit. Honestly, it won’t be that bad. You should know me well enough by now to see that sweet treats are pretty darn frequent around here, for better or worse. It’s not a stretch to go from zucchini and non-fat Greek yogurt to sugar and butter…at least in my home, haha. Plus, these lovely fritters here are pan-fried so we’re compromising a bit, really.

Speaking of zucchini, have you seen NASA’s Diary of a Space Zucchini yet? I think it’s really cute and interesting. Creating a sustainable “green house in space” is key to the future of space-travel. Protein packs and dehydrated ice cream (do they still use that stuff??) can only get you so far and if we ever intend to go to Mars – an adventure I strongly feel we all should support (but that’s another story) – then a closed-loop ecological system is more than half the battle. Can you imagine how it would feel to be totally dependent on one humble garden? Well, humans have certainly done it before and many around the world are still doing it now. Also, the first crew of Biosphere 2 managed alright and even walked away with “enhanced immune systems” thanks to their “low-calorie, high nutrient diet”. It’s ironic how human advancement has led us back to a basic fundamental challenge: growing our own food.

I used Deb’s recipe almost exactly as she posted it, with the exception of the scallions and the yogurt. I honestly think scallions would be a better flavor here, but I had shallots I had to use up. Unless you strongly prefer one over the other, I’d follow her suggestion. I also had non-fat Greek yogurt to use up and found it perfectly tasty. Oh, by the way: HER BOOK IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! No, I did not hesitate for a second – for once Amazon.ca has what I want, haha.

Zucchini Fritters (via Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

For the Fritters…

1   lb.   zucchini (about 2 medium)

1   t   salt, plus extra to taste

2   scallions, split lengthwise and thinly sliced

1   large egg, lightly beaten

freshly ground black pepper

½   C   AP flour

½   t   baking powder

Olive or other oil of your choice for frying*

* Note: You might want to keep smoking temperatures in mind when choosing your oil here. Not that I’m very experienced working with a variety of oils (I stick to my trusty EVOO and Canola, with sesame thrown in occasionally), but I found my olive oil smoked much sooner than I thought. I couldn’t get my pan up to a hot enough temperature to quickly brown the fritters and had to leave them for an extra bit of time in the oven to crisp up (see notes below). Just something to keep in mind.

For the Topping…

1   C   full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

1-2   T   lemon juice

¼   t   lemon zest

1 small minced or crushed clove or garlic

pinch of salt to taste

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 200°F, line a plate with paper towels, and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Trim the ends off the zucchini and either grate on the largest holes of a box grater or shred in a food processor. In a large bowl, toss shredded zucchini with the teaspoon of salt and let sit for 10 minutes. This pre-salting technique – known as purging – is also what’s used in my Easy Roasted Eggplant post. The idea is to pull out excess moisture which is very helpful in preventing soggy fritters.

2) While zucchini sit, mix flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. After the 10 minutes are up, drain the zucchini strands any way you prefer. Deb suggests pressing them up against the holes of a colander, wringing them out by hand, or twisting handfuls in a clean dishcloth. I used my (clean!) hands to make sure I got as much water out as I could. Give a dry strand a taste-test and see if you’d like to add more salt. Mine were fine as they were.

3) Return zucchini to the large bowl and add egg, scallions, pepper and mix well. Add the dry flour blend to the large bowl and stir batter until incorporated. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet heat 2 T of your oil of choice over Medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop scoops of your batter onto the skillet a few at a time and flatten gently with the back of a spatula. Cook until the bottoms are golden – about 3 or 4 minutes – before flipping to brown the other side. Remove fritters from pan and drain them on a paper towel-lined plate before placing them on the prepped baking sheet and into the warm oven. Repeat until all fritters are made.

4) While fritters finish “proofing” in the oven (I had to leave mine in for about 15 minutes to crisp up – see note above), whisk together all topping ingredients in a small bowl, reserving some lemon zest for garnish if you’d like. Once fritters are ready, serve immediately with generous dollops of topping and a pinch of zest.

Beezer’s Notes:

These bright green fritters are really fun to make and even more fun to eat. I wish mine had turned out a bit crispier – even their oven time didn’t make them as sturdy as I had been hoping for – but I’m confident that I simply need to heat the pan more, so next time I’ll use Canola oil. Their flavor certainly leaves no room for complaints and the lemon-garlic topping is just perfect. Ever since Greek yogurt won me over on the Black Bean Soup I’ve been wanting to use it as much as possible and this lemon-infused version would go well on so many things: potatoes, chips, tacos, enchiladas…you name it. Although we ate all of ours, Deb mentions these babies freeze well so you can be sure I’ll make extra next time to stock-pile. Anything that makes for even quicker dinners in the future is a winner in my book.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥

Black Bean Soup

Around this time of year I always get the same ambition. No matter how many times I’ve failed in the past, the sunshine (we do get it sometimes!), warmer weather, and my antsy-ness from being trapped at a desk all winter always leads to the same thought: this year I’m definitely going to be a runner. Now before you get any crazy ideas, let me clarify what I consider to be “a runner”: for me it means someone who runs on a weekly basis, for at least 30 minutes at a time total (this means running + walking), without feeling like they are on death’s door after every session. Pretty low standards, right? I think so. My body doesn’t agree.

This season in particular I got a stronger urge than normal. I think it’s because this time around – for the first time in about 5 years – I have to actually WORK at working out. No laughing, I’m serious! In the past, my hobbies had the (wonderful) added bonus of exercise: climbing, kayaking, biking, being on my feet all day in Japan or in a Vermont coffee shop… I just never had to worry about fitting exercise into my routine. Unfortunately, everything I do these days is in front of a computer screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my studies and am really looking forward to having a summer free of classes to focus on my research, but I’m very quickly realizing I’m going to have to actually make an *ahem* effort to stay healthy now. Can you hear me whimpering?

So, full of naive ambition and covered in sunscreen (some of us only burn), I set out yesterday for my first run of the season. What started off so well quickly deteriorated and it always begins with the “stuff”: having exercise-induced asthma, my puffer is always with me. Then I carry my phone both for safety and for music. Next, I have to find room for a 4″x2″ laminated building keycard with attached apartment key. I settled on stuffing my 4″ puffer into the tiny pocket in my leggings, forcing my phone into my old iPod armband, and sliding the keycard under my waistband…only my puffer kept popping out, my armband kept slipping down (not made for the weight of the iPhone), and I gave myself an uncomfortable blister where the keycard rubbed against my upper thigh.

As I was jogging and juggling objects – more juggling than jogging – my left earbud also refused to stay in. Then the wind picked up (it IS Nova Scotia after all) and, believe it or not, kept blowing the headphones cord into my mouth every few minutes. If you had passed me on the street that day you would have seen a gal puffing her way down the avenue with her left hand on her ear, her right hand holding the cord while simultaneously trying to pull up her armband, a brass key flapping from the front of her pants, and a bulge sticking out the back like a little tail. Oh, and my face was bright purple. Of course.

In the end I gave up, turned around, and just walked home. I couldn’t have been out there more than 20 minutes and I feel like I honestly get a better workout just following my pilates or yoga DVDs in my living room…but those won’t get my outside and into the sunlight. I think I’m going to give running at least a few more shots and am brainstorming ways to make the experience at least more manageable if not less painful. I’ll run my headphones cord through my shirtsleeve next time to – hopefully – keep it out of my mouth. I’ll only run when Brad is home so I won’t have to take the cumbersome keys. I could just hold the phone, although I’m always afraid of dropping it…

How about you? Are you a runner at all? Were you one of the dozens of folks who so effortlessly bounded past me the other day – hands free and head high? haha. Tell me your tricks! My lazy bum may never get used to going more than 3 mph, but I’d at least like to feel able. We’ll see.

Black Bean Soup

(slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Soups & Stews 2010)

Ingredients:

For the Beans…

1   lb.   dried black beans, picked over and rinsed (~2 C)

2   bay leaves

5   C   water

1/8   t    baking soda

1   t   salt

For the Soup…

3   T   olive oil

2   large onions, chopped fine (~3 C)

1   large carrot, peeled, chopped fine (~½ C)

3   celery stalks, chopped fine (~1 C)

½   t   salt

6   garlic cloves, minced (~2 T)

½   t   red pepper flakes

1½   T   ground cumin

4   C   low-sodium vegetable broth

2   T   cornstarch

2   T   water

2   T   fresh lime juice from 1 or 2 limes

For Garnishes…

lime wedges

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

finely diced red onion

diced avocado

plain, non-fat greek yogurt or sour cream

* Note: While the recipe calls for using the liquid the beans are cooked in, you don’t have to be that afraid of…shall we say…the “side effects”. The test kitchen chef explained that the added baking soda not only helps in keeping the beans an attractive black color, but also aids in reducing the bloat beans can cause. Hurray!

Procedure:

1) For the beans: place beans, bay leaves, water, and baking soda in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over Medium-high heat and skim foam from the service as needed. Once boiling, stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are tender – 1¼ to 1½ hours. If necessary, add an additional Cup of water and continue to simmer until beans are tender. Do not drain!* Once beans are done, remove bay leaves and set aside in remaining water.

2) For the soup: heat oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot over Medium-high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook – stirring occasionally – until vegetables are soft and lightly browned – about 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to Medium-low and add the garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook – stirring constantly – for a few minutes or until fragrant.

3) Stir in all but 2 Cups of the beans w/ their liquid and all of the vegetable broth. If you want a perfectly creamy soup with no chunks of beans, add all the beans at this step. Increase heat to Medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer uncovered for about half an hour – stirring occasionally. This will blend the flavors and reduce the stock.

4) To finish, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until creamy or, alternatively, blend the soup in batches in an upright blender or food processor. Once blended, stir in the reserved whole beans (if saved). In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water until all lumps have dissolved and then gradually add about half of the mixture into the soup. Return the soup to a boil over Medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken. If you’d prefer you soup to be thicker once it’s boiling, add in the remaining half of the cornstarch slurry (you may have to whisk it a bit to recombine it before adding to soup) and allow soup to boil for a few minutes to thicken further. Remove from heat.

5) Off the heat, stir fresh lime juice into soup until fully incorporated. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately with preferred garnishes. Be prepared for meat-loving friends/family to love this Mexican-themed, vegetarian soup. 😉

Beezer’s Notes:

I am really surprised how much Brad and I both liked this soup! This was supposed to be just another healthy meal to add to the repertoire (I adapted it to be vegetarian and used greek yogurt instead of sour cream). In particular, I was waiting to hear complaints about the lack of meat and giant dollops of yogurt – he did refuse to eat it until I confessed it’s true nature – but…BUT…he liked it! WE liked it. The generous amount of cumin gave the soup an unidentifiable richness and the red pepper flakes produced just a slight heat, satisfying without making you sweat. The beans were filling enough to make this soup a great stand-alone dinner (especially with toppings), but we didn’t feel weighed down like you’re apt to with other Mexican-themed meals. Finally, the source recipe suggests using chipotle chilies in adobo sauce instead of the red pepper flakes for a smokier taste. Somehow I missed that note the first time around, but I love my choptle chilies in adobo so I’m really excited to try that variation next time!

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥  

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