We didn't get anything close to the two feet of snow we were promised, but I'm not turning down a mid-week snow day from work. And while the world outside is blanketed in soft white powder (and, ok, yes, dreary grey slush), what could be better than a big bowl of bright green joy?
Yes, joy, because that's how this salad looks and tastes and makes you feel, and it's one of the most comforting and easiest things and tastes not a bit like health food, thanks to plenty of rich creamy avocado, but your body knows you're doing something good for it and will respond accordingly.
And, yes, I know, kale salads (and kale generally) have been done to death and could I be more Brooklyn-in-2013, but making this recently reminded me again of how much I love it so I just had to share it. Haters to the left.
This salad is pretty adaptable, but there are a few key musts:
Massage the kale: After washing and drying the kale, give it a little TLC. For one 16 ounce bag of kale, I used a little more than 1/3 of a cup of olive oil, juice from one (pretty juicy) lemon, and a couple healthy pinches of sea salt. Then use your clean hands and get to work! Massaging the kale with the oil and lemon and salt breaks down the tough fibers so you end up with a tender, flavorful bite. Spend a few minutes and then try a piece - if it tastes too rough, keep going, and add more olive oil/lemon juice/salt as needed.
Add some avocado: After massaging the kale, I sliced one large ripe avocado and tossed it on top, then gave the salad a few good tosses to help the avocado break up and coat the leaves evenly.
Add your toppings: I went with two diced Gala apples (other varieties work here too - I just wouldn't use a green apple because that might be too tart and I like adding a little bit of sweetness), one sliced shallot, and about 1/3 cup of pistachios. I finished it all of with a swirl of really good balsamic vinegar (I would skip this if you don't have a splurge-y vinegar: you don't really need any extra acid since the salad should have plenty of brightness from the lemon juice, but a good balsamic, that has some complexity beyond just sweet, can add some depth).
Other good toppings: pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced fennel, toasted walnuts, or even some crumbled goat cheese. Other folks like adding dried cranberries or raisins - I'm not much of a fan, but whatever floats your boat/makes you happy when you eat salad.
If adding nuts, toss them in right before serving, otherwise they'll get a little soggy. Everything else about the salad keeps beautifully, making it a perfect make-ahead lunch (which is what I did with this salad) or something to serve at a buffet-style party where the food will be sitting out (which I did last Sunday at a baby shower I organized for my friends).
I love having kale salad in the rotation - it looks (and is) virtuous while tasting absolutely delicious, and the hardy kale can be easier to work with since it lasts longer and doesn't wilt the way delicate (and out of season) lettuces do.
Our December fling in Santa Monica seems ages ago now, and the thought of bare skin being exposed to sun and sand and fresh salty ocean breezes is a teasing, faded memory - one that seems hardly likely, given the current state of affairs, to ever be repeated.
To cheer myself up and transport myself, if only temporarily and theoretically, out of this frosty and gray city, I'm revisiting days of sunshine and tacos and beachside Ferris Wheels. Won't you join me?
The afternoon we landed was the first rain that parched Southern California had seen in awhile. We took cover at The Misfit just in time for some happy hour cocktails and a dinner that started with avocado and burrata toast and ended with free sea salt-chocolate chip cookies.
The following day we walked along the beach and down the Santa Monica pier, checking out the Ferris Wheel and people playing volleyball on the sand and a seal that was hanging out at the end of the pier, looking to make friends.
From there, we hopped on the Big Blue Bus to get to Westwood and roam around the old campus and oh my word do college students look like babies now.
We met up with some of my college friends for dinner at True Food Kitchen, with its abundance of seasonal, local produce. I didn't know it was possible to get this excited about crudite, but the it really was outstanding.
The next morning we had breakfast at Demitasse. I had a rosewater pistachio almond milk latte that was unlike any coffee beverage I've ever encountered before (and there have been many!) and a buttery kouign-amman that was not too sweet but then had a sugary syrupy crust on it and some unique flavor combination that I'm blanking on now, and I was perfectly happy with everything.
And because no trip to LA is complete without tacos, for lunch we ventured to Tacos Puntas Cabras, which lataco.com says is the best taco in Santa Monica, and they may be right (I'm getting hungry all over again thinking about it).
Dinner was at The Upper West with my sister, her husband and some friends, and I don't have pictures but I think we ate one of everything and it was all extraordinary, and the coffee-crusted pork tenderloin was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Dinner was followed by many drinks and the valet keeping our friend Jamie's car when they decided to close up and go home for the night before we were done, but I'm going to say that meal was worth it.
A nice run through Palisades Park overlooking the beach, exceptional burritos, and a lovely wedding that got crashed by Maroon Five, and our Santa Monica days were at an end - for now, at least.
Thanks for indulging that trip down recent-memory lane. I feel thawed out already.
It's been a while since we've done a link round-up around here, so let's have another one, shall we?
Ever since I read about Jamie Oliver's Roast Chicken in Milk on The Kitchn, it had haunted me. The description made it sound so life-changingly delicious that I HAD to make it.
And eventually the day came! And I got to make my chicken. I assembled my ingredients - cinnamon sticks, fresh sage, lemon and garlic - and followed the steps, browning the chicken carefully in a cast iron pan before combining everything in my dutch oven and simmering away and waiting for chicken so good my face would fall off.
But the recipe review doesn't give exact amounts, and Jamie Oliver's recipe is in metric system measurements, so I sort of improvised, and that's probably why I bungled it.
In the end, the chicken was moist, but not more so than any other roast chicken I make, and while the scent of the cinnamon and sage and garlic was enticing during cooking, what we ended up with was actually kind of bland. It wasn't life-changing, just fine.
Actually the best part of the dish was the potatoes I fried in the chicken fat left over after browning and then sprinkled with some fresh parsley. Those were really freaking good.
Those potatoes I would eat every day again until forever (even the burnt bits) (maybe especially the burnt bits), but the chicken - not so much. And we had about two cups leftover of lemony-cinnamony-milky-not-quite-sauce.
We couldn't see ourselves subjecting another chicken to that treatment, when the first one had such less-than-desirable results. Maybe if we had cooked it longer the sauce would have reduced further leading to more concentrated flavor, but at the risk of drying out the chicken it didn't seem like an appetizing tradeoff. Then again, it was a lot of not-quite-sauce to just toss out, and we are trying to be less wasteful.
J came to the rescue with some improvisation, using the leftover milk-not-quite-sauce as the base for a unique mac and cheese and that was phenomenal. The sage and cinnamon stood up to the cheese, complementing without fighting for flavor dominance. Some roasted mushrooms and blanched peas finished it off - and I don't have a picture because I gobbled it down before I could photograph it, and it was really that good.
Lesson being, I suppose, that when life (and by life, I mean personal kitchen screw-ups) hands you strange milk sauce, make mac and cheese.
There's nothing like a group showing up at your house for an impromptu New Year's Eve countdown to make you realize it's been awhile since you've cleaned and why is everything such a mess and oh God we really never do put anything away do we.
So if you also made a resolution to clean up and get organized, I've rounded up a few items that can help you along the way, and look good too. There's nothing like starting a new year off with a clean home and a fresh slate, and some bursts of bright color can lighten up these wintry doldrums (will it ever be sunny and warm again?).
Storage baskets in unique materials and with stylish silhouettes - like copper wire or woven leather - do double duty by stashing your stuff and perking up a room at the same time.
Get desktop clutter under control with organizers so stylish you can't resist using them, like this white ceramic and light wood organizer, or one that looks like a city skyline.
Wrangle small objects and keep them safe with matching canisters in sleek white ceramic with bold bright stripes or earthy pastels and cork.
Everyone needs a place to drop their keys and catch their loose change, paperclips, and other pocket contents. Make that place a brightly colored tray - like this one in yellow (with a little bud vase!) or this one in blue & white stripes - and you add a pop of color that brightens the room and transforms your mess into a stylish, artful display.
I have what some might call a book problem - our wall unit is filled and we've resorted to stacking bunches of books on top of each other (and I can't stop buying more . . . ). This cute shelf provides some extra storage space without being a snooze fest. And this slim coat rack is a perfect way to add style and scoop up messy jacket piles in narrow hallways.
Our good buddy was leaving New York for sunnier climes and familial obligations, and he prefers pie to cake, so for his going away party I made two nutmeg maple cream pies and they were easy as - well, you know. This recipe makes a substantial amount of filling - I didn't fill my pies to the top and had a good bit left over (which was fine with me). If you're a fan of daan taat - Chinese egg custard tarts (and I am, very much so), then this is right up your alley.
Start by reducing 3/4 cup of maple syrup over medium high heat for a few minutes (don't reduce for too long or you'll end up with maple syrup candy, which will be delicious but then you'll have to start over), then stir in 2 1/4 cups of heavy cream and remove from heat once it starts to simmer.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 4 egg yolks and one egg. Then slowly add the syrup-cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly to avoid making a bowl of creamy cooked scrambled eggs. Then add a dash of salt, one teaspoon nutmeg and one teaspoon vanilla extract.
Pour your custard into your pie crust and bake at a 350 degree oven for about one hour, until pie is set (it will be jiggly but set - about the texture of firm-ish tofu). Let cool, then eat!
I had leftover pie scraps, so I rolled out an M for Matt and draped it on top about half way through baking (I didn't want to add it right away because I was worried it would sink through, but that was probably a needless concern) - I should have stuck it on earlier or brushed it with butter so it would turn golden brown. Still a tasty treat!
Did you resolve to eat healthier/more vegetables/vegan/seasonally? Did you resolve to cook more often and need meals that can be thrown together with minimal fuss and work? Did you resolve to eat whole plant (you know, the veg version of whole hog or nose to tail cooking)?
This is so easy and endlessly adaptable it hardly warrants a recipe, but so yummy and satisfying that I was looking forward to my lunch all morning. I love roasting root veggies - they mellow and soften up and are wonderfully sweet and earthy.
I made two trays of roasted veggies: potatoes and carrots in one and parsnips, turnips, radishes and leeks in the other. I saved the green tops (you could do this with pretty much anything - carrots, beets, whatever you have on hand - go nuts!) and sauteed with spinach and alliums and then lumped everything together for a healthy and simple meal.
Start by scrubbing clean your vegetables. I used: 1/2 bag of baby red potatoes, one shallot, three parsnips, one small bunch of carrots, one bunch of radishes, one leek and three turnips. This made about 3-4 servings for lunch, 6-8 servings as a side dish.
You can peel some of the vegetables (parsnips, carrots, etc.) before chopping, but I left the peels on - isn't that where all the good nutrition is? You want to chop everything up into relatively evenly sized pieces. Then toss with olive oil, plenty of salt (especially any potatoes) and black pepper so everything is evenly coated and spread out in an even layer on a baking tray.
Because there are few things more exquisite than garlic roasted until it's velvety smooth and meltingly sweet and unctuous, I added a few cloves to the tray with potatoes and carrots.
To the other tray - parsnips, turnips, and radishes - I added a sprinkle of dried thyme and a touch of ground nutmeg (it goes especially well with the parsnips). Because we also had fresh sage, I julieneed a few leaves and added them to the mix. I also halved a shallot and a leek and threw them on top. The shallot got burnt, but I ate it anyway and it was like a really yummy, sweetly-onion-y chip, and the leek was just perfect (I would recommend slicing after roasting, not before).
The trays went into the oven - about thirty minutes for the potatoes and carrots, and forty-five for the root vegetables, at 400 degrees. Then I got to work on the greens.
Make sure to wash everything thoroughly - no one wants gritty greens. I rinsed out the greens from the carrots and then held them as a bunch and just sliced through the leafy part and discarded the remaining stems. Then I got to work on my add-ins: one garlic clove sliced thin, one sliced shallot, and the white and light green parts of one leek, sliced and then rinsed thoroughly again to get rid of any last remaining dirt.
I heated some olive oil (approximately a tablespoon) in a pan, then added a shake of dried red chili, my garlic, shallot and leek, and some salt and black pepper. After sauteeing for two to three minutes, I added about a quarter cup of sake and cooked for another few minutes until everything had softened and the sake had cooked off.
Then I added the carrot greens and sauteed for another minute or two before tossing in about half a tub of baby spinach and another sprinkle of sea salt and cooking until the spinach had just started to wilt.
After the roasted vegetables came out of the oven, I heaped a pile on top of the greens and had a meal that tasted more delicious than nutritious, while having done nothing more than a little chopping and stirring.
I don't have anything clever or witty to say about New Year's resolutions, only that they are fun to think of and hard to keep, and two years ago was my first year keeping them (admittedly, I had two, and they were a pretty low bar: go to the dentist and open a retirement account). So what the heck, I'm giving it another go. Here are my resolutions for 2015:
Go to the gym at least 4 times a week: This is not your standard lose weight resolution! (I did go the doctor yesterday and get weighed and it was the highest I've ever weighed and my heart briefly stopped and sank to the pit of my stomach, but it is back in its place now, thanks). I've beat myself up about my weight before, and working out to get thin never puts me in a happy place - instead of happy post-workout endorphins, I'm left miserable because after all that effort I'm still not where I want to be. When I run to lose weight instead of for the sheer joy of it, I hit a wall and can't break through and it's yucky.
But I've also realized that not moving doesn't help either, and I feel and think and am my best when I'm sweating it out more days than not. Exercising wipes out the cobwebs and helps me find focus and clarity, and when I feel physically strong I feel mentally strong, so I'm making the commitment.
Save money every month: I've finally tackled my credit card debt (for now?), so my new goal is to sock something away at the end of every month. There is no reason for me to be living paycheck to paycheck. I've made this resolution before and forgotten it when that must-have pair of boots or shiny new something crossed my path, but this is the year it's going to happen.
Turn off the electronics and unplug: For at least half an hour before I go to bed. Instead of scrolling through blog after blog (or, really, playing endless mind-numbing games on my cell phone), I'm reading an actual book (right now: Pale Fire by Nabokov, You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Eggers, and Yes Please by Poehler), journaling, sketching, or talking to J. In lieu of getting to that next level in Candy Crush, I'm carving out time for enriching, calming, creative and restorative activities which can only be good for me.
A Couple Extra Thoughts:
I have to recommend Yes Please so, so much. I'm only just a little of the way through it, and I am not devouring it - I'm savoring it, hoping to stretch it out and keep it around because it is so very good. There is a chapter on what Amy calls her "demon" - the voice inside that says you're not good enough, you're not pretty or smart or thin enough, and nobody loves you (oh how that resonates! She captures it all so horribly perfectly) - and how she confronts that demon, telling it, "'Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don't talk about her like that.' Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works." I love that so much, and everything else in here. It is an excellent book and you should read it.
Finally, I want to say thank you (to my readers and friends, to the Internet, to the universe) for this blog. It feels good to write and think and create in a totally different way than I do at work; it inspires me to take more pictures; it gives me an excuse to bake sweets that J otherwise would not want in the house; and it's a chronicle of my journey that I'm grateful to make and to have.
So that's all for now - I'll post about the maple cream pie I made recently soon. And one more time, Happy New Year! What are your resolutions?
New Year print by Byway.