quick eats: whole wheat pasta + kale walnut pesto

Kale Walnut Pesto
This week amidst one of many conference calls I took in a remote hotel room I found myself uttering the words, I need to think about my life. I didn’t realize that I’d said this out loud, but I did, and I’m realizing saying this right now means something. Because everything means something even if we don’t know it. Even if we’re trying to deny it. Part of me is battling a tension between my life now and where it could be in a year or two year’s time, and right now, at this moment, I feel very much stuck in the betweens.

So while I sort out all this mess, I’m taking comfort in keeping the rest of my world simple. Easy eats, quiet nights, close friends…

INGREDIENTS
2 cups baby kale, packed
1 cup basil leaves, packed
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp panko (or bread crumbs)
Salt/pepper to taste
Optional: 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
1 lb whole wheat penne or rotini

DIRECTIONS:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While your water is coming to a boil, blitz in a food processor the kale, basil, garlic, and walnuts until it’s a thick, clumpy paste. Stream in the olive oil and add salt/pepper to taste. Set aside.

Once the water is bubbling, add in a handful of kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir and cook until al dente (1-2 minutes under your package instructions. Once the pasta is done, drain and toss in with the pesto and panko, and add grated cheese or additional walnuts if you’re keen on more flavor.

Enjoy!

Kale Walnut Pesto

table for one: squash + kale salad, sausage and fried sage pasta

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To be Silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glitter, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless.To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

I like being alone. I crave the quiet, the still and the noiseless, and while people who think they know me find themselves shocked by this, I can only say this: you don’t really know me. As an itinerant teenager in Long Island, who skirted the edges of things, who never quite fit in, I spent evenings and weekends taking buses to other parts of the North Shore. There was never really an itinerary, it was just something to do. It was a temporary escape to feel my body in motion and to be quiet and calm while frenzy surrounded me. I memorized bus routes and collected change. Walked through expansive malls that stood under a halo of fluorescent lights and kicked leaves by creeks and watched small boats cleave through the water from a harbor. Always I arrived home in the gloaming, when the evening closed in on us and the sky was an actinic blue. Back then our neighbors blasted Led Zeppelin and burned leaves in garbage cans. All I wanted to do was sit in the middle of the street, alone, witness to the passersby shivering in anoraks, watching flames lick metal.

It’s strange to think that I live in a culture that sometimes demonizes the art of being alone. Many equate alone to loneliness. Others take pity on the single-serving dinner and the chair left bare. However, sometimes, there’s nothing I need more.

After two weeks of intensive meetings, plane travel and days of talking, smiling, talking and more talking, I cancelled my Thanksgiving plans because there was nothing that made me cry out more than having to endure another day of talking. I wanted to give my vocal cords a break. I wanted a clear mind to think. A body to rest. So I can’t even tell you how much I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving, which has amounted to a spin class, a movie and batches of cookies and stalks of kale.

Whether your’re surrounded by your beloveds or spending some time in solitude, I wish you clarity and much, much light.

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INGREDIENTS
For the salad
8oz Tuscan (or Lacinato) kale, chopped into thin ribbons
16oz butternut squash, peeled and chopped into fat cubes
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
1/3 cup dried cherries
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
Optional: 2oz soft goat cheese, crumbled

For the pasta
16oz whole wheat fettucini (or linguine)
8oz ground sweet sausage
1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
4oz Tuscan (or Lacinato) kale, chopped into thin ribbons
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
3-4oz truffle-infused cheese (you can also use goat cheese or thick chunks of parmesan — either would work well)
up to 1/4 cup reserve pasta water

DIRECTIONS
For the salad: Pre-heat the oven to 400F. On a cookie sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper, spread out the squash and drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure that all the squash cubes are coated, slick and glossy. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender and slightly char. Set side to cool.

Cut along the vein on each kale leaf, discarded the vein when you’re done. Your left with leaflets of kale. Bunch all of them and fold them over and cut small ribbons with a sharp knife. Add the leaves to a bowl. Brief parenthetical: some folks can’t stand raw kale, however, I love it and find that it’s a crisp juxtaposition to the squash and cherries. If you’re the sort that wants a little massaging, add olive oil to your palms and massage each leaf with a little sea salt. This will break down the fibers and deliver a slightly wilted, less bitter green.

In a small skillet, toast your pistachios until their aromatic and slightly browned (2-3 minutes). Set nuts aside. Cut your slightly-cooled squash into mini-cubes, and in a large bowl toss the squash, kale, toasted nuts and cherries. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and add cheese if you prefer. Add salt/pepper, if necessary.

For the pasta: In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Nigella Lawson once said that pasta water should resemble the Mediterranean and I believe her. Once your water boils, add your noodles and stir a bit ensuring that none of them sticks to one another. Back in the day someone tried to sell me on the olive oil trick in water. It didn’t work, and all I ended up doing was wasting expensive oil. If you don’t want your noodles to stick, stir them to separate.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of oil In a large saucepan and add your sausage and sage. Stir until the sausage is brown, slightly charred and set aside. Drain your pasta, however, keep a little reserve water just in case your dish is a bit dry. Add your pasta to the cooked sausage and stir so the noodles are coated and slick. Add in the cheese and stir to combine.

Cut along the vein on each kale leaf, discarded the vein when you’re done. Your left with leaflets of kale. Bunch all of them and fold them over and cut small ribbons with a sharp knife. Add the leaves to the bottom of a large bowl.

Tumble in the pasta, sausage and cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and reserve water, if necessary. Season with salt, pepper. Serve hot!

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kale lentil salad

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Today on Twitter I joked with someone that I was determined to turn kale into a dessert or a pony; its transformative and adaptive properties are that miraculous. When I embarked on this challenge — a month free of refined sugars, flours and dairy — I went a little mad in the grocery store, stocking my cart with foreign foodstuffs. After the high subsided I stared at my container of lentils and wondered…Okay, how do I cook lentils??? After a long search (I’m noticing a pattern of an increased amount of recipe research this week), I discovered a kale lentil salad on one of my favorite sites, Food52.

You’ll love this dish because the protein-packed lentils make this extremely filling, and the mango preserves render a certain sweetness that borders on the exotic. It’s a cinch to make and it keeps well in the fridge.

Next week witness as I transform kale into a PUDDING. J/K!

INGREDIENTS (Recipe adapted from Well and Good NYC)
2 bunches curly kale, center ribs and stems removed, washed, dried, and chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mango preserves
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 cup beluga lentils, (substitute brown lentils if they’re what you have), rinsed and picked over
1 cup red cabbage, shredded

DIRECTIONS
Whisk together olive oil, mango preserves (the original recipe called for apricot, but I love the sweetness of mangos juxtaposed to the bitter, cruciferous green), apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside.

Turn kale into a large mixing bowl, and massage 6 tsp of the dressing into the salad. You’ll need enough dressing for the salad to be well coated and start taking on a “wilted” texture. Set aside.

Place lentils in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them by 3-4 inches (approximately 2 1/2 cups). Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch of salt, and let the lentils simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are al dente.

Allow lentils to cool slightly and add them, along with the cabbage, to the kale, and add another 2 tsp vinaigrette. Use hands to combine. Add extra dressing as needed, and season to taste.

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how much do I adore kale? let me count the ways

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As I write this, I’m stuck on an Amtrak train that’s suffering from mechanical failure. While I truly believe I’ve entered the seventh rung of hell, I’m trying to be optimistic about the situation. Originally I had planned to write a long, leisurely post as I made my way to New Haven, but I’ll give it to you straight.

I LOVE KALE.

Let me back track for a moment. Growing up in Brooklyn, the closest I’d ever come to consuming a vegetable was iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing. Green beans lived in some murky abyss that was a can, and the very sight of broccoli sent me screaming. It wasn’t until I went to college that I had my first real salad, and it took nearly a decade to fall in love with the BELOVED CARROT. So you can imagine one could hardly have predicted my love affair with kale. And trust me, kids, this river runs deep.

Although I loathe juice cleanses more than the WRETCHED MUSHROOM, I have to thank the folks at BluePrint Cleanse for introducing me to kale while on a 2009 retreat. Dressed in tahini sauce and tossed with sundried tomatoes and other delicious vegetables, I feverishly shoveled my salad and proceeded to go home and stock up on the cruciferous green as if I were hoarding for a bomb shelter. Since then, I’ve made kale every which way one could possibly make kale. I blitzed it with roasted garlic and pistachios to make a pesto, I tossed it with strawberries, blueberries and a honey vinaigrette, diced grilled peaches and toasted slivered almonds, and, most famously, made it the star of my tofu stirfry and drunken noodles. It’s made its way into smoothies, shakes and as a perfect accoutrement to fish.

But perhaps the most daunting aspect of kale is the fact that it’s fibrous. This is why you’re not eating it, right? TELL ME EVERYTHING. As my friend @glambr would say, START AT THE BEGINNING AND END AT THE END.

This problem, like most, can be resolved, with some massaging. Before I make kale I massage sea salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil in my hands and rub the kale leaves between my two palms. The salt will force the kale to sweat a little (wonder why onions don’t burn when you add salt? It’s because salt renders juice out of the veggie/fruit, etc, it touches), and it will become slightly tender. I did this for the first few months of eating kale before I dressed and served it, but now I actually love the fact that it’s a veggie that can stand up to almost any ingredient. It’s no wilting flower.

Do you have any amazing recipes you want to share? Let me know!

Check out some of my favorite kale recipes:

  • Stovetop Truffle Kale Macaroni and Cheese
  • Drunken Noodles + Kale
  • Pistachio Panko Encrusted Tofu with Sauteed Kale
  • Spicy Kale Tofu Stirfry
  • Kale + Ruby Grapefruit Salad
  • week of kale: spicy kale + tofu stir-fry!

    spicy kale + tofu stir-fry!

    As soon as my friend Kate forwarded me this kale recipe from the New York Times, I knew I had to make this simply because it was a challenge. Let us rewind the proverbial clock and return to a time when my feeble attempt to cook with tofu resulted in a pile of stringy mess. A previous attempt at wilted spinach gave me vertigo as I discovered that I loathe wilted, cooked vegetables. Simply put, mush is not my bag.

    However, the tofu looked firm, kale tends to hold its texture, and quite frankly it would be criminal to abandon a kale recipe. Admittedly, I had my trepidations (the mush! the mush!) but my sweet friend @lizamonroy reminded me that nothing could go wrong with food as beautiful as this. Inspired by Liza’s infectious energy, I fell under the kale spell and marveled over the cacophony of color.

    A note to the wise, read through the recipe as there is quite a bit of dancing in the kitchen in terms of food prep. Have everything chopped up and minced. Make sure your wok (in this case, my PAN) is searing hot, and don’t be afraid to improvise. After 15 minutes in the kitchen, Liza and I feasted on this DELICIOUS dish.

    And it is UNBELIEVABLY, UNEQUIVOCALLY (INSERT MORE ADVERBS HERE) DELICIOUS. From the deep, enveloping sesame oil and soy sauce mixture, to the rice wine bite to the palate cleansing ginger, every bite proved flavorful and unexpected. As we helped ourselves to the whole large bowl, we thought of iterations (Southwestern-style with corn and beans, chopped chicken or fresh shrimp), and it put me to thinking that I’d love to assemble a little homemade book of kale recipes because this is the vegetable which has awakened my heart.

    Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu With Kale and Red Pepper, courtesy of The New York Times, with modifications
    INGREDIENTS
    1 bunch curly kale (about 10 ounces), stemmed and washed
    1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or dry sherry
    1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
    1 teaspoon cornstarch
    1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, preferably white pepper
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    1 tablespoon safflower (or canola) oil
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1 tablespoon minced ginger
    1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch julienne
    1/2 cup edamame pods
    2 teaspoons sesame oil

    DIRECTIONS
    Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the kale and blanch 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and place in a bowl near your wok.

    Cut the tofu into dominos and place them on paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and prepare the remaining ingredients.

    In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, stock and cornstarch. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your wok.

    It’s likely that you’ll find frozen edamame in your market, so drop 1 1/2 cups of edamame (1/2 the bag) into a pot of boiling salted water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the pods float to the surface of the water. Drain, remove the pods and set aside in a small bowl.

    Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the safflower oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the tofu. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds.

    Add the red pepper and edamame and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the kale, salt, pepper and sugar and toss together. Add the soy sauce mixture and the sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and serve with grains or noodles.

    Yield: 4 servings.

    Advance preparation: This is a last-minute preparation, but the blanched kale will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator.

    Nutritional information per serving (sans edamame): 194 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 14 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 283 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 12 grams protein

    spicy kale + tofu stir-fry!
    spicy kale + tofu stir-fry!