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A Healthy Post for the New Year: Kale & Sesame Salad

Happy New Year, all! So, yes, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Mr. T and I had a wonderful time gallivanting around the snowy north with various permutations of family, which is always fun. But, helas, we’re now back to the grind and I at least am feeling the need for something cleanse-y. Of course, I have a fairly hardcore cleanse lined up and ready to go, but apparently I’m something of a hosebeast during the process, so I have to wait till Mr. T is on travel to do it. Sigh.

Meddlesome partners aside, it seems that most of you are looking for something similarly fresh and healthy after some holiday excess. I did an informal poll on the PassionFruits’ facebook page (which, obviously, you should check out if you’ve not already) and kale salad was a clear winner over the red velvet cake and pecan squares I’d lined up for the next week or so.

So, kale salad it is. In case you’ve not recently been accosted by a juicer, raw fooder, vegetarian, Prevention magazine-reader, or other holistic evangelist (lucky you), kale has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late. It is ridiculously, insanely good for you and thus is popping up in all sorts of places, both traditional and not.

Now, while I have yet to investigate kale chips up close and personal, the latest method of consuming the superfood du jour did intrigue me. Massaging the kale with oil or acid to relax it a bit–a pre-chewing, if you will–makes the whole eating endeavor less work and more pleasure. I tried it out while we were in Boston over the holiday and lo, it worked. Very cool. It was lovely tossed with a light vinaigrette, sliced green apples, fennel, and toasted pecans. So, there’s that version.

But I also wanted something a bit more substantial, a salad that could stand on its own for lunch. So, I turned eastward with a sesame-miso dressing, added some more veggies and a bit of chicken, and voila, a delicious salad that’ll keep the 3pm munchies at bay. An easy victory for healthy eating in the new year. And, having written this up, I can now get back to baked goods! (I’ll keep eating the salad though, and you should too!)

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Mid-East Mashup: Tabbouleh 2.0

Ah, organizational skills. If mine were slightly better, this is what I would have taken to the Pride bar-be-que I went to on Saturday. But no, not quite that together. Not that anyone complained, mind you, as I showed up instead with one of WhiskedDC‘s super tasty strawberry-rhubarb pies–which got snarfled up pretty much instantaneously. Good stuff. Also good, however, is this verdant, lemony tabbouleh-esque salad… particularly now that the summer has definitively arrived in D.C., crushing everyone under its hot, sweaty fist.

Although you’d not know it based on many of the tabboulehs  available in this country, it’s MEANT to be a green salad of parsley with a little bit of bulghur mixed in–not a tan salad of bulghur with a little bit of parsley mixed in. Of course, there are challenges to making a salad that’s mostly parsley. While I love its bright, grassy flavor, most of the parsley I can get my hands on is huge and tough. And, when tossed with its super lemony dressing, the parsley manages to go all wilty, yet remain tough. Tiresome.

Since I’m not about to start growing my own tender young parsley for salads–I’d need several more balconies–I thought about other greens that might also play well with the parsley I was committed to keeping for the sake of flavor (and tradition). Spinach? Nope. Too delicate. It’d just wilt down into snotty green hankies. Ech. But kale? That could work. It’s rugged enough to stand up to the dressing, but once cooked, isn’t as throat-ticklingly tough. And chic peas? Also not traditional, but a nice addition that adds some creamy heft and enhances the veggie-friendliness of your menu.

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FMC Kale: ‘Bang’ing Out Simplicity


“Knowing that Lacinato kale is one of Joe’s very favorite green things ever–having heard him bang on about it incessantly…” Hmmm. Yes, Luke: “…bang on about it incessantly…”

“Hey, kids! There’s Joe. ‘Running That Mouth’ about… KALE!’”

You make me sound oh-so interesting.

Yet, it’s all true. I do love kale, particularly Lacinato kale (Tuscan kale, Dinosaur kale, etc.) It does have a “Serve at the Flinstone’s Table” appearance and I find it’s one of the sturdiest types of kale out there. It withstands a fair amount of aggressive cooking (Check out Luke’s ribollita) and it is nice uncooked (it doesn’t require a heavy, repeated chew as most other kales do). Read more

FMC Kale: When Joe Gives You Kale, Make Ribollita

Knowing that Lacinato kale is one of Joe’s very favorite green things ever–having heard him bang on about it incessantly and having been served it in several lovely meals at his table–I kind of thought he’d go and do something unexpected with it. Turns out I was right.

How fortunate, then, that I also cooked against type, embracing kale’s humble Tuscan roots and making that cornerstone of Italy’s cucina povera, ribollita. I’d recently been served a version of it at a local Italian restaurant that shall remain nameless, primarily because the soup was thin, wan, and the beans were crunchy. CRUNCHY. Also,  tragic. Ribollita is SUPPOSED to be a lush, thick mix of beans, old bread, kale, etc.

Getting into the spirit of the thing, I pretty much winged it based on what was at hand–i.e., at home or at the market on the way home–rather than finding an ur-recipe from some scion of Italian cuisine… Marcella, Lidia, and all those other grande dames (or the Italian equivalent) will have to wait for another day.

In any event! According to Wikipedia, that inscrutable arbiter of all internet knowledge, the only things a ribollita HAS to have are: beans, kale, and old bread. No problem! Thus, for my first batch I went with a mild bacon rather than pancetta but I did manage to unearth a Parmesan rind from the bowels of the refrigerator, because I am nothing if not a thrifty European housewife. I mean, REALLY.

In subsequent forays, however, I’ve swapped in nubbins of spicy Spanish chorizo (cured, not fresh–that’d be Mexican chorizo…) and I’ve not looked back. With more flavor, (slightly) less grease, and a much more appealing texture when cooked, the chorizo wins hands down.

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Farmers’ Market Challenge: Dance of the Seven Kales

LacinatoKaleI suppose I should not have been surprised to see the richly textured green leaves of Lacinato, or dinosaur, kale when I opened my latest brown bag o’ mystery from the farmers’ market. It is not only a superfood du jour, it is also a favorite of Joe’s. It’s also–despite the current heatwave–a little early to expect much else from our local farmers. This formerly neglected member of the brassica family has of late leapt to centerstage as foodies turn more to local, seasonal produce.

First and foremost, it’s a tasty, sturdy green that offers an earthy, verdant flavor even during the depths of winter when green can be hard to come by. Kale’s also sturdier than spinach–baby or otherwise–and is thus far more rewarding to cook with; it will cook down, but a pound of sauteed kale will net you a few side servings where the same amount of spinach will have to be served by the thimbleful. It’s much touted nutritional value–packing massive amounts of antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients per calorie–also adds to kale’s appeal.  

Unsurprisingly, the blogosphere has been abuzz with kale-related postings–so much ink has been spilled on kale chipsalone that it counts as  meme in and of itself. Given the intense heat of kale’s spotlight, it will be interesting to see what we both come up with for Challenge Kale. Not chips, for sure, and we’ve already done it with pasta. So, check back in soon; we’ll be posting our two odes to kale in the next day or so.

Being Green


Lately I’ve been in body purification mode. With spring on the horizon (Mother Nature, I trust that the glorious weekend of weather we just had was not a one-night stand) I’ve been eating more vegetarian meals, here, here and here.

I’ve cut out booze for a few weeks and I’m even considering a week-long detox diet where I will–obviously–lose a majority of my food options.

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Frolicking Further into Fall: Pasta with Squash & Kale

Miracle of miracles. We went out to the country for the weekend and, are you ready for this, IT DID NOT RAIN. Holy Amazing. This is a fairly spectacular occurrence as I bring rain with such reliability that it’s been suggested that I could save drought-plagued areas by my presence alone. It was, however, gloriously sunny and warm in Lost River. There was hiking of hikes, playing of games, drinking of drinks, and inspecting of goats. It was good.


There was also much cooking. In addition to Japanese Street Food Night, we also cranked out a nice little Italian-inspired meal Friday evening. A warming, savory-sweet fall pasta followed by simply broiled buffalo steaks and broccolini was just the thing after a long drive and a longer week. Though half of the group FOOLISHLY stopped at Denny’s on the way to the cabin, everyone else was plenty hungry when this tasty pasta, tossed with roasted squash, sauteed kale, pine nuts, and raisins hit the table. That it then got eaten again for breakfast on Sunday says more about how tasty it was… and less about how I didn’t have time to make the coffee cake I usually would have.

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