Super-Healthy Krunchy Kale Salad

Super-healthy krunchy kale salad is good for the body and easy on the eyes.

Super-healthy krunchy kale salad is good for the body and easy on the eyes.

This salad is very easy to make and it’s a great introduction to kale for people who are convinced they don’t like greens. It’s also damn good for you, kale being chock full of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, dietary fiber, thiamin, and protein. So now you have no excuse for not eating this salad!

To make the salad take a bunch of Tuscan kale (the kind with the very dark green, petal-shaped leaves that are flatter than the standard curly-leaf kale) and pull the leaves off of the stems. The stems can be quite bitter and are too chewy to be pleasant anyway, so discard the stems. Wash the kale thoroughly in cold water and then spin dry in a lettuce spinner (or drain and pat dry very well with a clean towel. With a sharp knife chop the kale into relatively fine shreds. Don’t worry about it being uniform; nobody’s judging you on your kale-kutting. Put the kale into a mixing bowl and squeeze one lemon over it. Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, one garlic clove (smashed and finely minced), about a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a bunch of cracked black pepper. Using your hands toss everything very well. Let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

After an hour or so add a half cup of finely sliced red cabbage, a half cup of crushed pita chips (I use Waleed’s brand.), a quarter cup of crumbled aged manchego cheese, about two tablespoons of crushed almonds (slivered is fine), and about a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. Toss it all together and then check your seasoning — adjust salt and pepper to taste. Now eat it! And feel that healthy goodness course through your body.

Easy Tasty Vegan Pizza

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Spicy veggie (and vegan) pizza is a snap to make.

This isn’t much of a recipe post, but more of a suggestion. I whipped up this lovely vegan pizza the other day and it exceeded expectations. Now I’m not a vegan (I’m OMNIVOROUS, baby!) and my tolerance for fake vegan cheese has its limits, but this pizza, notwithstanding the “cheddar-style” rice-based “cheese product” that melted inconsistently over the top, was just dynamite. I’m not going to measure it all out for you this time, but this what I did, more or less.

I had half an Italian eggplant, which was peeled. I diced the eggplant and salted it with a sprinkle of kosher salt. I let that sit for about 20 minutes and then I rinsed the eggplant and dried it well by squeezing it gently with a paper towel. I then sautéed the eggplant in olive oil until nicely browned. Also, I blanched some Tuscan kale in boiling salted water for two minutes. I dropped that into an ice bath to cool it down and then I drained it. I chopped it up nice and fine. I then chopped a little onion and browned that quickly in a pan. I preheated the pizza stone in my oven for 30 minutes at 550ºF (do it on a sheet pan, totally fine).

I took a nice, very flat whole wheat pita and I drizzled a little bit of olive oil over one side. I then spread over it a little homemade tomato sauce (a good jarred one is fine) and then added sparingly a little of each topping: kalamata olives, cooked eggplant, sautéed onions, blanched kale, fresh tomatoes, and pickled jalapenos. I added a few torn pieces of pre-sliced cheddar-style rice (or soy) cheese. I baked it on the pizza stone for about ten minutes. It was, how you say, AMAZEBALLS!

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Yummy and satisfying.

Chopped Veggie Picnic Salad

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A bounty of veggies!

I was inspired to make this salad by my father, a man who believes in eating not only in a heathy manner, but in a way that reflects his environmental concerns. To that end he eats small portions, mostly vegetables, and he eschews beef and gluttony. My dad is a vigorous man and will undoubtedly outlive me, due in no small part to his dietary habits. Now I can’t really embrace that particular lifestyle; I’d say my job doesn’t permit me to eat healthfully, but that’s mostly a cop-out. I just like food of all kinds and I like to eat. I’m OMNIVOROUS, after all, and I probably wouldn’t be cooking for a living if I didn’t like to eat just about everything!

My father is partial to chopped salads and a few months ago during his last visit he made an especially tasty salad of all kinds of things including cauliflower and tofu and cabbage and carrots and tomatoes and about thirty other veggies. This recipe is a bit like that — it’s complicated but easy to make, it’s got all kinds of things going on but works in a balanced way, it’s refreshing but filling, and it’s very open to interpretation. Don’t like cabbage? Substitute with fennel. Don’t like bell peppers? Throw in a summer squash. Don’t like carrots? Throw in fresh corn. Don’t like zucchini…you get the picture. Be creative, use what you have in the fridge, use as many vegetables as you can get your hands on.

Anyway, if you make this recipe don’t feel you have to stick to these quantities. Use what you’ve got and don’t be a stickler. Just keep the general idea of the salad and dress it accordingly. I made the salad vegan, but if you want to use regular mayonnaise in the dressing, have at it!

By the way, it’s called a Picnic Salad because you can dress it in advance and serve it casually. Dress the salad early and then stir in the nuts and corn chips right before serving. One note: the salt in the dressing might pull some moisture out of the veggies and it may be a trifle wet after sitting for a couple of hours; just drain off a little of the excess liquid if you notice that occurring.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegenaise or regular mayo
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 3 cups chopped purple cauliflower
  • 3 cups chopped raw white mushrooms
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped watercress
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pressed (and/or smoked) tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped purple cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup crushed cashews
  • 1 cup crushed blue corn tortilla chips

Now do this:

Whisk together vegenaise, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, sesame seeds, salt, honey, pepper, and basil. Refrigerate until your salad is assembled.

Toss to combine all of the remaining ingredients above except the nuts and corn chips. Toss with the dressing until nicely coated. Allow the salad to sit, refrigerated, for at least an hour. Drain off any extra liquid and toss in the cashews and blue corn chip. Serve and eat!

Grilled Tempeh & Portobellos

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Very vegan and very delicious.

In the course of my work I’m frequently called upon to make vegan dishes for guests and my coworker Ian (nicknamed Vegan Boy). Here’s one I knocked out the other day, on a whim, and it came out pretty spectacularly, if I may say so myself.

I bought a slab of tempeh, a staple vegetarian food stuff originally from Indonesia, which is a cake of pressed fermented soy beans. Because of its dense, hearty character tempeh makes for a decent meat substitute and can be quite tasty marinated in something flavorful and then grilled.

First I sliced the tempeh into slices about a half-inch thick. I whisked up a marinade composed of about a quarter cup of ponzu sauce, a quarter cup of olive oil, some minced garlic, a little minced marjoram, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar syrup (a reduction of simple balsamic vinegar from Modena with some sugar added to it), and some salt and pepper. I coated the tempeh slices with the marinade and let it sit for about an hour.

I cut a portobello mushroom into thick slices and marinated those as well. Meanwhile I roasted some broccoli florets in a skillet until a little charred. I also warmed a little homemade tomato sauce in a small pot.

I grilled the tempeh and mushrooms until hot and lightly charred. I put three slices of the tempeh on a sheet pan, topped the tempeh with grilled mushrooms, and then topped the ‘shrooms with a slice of “pepper-jack flavored” soy cheese. I popped the sheet pan into a hot oven (think 400ºF) for about five minutes until the “cheese” melted. I pulled out my vegan creation and pulled out a nice plate.

In the center of the plate I put a little pool of that homemade tomato sauce (a decent store-bought version like Rao’s or Giorgio Baldi’s might work). And then with a spatula I placed my little cheesy tempeh-mushroom creation in the center of the pool. I topped the cheese with some of that roasted broccoli and drizzled a little more balsamic syrup around the vegan grub.

It was damn tasty. At least that’s what Vegan Boy said.

Get Your Greens!

Get Your Greens!

Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) is tender, tasty, and highly nutritious.

My body tells me when I need veggies. And I listen to my body. Certainly for my work I try to have an understanding of basic nutrition; ya know, the simple stuff like what vitamins and minerals are present in common vegetables and grains and meats. For the people I cater to I need to have a modicum of nutritional understanding to help create balanced diets and meals and not sound like a fool while I do. But in my own life I try to have a sensible and more intuitive approach to eating.

I really try to pay attention to my body’s needs, at least when it comes to the basics. Sometimes I crave fish and I think maybe that implies low levels of fatty acids and good cholesterol. Likewise when I get a hankering for oysters maybe I need a dose of magnesium. Sometimes I feel an urge for hot chicken broth or broccoli or salad or artichokes or spinach and I try to identify the need. I’m not sure what specifically my body requires when I crave gailan (Chinese broccoli) but it’s rich in all kinds of things vital to life — iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin A, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Not only that but it tastes great — like broccoli but more so: richer, deeper, slightly more bitter, and sweeter. It’s an all-around winner for taste and nutrients.

To cook it I first wash it well and dry it. I cut off the leafy top halves and I shave off some of the exterior of the dense, thicker bottom halves with a veggie peeler. I like to stir-fry it with garlic and ginger and finish it with Chinese oyster sauce (sub with hoisin sauce or black bean sauce to make it vegan). Of course this is my favorite method, but you can do lots of things with it; just treat it as you would regular broccoli.

For the gailan in this pic I used about a half pound, which I cleaned as described above. I sliced two large cloves of garlic and minced fresh ginger until I had about one big rounded tablespoon. I heated up some veggie oil in a very hot wok (over high heat) until it was just barely smoking. I threw in the garlic and ginger and stirred it around. I tossed in the gailan and added some cracked black pepper and a large pinch of kosher salt. I stir-fried the veggie for about 2 minutes, moving it around frequently. I added two tablespoons of xao xing (Chinese cooking wine, although cheap sherry or white wine will do) and let that steam the veggie. When the liquid was nearly evaporated I added a big dollop (maybe one and a half tablespoons) of Lee Kum Kee brand Oyster Sauce. I killed the heat and stirred to make sure the gailan was fully coated with the sauce. I checked for seasoning and added a bit more pepper. It was perfect!

I served it with some steamed broken jasmine rice and some hoisin-glazed roasted salmon. After dinner my body felt rejuvenated, like I’d given it a big boost of nutrients. And it was delicious. And way better than a multi-vitamin.

Crispy Vegan Veggie Burger!

Everything about this burger is vegan, except the brioche bun. Oops.

This is not exactly a recipe post as I don’t have a recipe for the veggie patty. It’s just a little something I whipped up yesterday for my friend Ian, whose diet is wholly vegan and usually mostly raw. The patty is made from sticky sprouted brown rice, black rice, mushrooms, and zucchini. I threw in a little garlic and herbs and a tiny bit of flour to bind it all together. I crisped it in olive oil in a very hot skillet and melted a slice of soy cheese (you can see it peeking out of the bun on the right side of the pick) over the top.

I placed the cooked burger on a toasted brioche bun with a slice of killer ripe beefsteak tomato, iceberg lettuce, bread-n-butter pickles, and thinly sliced red onion. A slather of Vegenaise and a drizzle of both yellow mustard and ketchup completed this super-tasty burger.

It wasn’t until Ian took a bite of the burger that I realized that the brioche bun probably had a tiny bit of egg in it. He probably didn’t realize it until he read this post. Oops.

One day I need to come up with a measured recipe for this patty. But that day is not today.

Baby Heirloom Tomato Salad with Bocconcini & Avocado

Very pretty and pretty damn tasty salad.

Over the weekend I picked up this assortment of stunning baby heirloom tomatoes. It was a gorgeous mixture of little reds and greens and yellows and oranges — all pretty and all delicious. I whipped up a salad of these tomatoes, which I halved and tossed with bocconcini (little balls of fresh mozzarella), shaved celery, red onion, and avocado. The dressing was a combination of white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. For a little herbal kick I added some minced chives, parsley, cilantro, and fresh mint.

This is quite possibly the last week I can get great local tomatoes and I’ve been making the most of it, eating them every day. If you can still find some decent tomatoes in your area, I suggest you do the same. Right now.