With the never-ending winter we've been having here, I've been yearning for a little warm weather fun so last weekend Michael and I headed down to Cartagena, Colombia for just that.
When we were trying to figure out where to go, we were surprised to find that Jet Blue now has direct flights to Cartagena from NYC. Michael is Colombian and this was our first trip there together, and my first time to Colombia, so when we figured out that we could easily get there, there was no question. Yes. Take me there.
The old town in Cartagena is one of the most colorful and vibrant cities I have ever experienced. Being surrounded by bright beautiful colors and humidity makes me happy. We had such a great time wandering the streets, eating, drinking out of coconuts and taking tons of photos. I loved being there with Michael, hearing him reminisce about certain foods that he would eat when he lived there and experiences he had as a kid.
Since Cartagena is located on the Caribbean sea, there is no lack of fresh fish and light, tropical meals. Ceviche is big there, and we made sure we tried our fair share. So fresh, so good.
While we were eating and trying all kinds of seafood ceviche, I thought to myself, why haven't I seen a vegetable ceviche on any menu? You know what happened next.
When we got home the first thing I made was a vegetable ceviche with radishes, apples, and a lot of other tasty ingredients like avocado, red onion and lemon juice that make a typical seafood ceviche taste so good. The zesty radish flavor pairs so well with the sweetness of the apple. It's such a fun and colorful snack or appetizer. The only thing that was missing was the 80º weather.
When did kale become so cool?
I mean, seriously. Did anyone even know about kale 5 years ago?
Was anyone making kale chips, or kale smoothies?
Would anyone even touch kale with a 10 foot pole?
I was once terrified of kale. Now ... I cannot get enough.
If you say the word 'kale' nowadays, people get giddy. You know I do.
Maybe it's because it is because we finally know what to do with it. We're comfortable, and acquainted. We finally know how to make it taste really really good.
Maybe it's also because it is really really good for you + me + the people we feed it to. Calcium, vitamin C and fiber are things that make our bodies happy, and kale is loaded with these and other wonderful things. Kale makes our bodies happy.
Kale caesar salad is just one of the hundreds of recipes I've been using to feed my kale addiction. Kale is just so great in a salad, if you know how to work it. It's not a wimpy green. It does not wilt or sag easily, and that's a good thing. Massaging it breaks it down, and chopping it small makes it easier to eat.
I love a good ceasar salad, don't you? But I don't really love all of the cheese and bad calories it usually has in it. This version I've been working with has that same awesome caesar salad taste, without the dairy or the anchovies. You'd never know the difference.
Lastly, let's chat about these homemade breadcrumbs. I know I've been posting a lot of gluten-free recipes on here, so I don't want to leave out my GF friends. You can always make homemade GF breadcrumbs using your favorite GF bread. Or, if you want to skip the bread all together, any kind of toasted nut or seed would work well to get that contrast of texture.
As you may know, I am a huge fan of Yottam Ottolenghi. His books are a constant source of inspiration for me, and I frequently daydream about having lunch at one of his London restaurants.
My first introduction to Ottolenghi was unusual. On a visit to Maine a couple of years ago, my Aunt + Uncle took me to this fabulous book store in Portland, Maine that sold just cookbooks. Just cookbooks. Dangerous.
Out of the mounds and mounds of gorgeous cookbooks, I could not tear myself away from this one vegetarian focused book with an attractive pillow-like white cover. The recipes were different. Unique. A wonderful combination of mediterranean + middle-eastern flavors. When I went to checkout, the cashier owned the book already and went on and on about what a great book it was. I couldn't wait to get home and make every single recipe.
I bought Ottolenghi's book Plenty before it was released in the US, not knowing what a hit it would end up being here. That also means my book is in grams and celcius, and although it is slightly inconvenient, I look it as a badge of honor for discovering this book before it's US debut.
After cooking my way through Plenty, I couldn't wait until I had the opportunity to eat at one of his London restaurants. This summer I had my chance, and it lived up to everything I had expected. I went to his restaurant in Notting Hill and order as many things that would fit onto one plate. I sat outside in the rain (because that was the only seat open) and I was in heaven. While I was there I was also able to pick up a signed copy of his original book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook which features the recipes made at his restaurants, and it too has become a staple in my kitchen.