I've got a salad for you today ... because I just got finished with two weeks of marathon eating, and this week all I want to eat are gigantic salads for every meal. I cannot think of or look at pictures of christmas cookies right now, I am still so full from the past few weeks.
And .... I know in the weeks to come there are going to be so many sweets and bacon wrapped whatevers. I want to psych myself up for all the upcoming indulgence, and to do that I will be eating salads and super healthy stuff on the in-between days.
Don't worry, you and I can get back to talking about more serious holiday eats and treats next week.
So let's talk about this salad. Sometimes I find myself using quinoa and kale for everything, but I am trying to make a better effort to change things up once in a while. You can certainly make this salad with quinoa and kale instead of barley and spinach, but I decided to give barley and spinach the spotlight here, because other grains and dark leafy greens deserve our love too.
Since this this salad is more grain-heavy, it feels more like a meal. Something you can eat for dinner, or a hearty lunch. It's filling but it won't put you over the edge, and it's loaded with healthy goodness. It would also make a great side dish, or brunch salad, or you can just snack on all by yourself all week long (that's what I've been doing).
My favorite part about this salad is the dressing. This dressing is killer. Almonds, sesame oil, and miso ... some of my favorites, all blended together. You can easily use this over so many things .... other salad combinations, roasted vegetables, noodle dishes. I just want to dive in and take a bath in this dressing, it's so darn good.
Hey guys, guess what? I want to be the one to tell you this, so here it goes. Summer isn't over yet. Just because Labor Day has come and gone, I am not turning in my flip flops for knee-high boots just yet. I am going to soak up every last second. As long as I have a slight hint of tan on my legs and vegetables in the garden it's summer in my mind.
This summer was a productive one for me. I had some pretty serious goals I was trying to accomplish, but within the serious goals I had some not so serious ones I was aiming for too.
Try to wiggle in a couple of beach days in-between working on the cookbook (check).
Have fun (check).
Sleep in during the last week of August (check).
Work on my garden and improve my green thumb skills (check).
Last summer I planted my first garden on my own, and I had very few successes and way too many zucchinis and mini-pumpkins. This summer I had a different strategy. I may have cheated a little, but I think it was necessary in my learning process.
I planted my garden with plants I bought that had already sprouted. Some may call this cutting corners, others may call this smart, but since I am not a person who can dedicate all of my attention to my garden, it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. My entire garden was a success (except for some little creature who was loving my kale) but besides that we now have a beautiful and balanced garden that is full of gorgeous summer vegetables.
I have been eating mostly from the garden for the past few weeks, and as far as home cooked meals go, there is not much that beats that.
I planted a few swiss chard plants in my garden and by mid-August they had grown to have some of the biggest leaves I have ever seen. I'm talking seriously big. I had to do something fun with them.
You know I am not one to take the safe route and just throw them into a pan and satuée them. I wanted to come up with something totally different. After several attempts, these enchiladas came to be.
Michael and I had a little bit of a debate on what to call these. Actually, the debate was sparked because I was accidentally calling them "empanadas" and he vehemently protested. Empanadas are one of Michael's great food loves, so I wouldn't want to mess with them. Woops! Enchiladas ... not empanadas! Once we sorted out the confusion, he agreed that "enchiladas" made more sense.
Traditional enchiladas are made with a corn or flour tortilla that has some kind of filling, topped off with a tomato based sauce and typically lots of cheese and then baked. Over here, I have a slightly different take on enchiladas for you. Subbing out the processed, carb-heavy tortilla for swiss chard is bold move in the health direction. And, by sticking with the green theme, adding in a green tahini instead of a tomato based sauce and cheese still satisfies the creamy texture but in a much more "still kind-of bathing suit season" sort of way. This is a perfect light, but indulgent, meal to ease into late late summer.
Let's be serious for a second. I'm not fooling anyone with this vegetable stack.
You and I both know that stacking vegetables makes them look wayyy better than if I were to just carelessly throw them into a salad. It's impressive, it's fun, it's thought out, it makes you feel super creative. We should all be stacking more vegetables.
It's like when I get my hair blown out, I just feel a little more fancy and little more special. Same hair, same person, just a little something extra. Same tomatoes, same ingredients, but they just look and feel a little more special.
When I was at the market the other day, I saw dozens of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. I wanted to take a bunch home and love them and make them feel special. I didn't want to mutilate them, I wanted to show off their quirky crevices and imperfect shape. I wanted to bring out their juicy texture and taste. I wanted to throw a party and have them be the main event.
Well, I ended up making this salad and ate it all by myself for lunch. Tomato party for one .... why not, right? But as I was eating it, I daydreamed about how impressive it would be to walk out with these gorgeous stacks of tomatoes as an appetizer at our next bqq. I am going to do that, I think you should too.
I cannot believe that this is the first ramp recipe I am posting this season, since ramps have been on my plate at almost every single meal I've had at home over the past few weeks. Breakfast: side of crispy ramps, lunch: raw ramps in my salad, dinner: ramps any way I can think of.
Ramps, all day every day.
I'm hoping you have not been overwhelmed by onslaught of ramp recipes this year .... if you're anything like me, you'll never be sick of ramps.
But this recipe is not just about the ramps. They're sharing the spotlight with this quinoa burger. If you've been following along here for a while, you know that I have done a few variations of a quinoa burger, shifting ingredients and preparations around each time. This might be my favorite one to date.
The very first recipe I posted for a quinoa burger went internet famous on me. And by internet famous, I mean it has made it's way around Tumblr (not as exciting as being YouTube internet famous). To be honest, I don't even think it was the burger that was getting all of the love, I think it was the avocado spread.
Because let's face it, when it comes to a veggie-type burger, it is just as much about the sauce as it is the patty.
And with that, the conversation gets turned back to ramps.
I've tried some pretty interesting and awesome ramp preparations this year. There is so much you can do with them. They're great raw, sauteed, pickled, or incorporated into a sauce, like this recipe here.
Last night I watched my father-in-law chop a few up and mix them into some homemade guacamole (I'm pretty sure he thought it was green onion). It was so good.
Ramps are a little more pungent and exciting than green onion, but the two can be interchanged in almost any recipe. So if you cannot find ramps where you are, or when their short season is over, then go ahead and sub green onion.
Okay, back to the burgers. These burgers are super versatile. You can switch up, increase, or leave out pretty much any ingredient listed, including the egg, since I know some of you would prefer a vegan version. In the past, my quinoa burgers were made without egg, however the egg really helps to bind. If you prefer not to use the egg, by all means leave it out. Just be aware that they will be a little more delicate (they fall apart easier).
You can go crazy with the toppings. For mine, I just added some arugula and some thinly sliced red onion but you can also add avocado, and any other veggie you can think of. If you want a gluten or bread-free option you can leave out the bun and serve it over a salad or in a lettuce wrap.
The only non-negotiable part is the ramp pesto. You cannot leave out the ramp pesto, it really is the best part.
I’ve been making and eating a lot of lettuce wraps recently. For lunch, for an appetizer, for no real reason at all. I know it might not sound very exciting, but trust me, I'm talking about some high-maintenance lettuce wraps here.
High-maintenance in the best way possible. Bear with me now...
Not the kind of high-maintenance that would scare you away. You know I don't like things to be too complicated around here. Just the kind of high-maintenance that takes something that needs a little fixing up and making it a little fancier.
It all started when I found the most beautiful head of butter lettuce at my local Whole Foods, that was grown here, locally in Brooklyn. Beautiful lettuce from Brooklyn? I was smitten. This lettuce was meant for big, beautiful, veggie-filled lettuce wraps.
I started with a basic lettuce wrap with lots of raw veggies and some pea pesto that I had made recently. They were delicious. The pea pesto really made the wrap, but I thought maybe it could use a little something else.
A few days later, Michael and I wanted a snack, and I had a little leftover butter lettuce so I decided to make some more lettuce wraps. This time I added some black beans for some protein and a dash of hot sauce for some spice. These lettuce wraps rocked our world.
Because they were so good, I had to make them again. This time for myself for lunch, but I went one step further and I decided to make my own hot sauce. I have been dying to make my own sriracha for quite some time and in browsing some favorite blogs of mine I found this great recipe to make a proper sriracha (one that would taste exactly like the original but without the added preservatives) however it requires days of fermentation. Something I will be tackling soon, but not today. I needed some hot sauce, pronto.
So I found a few other recipes, this one from Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen, via this post from Sarah from Sprouted Kitchen. It looked super easy so I gave it a go. This hot sauce is awesome. Although it is not exactly like sriracha, it is close enough for me. I made a large batch and have been putting it on anything and everything.
I have a thing for hot sauce if you couldn't guess.
Now, of course, if you are not a hot sauce person, you can totally leave it out. The lettuce wraps are just as great without it. You can also make up any combination of veggies and beans that you like. White beans and red pepper, chickpeas and carrots. This is a fridge leftover kid of recipe.
What's also great about these is that they are like a reconfigured salad. So if you are bored with your salad routine, go make yourself some fancy, high-maintenance lettuce wraps for lunch.
On the second leg of our trip, we spent a few days in a little mountain town called Ravello which is perched high above the Almalfi coast. Ravello is home to some of the most breathtaking views in the whole world, and one very special cooking school.
If you want to learn real, authentic, no-fuss Italian cooking, what better way to do it than in the home of an Italian woman who has been cooking professionally for decades for some incredibly famous people like Frank Sinatra and Jackie O.
Mama Agata is the beloved woman at the heart of the cooking school. Her daughter Chiara, the soul of the school, is the one who runs the day to day, assists and translates for her mother who speaks very little english. They teach out of their home, perched high on a mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean, which has been in their family for over 200 years.
Mama's recipes are simple, clean, and all about the ingredients. Her technique has been perfected in both her kitchen as well as her garden. On their property their garden stretches down the mountainside where they grow everything from capers, to lemons, and of course plenty of tomatoes. In August, the family closes down the cooking school so that they can harvest and preserve their tomatoes so they have plenty to last through the year.
After a day of learning, helping mama cook, and wandering through her gardens, it was time to sit down an enjoy our lunch. It was a meal I will never ever forget. The eggplant parmesan was the best I have ever had, and the pasta dishes were so fresh tasting and absolutely incredible.
The most important lesson from the day ...... that good food comes from the heart. Love is the secret ingredient in every great meal. This was evident from seed to plate at mama's home, and will be something I strive for in every meal served in our home.