Weekly Winner: Silken, Spicy, Sumptuous … Swine!

IMG_0836So in my mind there is very little better than pig, noodles, and peanut sauce.  For me, that’s the trifecta of tastiness.  Guess what??  I found all of that in one recipe with some nice, bitter greens added to it.  Full disclosure, I didn’t have collard greens for this recipe so I substituted lacinato kale, which was awesome.  I’m guessing the collards would have been great as well.

This silky, spicy dish needs a hearty green and any would work just fine.   Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens comes from Bon Appetit and is quick, easy and totally delicious.  Seriously, whichever green you like, buy it and make this dish!

Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens (or Lacinato Kale)

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. regular-width rice stick noodles
  • ¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 1½” piece ginger, peeled, cut into match sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, (or Lacinato Kale) ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

Procedure:

  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Remove from heat; add noodles. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes (time may vary by brand). Drain and rinse under cold running water.

  • Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl. (Sauce will look a little broken and lumpy.)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook pork, breaking up with 2 forks, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add collard greens (or kale) and cook, stirring occasionally, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add sauce and noodles and bring to a simmer; cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half and coats noodles, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

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Weekly Winner: Salvation found in a Fabulously Fortifying and Stunning Salmon Salad

SalmonKaleSaladSalmon is my go-to salvation dish.  When I need to reset and rebalance, I inevitably turn to my favorite fish.  It is so versatile and incredibly easy to cook.  Since the temperatures are (finally) starting to rise here in Chicago and its beginning to feel like summer, an entrée salad is definitely the way to go.  I got this winner of a dish from Cooking Light Magazine.

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad hits all the right notes.  It’s healthy and hearty all at the same time.  The nuts on the salmon add fabulous crunch and even more omega-3 fatty acids, the baby kale and red onion provide  crisp freshness, and the beets ground the dish in wonderful earthiness.  This salad will set you right with only about a half-hour’s worth of work. I streamlined this a bit further by getting pre-cooked beets.  Ain’t nobody got time to roast and peel beets for a mid-week dinner!

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-size pre-cooked beets
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted pistachios, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 (1 1/2-lb.) skin-on salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 7/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups baby kale and spinach mix
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Stir together pistachios, mustard, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Spoon pistachio mixture on top of salmon; pat into an even layer.
  2. Bake at 425 until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 130F, 15-16 minutes.
  3. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl; reserve 3 tbsp. of the dressing.  Add beets, kale-spinach mix, and onion to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat. Place salmon fillet on salad.  Drizzle with reserved dressing.

Weekly Winner:  Noshing on Noodles

There’s something about cold noodles that I just love.  They’re addictive and refreshing all at once.  Usually you find cold noodles in some sort of Asian variety, but if we’re being totally honest with each other, I’ve been known to dig into cold left-over Italian-style pasta as well.  A noodle is a noodle, right?

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale from Bon Appetit was a happy find for me for several reasons.  First of all, they’re cold noodles – and not just any noodles, but ramen noodles (bonus!). Secondly it has roasted broccoli.  I am happy to eat broccoli in any way, shape or form (including raw) but roasted is definitely my favorite.  Finally, it served as yet one more way I can get hubby to happily eat kale.  I think the zip of the vinegar and spice of the sambal oelek has a lot to do with it, but I’m taking my victories however I can.

As the temperatures continue to rise here in Chicago, rest assured this will become not only my go-to lunch, but also an awesome side dish to take along to concerts, picnics and cookouts.

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of broccoli, cut into large florets with some stalk attached

2 garlic cloves, 1 finely grated, 1 thinly sliced, divided

1-1/2 tsp sambal oelek

1 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided

3/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste

3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced, plus more for serving

1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, cut into 1-inch match sticks

4 cups chopped Tuscan kale leaves

2 (10 oz) packages fresh ramen noodles or 2 (3 oz) packages dried

Torn mint leaves and toasted sesame seeds (for serving)

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss broccoli with grated garlic, sambal oelek, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and 1/4 cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, 20-25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk scallions, ginger, sliced garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and remaining 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup oil in a large bowl.  Add kale; toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  • Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain; rinse under cold water.  Add noodles and warm broccoli to kale and toss to coat. Divide among bowls and top with mint, sesame seeds, and more scallion greens.

Weekly Winner:  Super Cozy, Super Tasty, Super Healthy -But What Is It?

I crave structure.  I adore lists and make them with wild abandon.  I organize, strategize and categorize literally everything in my life (yeah, I know…I’m working on it!) But I truly do love everything to have a place and to have a place for everything.

So then this recipe happens. Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce.  It’s fabulous. It’s easy. It’s healthy. I’m just not exactly sure what it is! Is it a soup? Is it a stew? Perhaps a side dish?  No, far to hearty and complete for a side dish.  Whatever its supposed to be, it was my lunch recently and I seriously enjoyed the heck out of it. I think the only thing I would possibly add to this is a piece of crusty bread along side it. Although honestly, I didn’t miss it.  This is a bowl you want to curl up in. It is incredibly satisfying and complex-tasting and I would make it again in a heartbeat if I could only find under what category I filed the recipe!  Seriously, I had to look up the recipe online as I could not locate mine. I’ve checked soups, side dishes, lunches, vegetables…nada.  Luckily I remembered pulling it from Food & Wine magazine. See, I told you I need to work on it.

Enough of my problems and hangups.  Make this dish.  Whatever it is.  Because all that matters is it is one big bowl of tastiness.

Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Kosher salt

One 8-ounce bunch of Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Torn basil and marjoram leaves, 
for garnish

Finely grated Pecorino Romano, 
for serving

Procedure:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.

Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon into bowls and garnish with torn basil 
and marjoram leaves. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

Weekly Winner:  A Tasty Twist on Beans & Greens

Beans and greens have been friends forever.  Combinations include: collards, escarole, spinach, kale and chard on the green team and cannellini, kidney, and pinto for the bean team.  Put them together and you’re guaranteed a healthy and generally tasty meal or side dish. However, for it to be really memorable, things needed to be switched up in this old standard.  A recipe I found in Bon Appetit did just that by changing the beans and adding pasta and sausage.  That’s a guaranteed winner in my book!

There are a couple of things that make Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta unique.  First: the shape of the pasta – paccheri – which is like rigatoni on steroids.  I’m talking huge, short tubes of pasta goodness.  Second: it trades out the standard beans for chickpeas (always a fan favorite in this house).  Finally, there’s the crumbled fried rosemary sprinkled on top.  Enough of me blabbering on — just trust me.  This dish is special.  It’s got a great combination of textures and flavors and is the perfect thing to curl up to prepare for the craziness of the holiday season.

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, patted dry

¼ cup dry white wine

12 ounces paccheri (large tubular) pasta

Kosher salt

8 cups (lightly packed) torn kale

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Procedure:

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  3. Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with spoon, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage. Add wine to pot, bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
  5. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add kale and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until kale is wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Add another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add ½ cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce. Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
  6. Divide pasta among bowls. Crumble rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.

Weekly Winner:  Crispy, Crunchy Chicken Cutlets — with a great salad

Ramen noodles.  I gotta admit, I love the things. I’ve used them in place of regular pasta for spaghetti-and-meatballs-gone-Asian. I make a mean ramen noodle salad. I love them in soup, and they got me through college as-is with just a bit of cheese sprinkled on top. The one thing I never thought of using them for; however breading. That is until now.

Crispy Ramen-Crusted Chicken with Asian Slaw comes from Southern Living Magazine. Honestly I was a bit skeptical about this since you use the noodles raw. However the chicken turned out amazing. The noodles “cooked” just enough while browning the chicken and the chicken itself stayed amazingly moist. And just in case you’re feeling a little guilty about eating chicken fried in ramen noodles (you shouldn’t be — it’s tasty!) there is a fabulous Asian kale salad that goes with it. The salad, with its honey-soy-lime dressing is the perfect light zesty accompaniment to the rich chicken. This dish, in a word, is a “keeper”. And it gives me a great excuse to stock up on more ramen!

Crispy Ramen-Crusted Chicken with Asian Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch kale (about 8 oz.), stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

3 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally

1 1/4 cups matchstick carrots

3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 (3-oz.) pkg. chicken-flavored instant Asian ramen noodle soup mix

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 (5- to 6-oz.) chicken cutlets

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Preparation

1. Toss together kale, cilantro, green onions, and carrots. Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, honey, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl; pour over kale mixture, and toss to coat. Set aside while preparing chicken, tossing occasionally.

2. Break ramen noodles into pieces. Process ramen noodles, seasoning mixtures from ramen packages, ginger, and cayenne pepper in a food processor until combined, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish, and set aside.

3. Place each chicken cutlet between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a rolling pin or flat side of a meat mallet. Dip each cutlet in eggs, and dredge in ramen mixture, pressing to adhere.

4. Cook half of chicken in 2 1/2 tablespoons hot olive oil in a large skillet over medium until golden brown and done, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Place on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and olive oil.

5. Sprinkle peanuts over kale mixture, and serve with cutlets.

Weekly Winner:  All Hail Kale (again)

When you make a new kale salad for lunch and your husband not only willingly eats it but comments “Oh, wow this is good!” You know you’ve got a winner of a recipe.  That’s exactly what happened this past week.  Now granted, the name of this recipe gives great insight as to why we thought it was so spectacular:  Steak House Kale Salad With Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. Boo yah!

Yes it contained bacon and yes, that makes it tasty.  But this salad is one of those magical combinations of ingredients that just work.  Everything comes together beautifully for a yummy addictive salad.  And in my view, the kale and other veggies cancel out the three slices of bacon used in this substantial salad that feeds four.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

The only problem is that, for the life of me, I can’t determine where I pulled the recipe from so I am unable to give proper credit.  But regardless, this is a salad that I will be making year-round on a very regular basis.

Steak House Kale Salad with hot bacon vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 Tbsp minced shallots

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups baby kale salad mix

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup slivered red onion

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 hard-cooked egg, grated

Procedure:

  • Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard drippings.  Heat oil in same skillet; add shallots and garlic and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in vinegar, sugar, Dijon, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and keep vinaigrette warm.
  • Toss kale mix, carrot, and onion with vinaigrette to coat.  Garnish servings with pumpkin seeds and egg.

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