“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal

 

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My Grandpa Ronny, a self-made first-generation American and a proud storyteller, grew up in NYC. When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I felt compelled to track down some of the places he often mentions in his stories.

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sister drinking date

First up was McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city, where the floor is covered with straw and there are only two drinks you can order: dark beer or light beer. Supposedly, Ronny once did a headstand on a table in the back room while drinking an entire beer. Who knows if the story is true, but when I went with my sister we scanned some of the photos on the wall, seeing if his story had made it into the bar’s lore. McSorley’s is wonderfully atmospheric, and I’ve been a handful of times. Good choice for a storied bar, Grandpa.

The other place always mentioned is the Rockaways, the beach retreat where he’d spend summers in a bungalow and became a lifeguard when he was older. Today the 95th street stretch (and beyond!) of the Rockaways has turned into a newly recreated hipster “staycation” destination — the boardwalk has been transformed by a famous fish taco stand, bike rental booths, smoothie stalls, Bolivian street food, and the always popular game, corn hole.

And man is it fun! Today was my first trip there, taking the A all through Brooklyn and eventually coming out onto a lovely expanse of ocean and beach, so different from the New York I’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the cheap bungalows and immigrant-owned amenities, but still tangibly present is the natural beauty and freedom so easily lost on our forgotten concrete blocks. Pretty sweet for a Thursday. Sorry I didn’t go sooner!

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Anyway, in honor of finally visiting my Grandpa’s childhood summer getaway, here is the  delicious, garden-fresh summery meal we enjoyed last night. Special thanks to the roommate’s community garden membership for the herbs and tomatoes. 🙂

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“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal
barely adapted from from A Sprouted Kitchen

Salad:

  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1-3 T fresh mint
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 small head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • roughly 2 cups freshest possible tomatoes; I used a combination of just-picked cherry tomatoes sliced in half and slices of HUGE tomato (also just-picked)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • half a crispy apple, cut into matchsticks (although cherries or nectarine slices would be great too!)
  • 1/8-1/4 c red onion, diced tiny
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

For dressing, mix together:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t dijon mustard
  • 1.5 T apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • s&p to taste

Put freshly washed kale in a bowl. Add mint, roughly torn, and 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, and s&p. Using your fingers, massage kale for a couple minutes, until greens lose their rigidness and turn a richer shade of green.

Add bite-sized lettuce leaves. Pour in salad dressing and mix thoroughly. Then add all the ingredients, give it a good whirly mix, and serve!

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The whole meal. all delicious individually though perhaps not greater than the sum of its parts.

We ate this salad alongside:

  • In Sock Monkey Slipper’s Herbed Zucchini-Feta Boats. My thoughts: Add cumin and roasted red peppers to the feta-herb mixture in the food processor for a bit of added sweetness. Don’t be shy with the fresh herbs. Use panko instead of regular breadcrumbs for extra crispiness! Needed at least 40 minutes to bake in my oven. Just as delicious with yellow summer squash as with zucchini.

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  • Smoky Mushroom Toasts: Sauté 1/4 c tiny diced onion in 1 T melted butter. Add 10 oz white mushrooms, cut in half and then very thinly sliced. Sprinkle with pepper, fresh thyme, and smoky hickory salt. Mushrooms will let out juices. Take off heat when juices evaporate and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve atop toasted and buttered bread. I used day-old bakery whole wheat oatmeal bread and it was deeelicious.

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  • Pine nut couscous (from a box!)
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ahh, summer…

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Cilantro Quinoa Soup with Spicy Pan Seared Shrimp and Corn

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One summer when I was in college, my sister and I went to Ecuador. Highlights of the trip included an Amazonian tour guide singing “My Heart Will Go On” in Spanish as he rowed the two us back to civilization, playing barefoot volleyball on a deserted stretch of beach and needing to continually run into the sharp “pica pica” plants to fetch the ball, and peeing from a composting toilet in the Andes, where the mountains and fields literally sprawled out from the bathroom’s edge.

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a pee with a view!

The trip was all roses until the last night, when our evil hostel-mate in Quito stole Rachel’s cell phone. After Rachel had continuously berated me the whole trip for misplacing passports, money, cameras, bus tickets, etc. I would like to state for the record that even though my things get disorganized, I don’t lose them. Preach it.

The culinary high point of the trip for me was consuming the world’s most perfect scrambled eggs in a rundown roadside inn outside Papallacta. This is not a knock at the food I ate in Ecuador, it’s just that those eggs were SO GOOD. I would give anything to know the secret (probably minutes-old eggs and more butter than I want to think about.) I also fondly remember dinner from the night we stayed at the hostel connected to the World’s Most Beautiful Bathroom. It was a simple brothy quinoa stew, probably made with vegetables from the yard and quinoa from the neighboring hilly farm patches.

This version is similarly simple and delicious. We used spicy pan-fried shrimp and corn from the cob, but you could easily add stewed chicken, avocado, little potatoes, cotija cheese. Etc.

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Quinoa Cilantro Soup with Corn and Spicy Pan-Seared Shrimp
from palate/palette/plate

olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 box (4 cups) veggie broth
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves (1 big bunch, or 1.5 smaller bunches)
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t ground Ancho chili powder
s&p
1 lime
3 ears of corn
1/2 pound of raw jumbo shrimp (about 10)
1 t dried chili pepper flakes
1 t smoked paprika

In a medium large pot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add onions and garlic and cook on medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and everything smells good, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir constantly for a minute, until the quinoa is incorporated, toasty, and evenly coated. Next add broth, cilantro, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is cooked. Keep an eye on it, and add water or extra broth if too much liquid evaporates.

Meanwhile, cook corn in desired methods. We simply husked the ears and boiled them, and then cut kernels off the cob and it was delicious. Feel free to roast or grill instead.

Five minutes before soup is ready, prepare shrimp. Heat a large pan til it’s super steamy hot. Meanwhile, shell shrimp and rinse. Coat with olive oil, pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Pour into pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until just pink and cooked throughout. (Perhaps a wise idea to disconnect your fire alarm before attempting.)

Before serving, add chili powder, coriander, and juice from a lime. Spoon into bowls and top with extra chopped cilantro, shrimp, and corn!

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SIDENOTE: This is the artichoke we ate as an appetizer. It’s just so darn cute.

Also it was only $1. Somehow, I’ve never made myself artichokes before and had to call my Mom to ask a) how to cook them, and b) her amazing sauce recipe from my childhood. Turns out it’s just mayo + lemon juice. But ya know what tasted great as a 10 year old also tastes great as a 24 year old. Thank goodness.

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LIKE, OMG, DON’T YOU WANT TO EAT THIS?! cooking quinoa ain’t a pretty task but someone’s gotta do it

Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos

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When one goes to Texas for the Fourth of July for one’s boyfriend’s family reunion and annual “rib-b-q,” one can expect to come back to NYC feeling about 15 pounds heavier (even as the sole vegetarian present, because OMG queso and beans and kolaches and cornbread salad and IHOP), many shades more sunburnt, and about fifteen times more likely to have developed mosquito-related diseases than previously.

One may also still be reeling, almost a week later, about how many meat cooking apparatuses (apparati?) can be in one backyard, including a couple smokers, a couple grills, and a giant cauldron fire pit thing.

One may, upon returning home, feel the need to return to vegetable-laden meals and (unfortunately) indoor cooking methods. One may also be exasperated by Texas’s apparent dislike towards “inauthentic” (ahem, vegetarian) tacos.

And, it almost goes without saying that it is only appropriate to roast things in a hot oven in a tiny apartment in July when you later consume those roasted things in your blissfully air-conditioned room, sitting on your bed, with the dog keeping the comforter clean, sharing with your roommate after an intensely sweaty cooking bout.

Texas, you were great and all, but this is how this Northerner does tacos.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos

(according to me)

Roast in a 350 degree oven:

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
half a red onion, thinly sliced
one ripe peach, cut into slices and then in half again
half a red chili pepper, diced into tiny pieces

with:
enough olive oil to cover it all
zest from one lime
1 T ish of ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t or less ground cayenne
salt&pepper

…for about half an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and peaches are juicy, pulpy, sticky blobs of deliciousness.

Once out of the oven, mix in a can of drained&rinsed black beans, half a lime’s juice, and salt to taste.

When ready to serve, heat corn tortillas in a very hot, dry pan until slightly crispy. Top tortillas with veggie mixture, cheddar cheese, lime juice, sriracha, cilantro, ETC.

 

 

Sourdough Tofu Banh Mi

This was tonight’s dinner. Tonight’s dinner made me very happy. That is an understatement. Here, look at what I ate! Mega sandwich!

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This is Daniel’s version. It has steak:

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This is our messy prepping:

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This is sorta how we made it:

Pile atop sourdough (or any other bread you love):

  • very thinly sliced carrots (1 or 2) which sat for 20 minutes in 3/4 c white vinegar, 1 T sugar, and half a lime’s juice
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • cilantro
  • grated pickled ginger
  • sriracha mayo: 1/3ish cup mayo with 3 big squirts sriracha and half a lime of juice
  • tofu marinated in splashes of rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, sriracha, lime juice and then lightly pan-fried

or steak. He cooked it on the stove AND the oven. That’s the extent to which I know how to talk about cooking steak.