Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

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Turns out starting a new job isn’t easy. I mean first of all, you have to figure out how to do that thing you’ve been hired to do. In this case for me that includes getting to know 20 different artists on our Outreach play and workshop roster, our 4 main booking contacts throughout the various NYC library systems, and learn everyone’s unique way of working. It also means visiting as many of New York City’s libraries as I can, as how are you supposed to figure out what programs you want to book if you haven’t met who’s in your audience? (Also in this case it includes learning how to run a summer camp, but that’s June-Ilanna’s problem. And if you happen to be any of my camper’s parents… just kidding… your children are in adept and capable hands and I’ll stop writing now.)

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And there’s all that other stuff too, like interpersonal stuff (Is Coworker X laughing at me or with me? How much should I acknowledge Colleague Y’s rambly, rhetorical-but-not-really questions?), or who do you ask about business cards (Turns out no one — I have to design, order them, and get reimbursed (not normal, right?)), or what to do when the person before you made a mistake that it’s up to you to fix (Don’t worry, if you need any magicians in NYC I have compiled a whole list of them after a stressful and last-minute booking mix-up last week). Every day poses its own series of challenges.

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Today I went to go see my recently obtained magician do his show at a small library branch in Staten Island. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go — it’s far, you have to take the ferry, it was a beautiful Saturday, I had to take three modes of transportation, etc, etc. I could’ve come up with any number of excuses but I just did it and ya know? It wasn’t actually that far, the ferry was delightful on this sunny day, and the library was easy to find. The branch was welcoming, colorful, and packed with kids. The magician was wonderfully entertaining, bringing a huge smile to my face as I watched both him and his eager fans. The shock and awe on their faces as he made a quarter fly or made a bottle of ketchup disappear was the highlight of my week. I think this job is going to be okay.

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Oh god, and here I am again with no transition to be found. This snack or brunch has nothing to do with magicians, or a new job, or being happily surprised by a ferry ride. It’s just good.  Apple and cheddar are a favorite combination around here, if by “around here” we mean with me, because everyone else I surround myself with seems turned off by this underappreciated pairing. Don’t be like them. Fry yourself up some of these simple sweet&savory bites, eat them on the plate you brought back from Japan which makes you happy, and don’t listen to the naysayers. (At work OR at home. Boom. A tidy, relevant wrap-up.)

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one year ago(ish): Kung Pao Brussel sprouts and tofu 
two years ago: roasted pepper and eggplant soup with orzo

Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

a Swanky original
(makes 9ish small cakes, good for two for brunch with salad)

It’s best to use the mixture the day you make it. I put some in the fridge and fried the cakes a day or two later — still tasted delicious but they didn’t hold together as well. Also a note on sauce — I tried them with a quick chipotle mayo but it was too overpowering, and I wouldn’t recommend the hot sauce route. A drizzle of honey was nice, as was a dollop of honey mustard. Maybe Greek yogurt would be a nice touch? Let me know if you try it.

½ a red apple (I use Fuji)
1 cup cooked quinoa
⅓ cup cheddar, shredded
⅓ cup panko
1 egg
1 scallion, minced
s&p to taste
Olive oil
Honey to serve (or see note, above)

First, grate your apple. Skin-on is fine. Use the biggest holes on your box grater. Lots of liquid will be pressed out — get rid of this excess liquid but no need to squeeze apple strands; some liquid is okay. Combine apples and all other ingredients except olive oil in a big bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a healthy drizzle of olive oil — enough to coat the bottom of the pan but no extra (we’re not making latkes here). Spread oil around with a flexible spatula to ensure it covers the whole surface.

Using your hands, scoop up quinoa-apple mixture. I like a big cookie-sized amount — about 1/4 cup. Press quinoa mixture into a fat disk, and carefully put into the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned, on each side. Quinoa will become crunchy, cheese pockets will ooze, and apple will intermingle.

Serve with a side salad and a drizzle of honey for a peeerfect brunch.

 

Miso Ginger Kale Salad

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Ode to Kale Salad

We eat you because we’re supposed to:
Your health benefits are vast, your calories few.
Your leaves, magical,
In their massaged wiltedness.
I tend to hate you raw,
But
(honestly)
do appreciate how well you hold up to a hearty, unapologetic dressing.

Every restaurant claims a version of you, but
I’ve never been that impressed.
Also, I’d rather pay $13 for a couple sushi rolls,
No offense.

The best way I know how to vouch for you, particular kale salad version,
With your salty miso base, spicy ginger accent, crisp sweet apples, and nutty peanutty finish,
Is this:
I looked forward to lunch leftovers today.
Like, counted down the minutes until I could inhale you again,
Kept checking if it was close enough to lunchtime yet,
And wouldn’t even share with Daniel.

Oh kale salad,
It is cliche to talk about you in January, and yet
Here I am.

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…and with that, perhaps I will stick to cooking and leave poetry to other folks. I wrote this “poem” while consuming said leftovers with abandon. Just glanced into my bowl and saw the last few leaves and cucumber slices and got sort of sad. Bye, salad. Until we meet again.

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kale salad, previously: kale caesar salad and mustardy kale, potato, and green bean salad
one year ago:
nothing of note, but this tofu and rice bowl is what I’m making for dinner and the marinade is amazing and I’m getting pretty pumped
two years ago:
 butternut tahini mash

Miso Ginger Kale Salad

dressing adapted from pumpkinandpeanutbutter

Dressing
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
At least 1 teaspoon honey
2 sparse tablespoons miso (I used white)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 big squirt sriracha
Splash of warm water
Black pepper (but no salt! it’s salty enough from miso/soy!)
¼ cup olive oil

Salad
3-4 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup thinly sliced red apple triangles
Big handful chopped peanuts

Mix together all dressing ingredients, except olive oil, in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until well combined. Slowly add olive oil, mixing with a fork, until well combined. Take a taste and add more honey, soy, sriracha, water as you see fit. 

Put kale leaves in a big bowl and pour in dressing (most or all, depending on how much kale). Massage with your fingers until kale shrinks and turns slightly greener, about a minute or two. Add cucumber and apple slices, mix together, and top with peanuts. 

Note: If making in advance, and in fact the salad is delicious after 24 hours in the fridge, combine kale leaves and dressing and refrigerate. Add apple, cucumber, and peanuts the next day, when ready to serve.

“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…