5 Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Dinners + zippy crunchy cheesy BEST KALE SALAD

…for when you’re a single lady (just for the week while your fiancé is at a coding convention (I’m marrying a lovely nerd) or a longer stretch, no shame either way). Easy dinners with extras for lunch.

The original point of this site was for me to document what I make, to save recipes to return to, and hopefully inspire a couple other folks out there in the void to cook an extra vegetarian meal each week. To that end, let’s deem this an appropriate post, totally on theme, and just give an understanding wave to a) the fact none of these are original recipes and b) the photo quality. I mean, we’re talking about easy, quick dinners. If that’s your goal, you probably don’t have time to set up lighting equipment, sufficiently move aside the cooking implements on your one usable surface (iloveyounewyorkcity but damn am I ready for a larger kitchen), and style things.

An update about kale salad: I’ve said some mean things about it on this blog before. But I’ve totally become a convert. For a variety of reasons: it’s so much more filling than lettuce, keeps so much longer in the fridge, you can keep the assembled salad already dressed in the fridge for lunch the next day, and it’s just as good raw or cooked. This dressing is from the smitten kitchen cookbook (her first). For me, the non-negotiable ingredients are dried cherries, goat cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. And then I add whatever else is hanging around.

So here we are — a week of single lady eating in the swanky sweet potato kitchen:

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Simply Recipe’s Red Lentil Dal: One of my favorite recipes, on a constant rotation around here. It’s healthy, uses things I have lying around, is super inexpensive, and makes a ton. Highly recommend you keep red lentils around for this purpose. I never boil and peel the tomatoes, just add them earlier than suggested. Served here with brown rice and these Brussels sprouts that were good enough to make again. One batch = lunch all week.

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No recipe on this one — just a bastardized fattoush-ish salad that’s basically my “last meal” meal. Broken za’atar pita chips and stuffed grape leaves from Sahadi’s (heaven on earth), plus chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, and a very quick tahini dressing (big spoonful tahini, some fresh lemon juice, a splash of water, a little minced garlic if I’m feeling fancy, plus salt and pepper). Some feta if I find it hiding in the fridge. I could eat this everyday.

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Spaghetti Squash Sesame Noodles: I really want to like spaghetti squash. This was a decent attempt at achieving this quest. Some can’t-go-wrong flavors — sesame oil, sriracha, soy sauce, rice vinegar. Alas, it still tastes like those things over squash. Meh. Also I was hungry 15 minutes later (yay popcorn!) but maybe that’s just me…

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Spanish-Influenced One Pot Quinoa: I loved this dinner. I basically love any excuse to buy marinated artichokes because I eat half of them before dinner, but this would’ve been good even without that splurge. Super easy, and I like the leftovers both cold and reheated. Plus this is a very adaptable recipe that would be good with whatever veggies you have lying around.

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Ah yes, the smitten kitchen salad I raved about before. Here’s my version. It makes frequent appearances around here.

omg four years ago: rhubarb and chickpea stew with herb-lemon yogurt sauce
three years ago: tatsoi and tofu stir-fry with soba noodles
two years ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing 
one year ago: eggplant salad and goat cheese sandwiches (mmm I could go for this right now)

zippy crunchy cheesy kale salad (aka BEST KALE SALAD)

dressing and ingredients suggestions from the smitten kitchen cookbook

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar or light balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard (I’ve used whole grain and spicy smooth)
1.5 teaspoons honey
s&p

Salad Ingredients
1 bunch kale (lacinato/dinosaur if possible)
1/2 a small log of goat cheese
small handful dried sour cherries, cut in half
about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
another crunchy vegetable — finely chopped radishes, red bell pepper, or celery would all work well here
toasted garlic panko (totally unnecessary but makes a plain old salad feel positively daring)

To make dressing, simply mix all ingredients with a fork in a small bowl until combined.

Wash and dry kale leaves. Remove and discard ribs. Create stacks of leaves, roll them up, and cut into thin strips. Put in a big bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some s&p. Massage for at least one full minute, until leaves shrink and turn a darker green.

Let greens sit while you prep the rest of the salad ingredients. Add them to the bowl (minus panko), add most of the dressing, and mix with tongs to combine.  You may want to add goat cheese later so it doesn’t totally disintegrate into salad, forcing you to add extra. Sprinkle individual portions with toasted panko.

Leftover dressing made spaghetti squash surprisingly delicious. Especially with a 6-minute egg atop.

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

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A February defined by performance, something a bit rare these days. A month full of those moments–when an audience member is excited with you, sad with you, surprised by you. When you feel your intentions and delivery and energy hit their mark and transform.

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This past month I’ve given a handful of performances of Amelia and Her Paper Tigers, a theatre for young audiences production I co-created about Amelia Earhart. It’s moments like when the little girl in the front row turns 180 degrees around in her chair to follow a prop going into the audience and then gasps with delight, or when a seasoned older theater-goer sheds a tear as Amelia stilts offstage for the last time and we are all left to wonder about her final moments and her legacy, that keep the acting dream alive. It’s so exciting to breathe life into a story I find so compelling. (Read more here!)

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Also this month, Cuban salsa has strengthened its grasp on my heartstrings (and schedule). That infectious audience energy when we nail an up-in-the-air move, or perform a long turn pattern in complete synchronization, or break into an intricate group move is so necessary for a good performance. We recently came back from San Francisco, where we had the opportunity to perform for what felt for the entire Cuban Salsa world. Hundreds of people from all over the country, and Mexico, Cuba, Italy, etc. The energy of this event was pure electricity and camaraderie; everyone excited to learn, observe, meet people, and, of course, dance. In the past week I’ve taken ladies rumba styling, salsa with Afro, group rueda classes, advanced casino partnering, ladies suelta, and most recently a crash course on son from the masters, Yanek and Karelia. I’m excited by how far I’ve come (two years ago I would’ve thought that previous sentence was pure gibberish) and what my body can do–adapt to new rhythms, styles, extended positions. It’s powerful.

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As such, not much cooking has occurred. This simple artichoke and fregola dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More was definitely the tastiest thing (and perhaps only things more complicated than scrambled eggs and one misguided cooking-while-sick soup attempt) to come out of my kitchen in February. In his liner notes, Ottolenghi calls this dish unphotogenic, and no picture appears. Well, Internet, may I present to you the not-stunning but certainly not ugly deliciousness of fregola artichoke pilaf with a bold and powerful jalapeño lemon sauce (page 82).

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These are the first pictures taken with my new camera (Olympus E-PL5). for the site! Daniel has been instrumental in taking and editing photos up to this point; I’m hoping to begin taking on some of the responsibility from here on out. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

2 T olive oil
1 very large onion (or 2 small), cut into thin strips
1 T butter
about 11 ounces artichoke hearts (I used one and a half cans), liquid drained, each heart cut into sixths
9 oz fregola (about 1 ¼ cups) (you can substitute Israeli couscous or mograbiah)
2 ½ c veggie stock
1 ½ T red wine vinegar
¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ c toasted pine nuts (or almonds if you aren’t me)
chopped parsley to garnish
s&p

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and ¾ t salt and cook for at least 10 minutes (more like 13-14), stirring occasionally, until caramelized. While onions cook, place stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

When onions are done, add butter. Stir until butter melts. Next, add the boiling veggie stock, artichoke hearts, fregola, and 3 good grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes without stirring. (Apparently stirring leads to gumminess and starch build up.) At 18 minutes, liquid should be mostly absorbed (you can give a tiny peek). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar, olives, and pine nuts, and stir everything together gently. Serve with a big dollop of Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce (recipe below) and extra chopped parsley to garnish.

Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce

3 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley, coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 preserved lemon, (or use my cheat: cut lemon (skin and all!) into thin slices and sautee with olive oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes; then add 1 t sugar and 1 t salt. Add water if sticks. Voila!)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth!

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