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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Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

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I once overheard someone I admired in college say that she would never be with someone who doesn’t like onions, since she just loved them so much and never wanted to be made to feel bad because of her persistent onion-breath.

At the time, I thought my correlation was that I would need to be with someone who would take me and my ice cream habit at face value and not try to change me.

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Luckily for my heart (uh, both the one that pumps blood and the Daniel I live with), the past six years have seen a decrease in the ice cream habit, and a new rise in savory cravings. (#aging #secondpuberty?). I’m not quite as obsessive as that onion girl back in the day who got the lead in every play, but I get her now. If Daniel had a problem with garlic breath, we may not have made it this far. Luckily, he’s on my wavelength, and we both believe the garlickier, the better.

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Garlic is the star in this suuuuuper easy zoodle bowl. I have jumped on board the zoodle train, and I am not ashamed. They’re just so cute and make you feel so dang healthy.

However, to negate the whole no-pasta thing here, I did add a whole lotta goat cheese and some toasted (garlicky) panko crumbs, and by some I mean an indecent handful. So this isn’t completely virtuous.

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I am not one of those people who will tell you “you won’t even tell it’s not spaghetti!”. Because, uh, you can tell. This doesn’t taste like spaghetti. But it is a bowl of twirlable and slurpable noodle-like strands, in a delicious (garlicky) tomato sauce you might expect to find with spaghetti.

This feeds one, and one person only. It’s been my go-to meal when I’m on my own for dinner these days — it’s incredibly fast and uses one(!) pan. I’m not sure if this recipe is particularly unique in the blogosphere, but it represents an average weeknight meal for me, and maybe this is something you’re curious about, potential internet friends.

So! Use all four garlic cloves and love it. Your house will smell amazing, your breath will frighten away all but the most loyal, and it will taste fantastic.

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one year ago: pomegranate molasses and za’atar granola 
two years ago: nothing of note, but I made this Indian chickpea and cabbage for dinner last week and it was great.

Super Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

a Swanky original

1.5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Big pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juices (I used red + yellow)
1 teaspoon tomato paste, if you have some lying around
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 zucchini, spiralized (this is the spiralizer I use — it’s fine, not great; works well for a small apartment)
1-2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soft goat cheese (perhaps you too have extra lying around from last week’s eggplant sandwiches?)
s&p

Garlic Panko Crumbs (recipe below) (Optional)

Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 2 minutes, until garlic is beginning to brown. Heat is NOT your friend here — you don’t want the garlic to burn! Err on the side of too low and cook for longer.

Turn heat up to medium and add the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste (if using), and s&p. Cook until tomatoes begin to disintegrate and bubble, stirring frequently. For me this took 3 minutes. Add your zoodles and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 2 minutes or so, or until zucchini has reduced in size and is cooked through but retains some crunch.

Turn heat to medium-low, add goat cheese, and stir until cheese is dissolved and sauce has thickened. Spoon into a bowl and eat as is, or top with garlic panko crumbs.

Garlic Panko Crumbs

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup panko
salt

Wipe out pan you made zoodles in. Over medium-low heat, add olive oil and garlic and cook for just one minute, or until garlic loses its raw smell. Add panko and a healthy dose of salt; toss so panko is thoroughly coated with garlic olive oil. Continue toasting for another minute or so. Sprinkle on top of zoodles, or keep in a little bowl and pour onto every bite. 🙂

Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

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How I Know It’s Almost Summer:

  • I want to buy an ice cold can of ginger ale at every bodega I pass. (So cold! So bubbly! So delightful!)
  • People on other blogs are somehow still non-ironically talking about “getting bikini bodies ready” and other bullshit like that. I mean, really? Do peoples’ bodies really fluctuate that much? Mine is the same literally all the time. Also I’ve had burritos for dinner twice this week. Go me. But, good news, I’ll probably look exactly the same in my bikini as I did last year!
  • (Is that the wrong attitude towards fitness?)
  • I need to find my tire pump. So I can use my bicycle. And get nervous every time I use it that it will get stolen again. Meh, I’ll just walk.
  • What do professional people even wear in summer? Do people who wear panty hose need to wear them in July also? How about people who run a theater summer camp in Midtown? What do they wear? Asking for a friend.
  • Our oven is only getting turned on for Daniel’s every few day need to re-season his cast iron pans. Easy dinner, please, present yourself.
  • Oh, fancy that! Look at this here recipe! Easy dinner personified (no oven needed). It starts with a lazy eggplant salad, like caponata but I feel like that’s something people argue about on the internet so I’m keeping this non-partisan with “salad”. Also my Grandma makes the best caponata and someday I hope to post her recipe here :).  Pile that salad on some soft bread spread indecently with goat cheese, topped with a kerfluffle of fresh herbs, call it a day. 
  • Also, ice cubes (to go back to that original heading). I refill our dumb ice trays so much more when it becomes pleasant in the world! (We’re talking temperature here, not general atmosphere of living in the world right now.)
  • Damnit I should go out on a positive note. SUNDRESSES!

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one year ago: herby sunchoke gorgonzola salad 
two years ago: grilled pineapple and homemade baked bean tacos and ginger coconut rice

Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

A Swanky Original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, cut in chunks (don’t get rid of juices!)
½ tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
Squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
s&p

Bread – I used an Italian focaccia-like loaf, cut into big squares
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
Goat cheese, at room temp
Fresh parsley

Heat a big skillet (for which you have a lid) and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until they’re beginning to brown. Increase heat to medium and add eggplant, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 12 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until eggplant has started to brown and become jam-like. Partially cover the pan for short increments to speed this along.

Next, add garlic and cook for two more minutes. Then add tomatoes, their juices, and the tomato paste. Cook for 3 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down. Next add the sugar, red wine vinegar, and basil. Give it all a good stir and cook for another 2 minutes, until flavors have combined. Squeeze in lemon juice, and hit with another dose of salt and pepper. Taste it and flavor to your liking.

Take eggplant salad off heat while you prep other ingredients. Cut bread and toast if desired (my bread was super fresh, but on day two it will certainly help!). Chop up your parsley and thinly slice the tomatoes. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one slice. Follow with tomatoes, eggplant salad, and parsley. Yum!

**Extra eggplant salad is delicious mixed with spaghetti and olive oil for a quick dinner. Or with crackers for snack the next day…

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