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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Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

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This post sort of reminds me of those Italian cookies, “brutti ma buoni,” which translates to “ugly but good”. Not like I’ve ever tasted them, as they’re made entirely of ground nuts, but I’ve always liked saying the name to myself when my photography sloppily gets sacrificed and yet I still want to share a recipe. At the end of the day, you’re eating food, not gazing at it, right? And if those foodie Italians can do it, perche non io? (Also, these potatoes themselves are not brutti, it’s just my impatience with a camera makes them appear such. We’re not discussing split pea soup or anything today.)

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True story: We ate these sweet potatoes standing up at our countertop in roughly 2 minutes. We had tickets for a show starting at 7:30; the sweet potatoes came out of the oven at probably 7:20. Luckily, the theater is literally two blocks from our house. We threw all the toppings on, poured on excessive amounts of tahini sauce, took some harried pictures which mostly turned out blurry, and quite literally stuffed these in our faces. We arrived at 7:29, a bit breathless and with tickets extended to prove yes we did indeed belong here too. Despite the totally full house, they hadn’t given our seats away yet. Whew.

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Some words to the wise: a) put your sweet potatoes in the oven at least an hour before you want to eat, and b) when buying tickets online months in advance, it’s always a good idea to double check what time it actually starts sometime during said day. Also c) don’t expect to take beautiful photos when you have approximately 9 minutes to assemble food, document food, consume said food, and sprint two blocks.

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So although I suggest you sit down and enjoy these lovely, healthy taters&toppings as a proper meal, they can be consumed quite quickly, if that’s what is necessary. I make (and adore) each element of this recipe separately; it was only a matter of time before they all got combined into the perfect mouthful. Er, series of mouthfuls, if you have the time. #dontbelikeme. #bruttimabuoni:sweetpotatoedition

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one year ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza and tomatoes << one of my most-read posts!

Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

a swanky original
Serves 3

3 sweet potatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed well, and dried off
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
some drizzles olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 big clove garlic, minced
2 cups kale, rinsed and in bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini
juice from half a lemon
parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt

Additional optional toppings: za’atar, hot sauce, Greek yogurt, pomegranate seeds

Sweet Potatoes: Preheat oven to 400F. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place directly on oven rack. Bake until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size. Let cool slightly.

Chickpeas: On a rimmed baking tray, toss chickpeas with cumin, smoked paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Add to oven when there’s about 20 minutes left on the sweet potatoes. Chickpeas will be brown and satisfyingly crunchy when done.

Kale: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a big sauté pan. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add kale, a pinch of salt, and white wine vinegar. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until kale has turned bright green and wilted a bit. Remove from heat.

Tahini Sauce: Combine tahini, 2 tablespoons water, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt. Mix until smooth.

To serve, cut sweet potatoes in half. Mash the flesh a bit. Spoon on kale, chickpeas, and tahini sauce. Top with parsley and any additional toppings as desired.

 

As “brutti” as it gets: #UglyFoodPics

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Butternut-Tahini Mash

Butternut Tahini Mash Dip Paste Butternut Tahini Mash Dip Paste

Some recent favorites:

  • Rokia Traore, an incredible Malian musician, on Spotify while cleaning the kitchen. It’s love.
  • The (surprisingly!) flavorful veggie Ramen at Tabata II (and the fact that it exists on 8th Ave and 35th St…)
  • Heattech layers from Uniqlo. I think I’ve worn my “warmest shirt ever” every day since purchasing it last month.
  • AirBNB, because it led us to this YURT(!!!) as a destination for our upcoming California trip!
  • The amazing Instagram feed The_Pho_Project for its never-ending use of “pho” wordplay and punnery
  • and this dip. Or, more exactly, this excuse to eat tahini-drenched, smoked paprika-covered smashed roasted squash on everything!

This was my favorite take away from the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse. A simple but amazingly tasty dip/mash/spread/puree to enhance any and all foodstuffs. The cleanse called for you to eat with roast chicken, which I’m sure was delectable. I substituted fried tofu cubes which was equally tasty (but if we’re being technical a bit too much of the same texture). I snacked on it for days with pita, celery sticks, carrots, or even a quick stolen as-is spoonful. Treat it like hummus and you’ll find dip elation phoever and ever.

Butternut Tahini Mash Dip Paste

Butternut-Tahini Mash

From Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse

1 butternut squash, cut in half length-wise
3 big garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil
¼ cup well-stirred tahini paste
¼ t smoked paprika
½ t ground cumin
2 T lemon juice
s&p
zaatar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 T olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on squash halves and then place onto baking sheet, cut side down. Add garlic cloves to baking sheet. Cook for about 45-50 minutes, or until squash is very tender.

Let cool for about 5 minutes. Then, spoon squash flesh into a big bowl (discard skin). Peel garlic cloves and add them, along with tahini, cumin, paprika, and lemon juice. Mash everything together roughly with a fork. Add s&p to taste. Sprinkle with zaatar to serve.

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Sweet Sesame Cauliflower, Snow Pea, and Kale Salad

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Oh, Brooklyn. You tempt me with your rooftop gardens and skyline views, live music happy hours, and street fairs. You lure me in with your brownstones, cafes, cocktails, and bike paths. You sweeten my day with homemade everythings on every corner. And you leave me shocked at the J. Crew on Wythe (holy, what now?!), the price tag on a cold-brew, and the traffic on the Manhattan Bridge.

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But I never expected you to treat me like this: to throw me into a court house, make me stay there for two week while paying me $40 a day, claiming you are more important than any of my bosses or coworkers, and claiming it is my “civic duty”.

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Brooklyn, I’m just not down with Grand Jury Duty.

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But because I love your bodegas and ethnic grocery stores and general CSA enthusiasm that made this salad possible, I’ll forgive you for today. Cauliflower, you have not wronged me yet. Today, you beat Brooklyn. Choose cauliflower, not fulfilling civic duties.

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Sweet Sesame Cauliflower, Snow Pea, and Kale Salad

adapted from Plenty by Ottolenghi

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup or so snow peas
1 small bunch of kale, ribs removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
½ T olive oil
1.5 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped; reserve a couple whole leaves for garnish
2 T sesame seeds

Sauce:
4 T tahini
2.5 T water
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ t soy sauce
½ T honey
¾ T apple cider vinegar
1.5 T mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
pinch of salt

Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Briefly blanch the cauliflower until cooked but still firm, about 2-3 minutes. Scoop into a colander and run under cool water. Return the water to a boil. Add snow peas, and cook for just 1 minute. Add to cauliflower.

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the kale and a splash of water and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients together with a fork.

To toast sesame seeds, put in a small dry pan and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly brown and nutty-smelling. Keep a close eye on them; they like to turn too dark while you briefly answer a text message.

Combine cauliflower, snow peas, kale, and the chopped cilantro on a big plate. Drench with the sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and whole cilantro leaves. Eat cool or warm.

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