The Ten-Minute, Super-Amazing, Magic Guilt Eraser

April 6th, 2011 · 28 Comments · Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I know. Bummer. An entire post devoted to salad. Not a BLT salad or a wedge of iceberg with thousand island dripping in and around the crevices. But a yawn-inducing, omega-3-rich, good-for-you, raw bowl of nutrients that falls into the “leafy green” category. Thanks, Jenny! Thanks for the big bowl of homework!

Go ahead, leave the page. Go lose yourself in some duck confit fried in lard. Cause then the secret of the salad’s hidden superpowers is still somewhat secure. You see, this concoction above may look like a dutiful mound of kale with grated ricotta salata and thinly shaved red onions, but it’s actually more than that. A lot more. I’m telling you, if you can get your kids to eat it, all kinds of amazingly freaky things start to happen. Like for starters, I think I can actually see Abby growing before my eyes, her shirt bursting at the buttons, Lou Ferrigno-style, right at the dinner table. And about three minutes after Phoebe inhaled her salty ribboned kale last Sunday, she had a sudden impulse to recite the quadratic formula, even though, as far as I know, trigonometry is not part of New York State’s third grade curriculum. (Yet.)

But the real magic is a little more subtle. When you — as in you mom and dad! — get up from the table you’ll suddenly notice that the guilt you have been carrying around with you all day about missing “parent observation day” at tennis has been replaced by a rush of happiness endorphins. And you know how you’ve been beating yourself up over the fact that your eight-year-old still can’t tell time? For at least a few days after you have served your children this salad, that hardly seems to register on the guilt-o-meter either. The remorse over the fried-in-butter beef-veal-pork double hot dog with spicy curly fries from Walter’s*? Gone. Completely cancelled out.

I’m telling you, this stuff is powerful. And, sadly, its applications of guilt-erasing possibilities: endless.

*Whattup MHS Tigers?!

Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata
The credit for this salad goes to my superhero friend Naria, who first made it for me for lunch last summer, then again last week at a delicious dinner party.

Wash and trim the stems off two large handfuls of kale. Chop into confetti-like strands as shown. Shred a boatload of ricotta salata on top, add about 1 tablespoon of red onion that has been sliced to the point of transparency. Add a few glugs of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and freshly ground pepper.

To feel really virtuous, serve with fish presents.

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A Winning Weeknight Dinner

March 2nd, 2011 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

Full disclosure here: I think I knew the winner of my Go-to Weeknight Dinner Contest almost as soon as I spied the Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew entry submitted by  “anna” on Day 1 of the contest. Every recipe that came in after this one, as far as I was concerned, had to pass the anna test — as in, is it as appealing sounding as anna’s stew? Because Anna’s Stew had all the hallmarks of a keeper in my house including:

1) A Quick Cook Time – from start to finish it took me about 20 minutes
2) A Forgiving Technique – For 10 of those minutes I was ignoring the sizzling sausages as I sat with my 7-year-old testing her on multiplication flash cards. It didn’t seem to affect the dish in the slightest.
3) An Easy Marketing Plan – It contained two solid ingredients that I could count on my kids eating without a fight (sausages and kale)
4) An Adventure Factor – It contained one (easily extractable) ingredient that I’ve been meaning to push on the kids (cannelini beans)
5) It was really f*%#@*g good!!!

However narrow-minded I was about choosing the winner, I remind you that one family’s keeper might be another family’s pet food, so please head over to the contest post to check out all 78 submissions (so awesome, btw — a big thank-you to everyone who sent something in) because there are a ton of delicious-sounding options. If I was giving out honorable mention, “bugawa” (#43) was a close second with her Jacques Pepin-inspired pork medallions in wine sauce — so tasty, but couldn’t compete with the one-dishiness of anna’s stew. And “Joanna’s” (#59) strategic two-in-one meal plan was incredibly hard for me to pass up (you can take the girl out of Real Simple) but sadly, included pasta, which my 9-year-old still won’t touch. (Why, God, why??)

Anna wins a $75 gift certificate to Allmodern.com. Thanks for playing everyone.

Anna’s Sausage, Bean, and Kale Stew
I halved the recipe for my family of four (if Abby ate 2 sausages, as called for here, she’d be eating about twice her own weight) but this below is written to serve 6 normal eaters or about 8 bird-like ones. Anna called for the sausages to be sliced into rounds after being browned — which might be more appealing for the kids — but I found it easier to crumble the meat with a fork in the first step.

Saute 1 onion (chopped) in Dutch Oven in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add 2 garlic cloves (minced), salt, pepper, and a few flakes of crushed red pepper. Add in 8 links of Italian chicken or pork sausage (casings removed, crumbed with a fork) and cook until brown and heated through. Add one 32-ounce container chicken broth (add less if you like your stews more chunky, less brothy), a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, and 2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans (rinsed and drained). Bring to a boil. Add 1 large bunch kale, simmer until wilted, about 3 minutes. Serve with a lot of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.

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