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that the guilt you have been carrying around with you all day about missing “parent observation day” at tennis has been replaced by a rush of happiness endorphins.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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Counter-Operation Kale

November 4th, 2010 · 12 Comments · Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

OK, so it’s Thursday, aka Halloween + 96 hours. If you followed my prescription for the candy roll-out, your kids have consumed over of dozen Crunch/Mounds/Snickers bars, and you are likely checking in with DALS today to curse my name or to call up some magical recipe that might exorcise a sugar demon or two. I don’t blame you. Times like this call for either a Detox Soup or a big batch of something so healthy, so virtuous, so green, that it is capable of eliminating all traces of junk from little-person bodies, and all traces of guilt from big-person psyches. In other words, send in the kale!

Truth be told, I was terrified of kale until recently. Sure, I’d wilt it into minestrone every now and then, but I never figured out a way to introduce it to the family table in a way that didn’t feel like homework. Kale is so ridiculously good for us: Just a small mound of it has the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk, and I may be imagining this, but as soon as I eat it, and as soon as my kids eat it, I feel smarter and stronger and have a sudden urge to start an Olympics for Parents and enter myself in every event.

There are two recipes that convinced us that kale could be enjoyed as opposed to endured. The first was Andy’s: Kale with Avocado and Pickled Onions. It’s all about the parboiling here, which renders the leaves silky smooth and tender. Mixed with avocado and set off by the bright, flavorful onions…it was pretty much the only thing I could talk about at the dinner table that Sunday night. (This in spite of a combined 2 assists and 1 goal involving a breakaway only a few hours earlier.) The other recipe is for kale chips which I found in Kim O’Donnel’s fun new Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook. It takes about as long to make these as it would to go to the pantry and open up a bag of potato chips. They are simultaneously delicate and crispy and melt in your mouth in a way that almost reminds me of cotton candy. Phoebe wouldn’t quite give me that one, but she ate up the chips anyway. And then begged me for Skittles. (more…)

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Spring Salads: Thinking in Threes

March 25th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Last year during a routine physical check-up I told my doctor I was worried about my brain — I couldn’t remember anything anymore. I was telling the same stories to the same people. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pull up the name of that Terence Stamp movie I talked about throughout the year 1999. I forgot it was Store Day in second grade…again.

My doctor asked me if I had ever forgotten to pick up my kids at the bus stop.

No, thank goodness.

Your brain is fine. You’re just not paying attention. When you forget something important, then come talk to me.

I’ve come up with strategies to combat the forgetfulness and noticed that I’m good at remembering things in threes. When I leave the house: Keys-Wallet-Phone. When I go to bed: Face-Teeth-Contacts. When I am the one in charge of school bag-packing: Lunch-Homework-Library Book.

And lately, to make a memorable salad? Fruit-Nut-Cheese.  The combos below work when tossed with bibb, arugula, or mesclun and a simple vinaigrette. (You will also never hear me object to the addition of something in the onion family — snipped chives, scallions, or a finely chopped shallot). Bonus: These salads also provide an instantly Deconstructible Dinner for the kids.

Oh, and it was The Limey. The Terence Stamp movie was The Limey.

Threesome of Threesomes

1) Walnuts-Feta-Dried Cherries
Trader Joe’s sells the most delicious tart Montmorency cherries — for a much better price than the ones you get at Whole Foods.

2) Pecan-Pear-Blue Cheese
Try to buy candied pecans if you can. And if you have time, sautee the pear pieces briefly in butter.

3) Almonds-Manchego-Oranges (or even mandarins)
I prefer sliced almonds in salads. They integrate better with the leaves and have the most satisfyingly soft crunch.

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