Lacinato Kale, Roasted Wild Mushroom and Avocado Salad

After a week eating my way through Italy, then an indulgent Thanksgiving holiday with family in New England, I was ready to be return to my own kitchen in Brooklyn on Sunday.

It’s funny that the same reason I crave vacation, namely to bust out of my well-worn routines, is the same reason I can’t wait to get home.

Because I cook for a living, being fed by others for a sustained period is heaven. No menu planning. No grocery shopping. No cooking. No dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but we all need a break.

Before I leave, I obsessively peruse the internet, reach out to friends and read through favorite travel guides to discover the best of what’s to eat wherever I go. Then, with every delicious bite at every carefully selected restaurant, it’s like I’m consuming a little bit of that chef’s culinary point of view.

But there comes a time when I am ready to eat my food again. To return to the meal routines that work for me. Namely, meals that revolve around vegetables.

The very first thing I made when I got home was this massaged lacinato kale, roasted wild mushroom and avocado salad. It touches on all of the elements of a crave-worthy vegetable dish: ingredients that are seasonal, both raw and cooked, and vibrantly colorful, and that provide contrasting textures, a little indulgence and a few surprises.

Both kale and mushrooms are at their peak during fall and winter. In fact, kale gets better as the weather gets colder. For this salad, I roast the mushrooms to concentrate flavor, essentially transforming them into little crunchy umami bombs. I top the salad with deep red, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes for color. (I added them after taking the salad shots this time because they were still hot from the oven and I was too hungry to wait…typical.) The additions of avocado, toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan lend both contrasting texture and enough indulgence to keep me coming back for more. And finally, I finish the dish with lemon zest, thinly sliced scallions and a tiny bit of fresh mint and basil for a touch of freshness to balance the earthy mushrooms.

I’ve made this kale salad about a gazillion times since I first threw it together on a whim and realized I was onto something. While I see the kale, mushrooms and avocado as mandatory, all other ingredients are flex. Don’t have time to slow-roast tomatoes? Leave them out! Prefer shallots to scallions? Swap’em! #Putaneggonit and/or serve it over a cooked grain like farro to make it more of a complete meal. You get the picture.

Lacinato Kale, Roasted Wild Mushroom and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lbs mixed mushrooms (oyster, king oyster, hen of the woods and maitake are great wild varietals but the more widely available shitake is equally delicious – this will seem like a lot but they shrink up when roasted)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Few shakes of granulated garlic (1/2-1 tsp)
  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, washed, de-stemmed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup slow-roasted tomatoes (optional)
  • ½-1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (hazelnuts are equally delicious)
  • ½-1 cup shaved parmesan (use a vegetable peeler)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Small handful of fresh torn basil
  • Small handful of fresh torn mint
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Method

Roast the mushrooms:

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Prep mushrooms and break them into bite-size pieces. For shitake, this means removing their stems and tearing them into halves or fourths. For king oyster, this means slicing off a tiny bit of the root end and thinly slicing them lengthwise. Prep varies by varietal so purchase shrooms you’re comfortable with or Google proper prep technique.
  • Place shrooms on a sheet pan (lined with parchment for easy clean-up) and drizzle generously with olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper, a few shakes of granulated garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Roast in the center of the oven for 25-35 minutes, turning the mushrooms halfway through, until they shrink down by nearly half and are very crisp around their edges. Cool on sheet tray.

Make the vinaigrette:

  • Zest lemon and reserve for salad. Juice zested lemon into small bowl, add in a large pinch of salt, then drizzle in an equal amount of olive oil by volume or a little more. Add in the two crushed garlic cloves and allow to steep while finishing the rest of the salad.

Assemble the salad

  • Combine the prepped kale (watch Char’s video tutorial!), cooled mushrooms, sliced avo, slow-roasted tomatoes (if using), toasted walnuts, shaved parm, sliced scallions, torn basil and mint and lemon zest in a large salad bowl. Remove garlic cloves from vinaigrette and drizzle over vegetables. Using clean hands or salad tongs, gently toss salad until every nook and cranny of every vegetable is dressed.
  • Enjoy!

Serves 4 hungry peeps.

Root Veggies on Parade

Beet varieties at the Park Slope Food Coop

Everyone direct your attention to the nearest produce section, brimming with veggies in every odd shape and color of the rainbow. It’s time to familiarize yourself with the scraggily, weird looking veggies, pulled straight from the ground that have settled on produce shelves for the winter. They include such favorites as carrots, celery, parsnips, radish, turnips, beets, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and rutabaga… well maybe not that last one but it’s just so fun to say! Besides rutabaga these are some of the most common things we find in the crisper drawer, probably because they last much longer than your fruits or your greens. They’re something we’re confident using two weeks in a row, which makes our job all the more experimental and exciting.

There’s almost nothing I find more comforting than biting into a warm roasted carrot, which is why, when I surveyed my supermarket this weekend, just as the temperature finally dropped below 60, I ended up with mostly carrots in my handcart. I love the way they’re equally delicious raw as they are cooked and how they add just the right amount of sweetness to a dish.

A few more things you should know about carrots:

  • You don’t need to peel them unless you’re eating them raw.
  • While carrots are very nutritious (vitamin A, C, potassium, etc.) most of the nutrients in carrots actually reside in or just bellow the skin so it’s best not to peel away too much.
  • For candy-like caramelized carrots drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on them before roasting.
  • As we know carrots come in many colors. But when carrots were first cultivated (some ten thousand years ago) they were actually purple, not the orange color we associate them with most today (www.carrotmuseum.com).
  • You really will turn orange if you eat too many of the orange ones!

The second root-veggie I find it hard to resist is beets. When I see them on a menu I must have them, especially when they’re paired with goat cheese… mmmm. I love the sweet smell of the steam when you unwrap their foil. I don’t even mind that my hands will look like an art project for the rest of the day (pro tip: feta juice takes it right off).

A few more things you should know about beets:

  • To steam beets, rinse well, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and wrap in foil. The foil-wrapped bulbs can be placed directly on the oven rack. Just be sure they’re wrap doesn’t have any tears of holes.
  • They take a long time (sometimes over an hour) – so plan ahead! For steaming it’s important to try to pick beets that are relatively the same size so they’re tender at the same time. If you’re crunched for time, use smaller beets or cut larger ones into wedges with their skin on and roast them just like you would any other veggie with salt, pepper and olive oil on a sheet tray at 425 degrees. The skins get nice and caramelized that way!
  • You can eat them raw: shredded like you would carrots or shaved like you would radish.
  • Keep a loose piece of foil or sheet tray on the rack below the beets to collect any spills, saving yourself from that horrible bubbly, smoky mess on the bottom of your oven.

I could go on and on about my favorite root-vegetables because, truth is, I love them all, these are just the ones I’m craving this week:

I saw this carrot recipe in the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (just hit shelves last weekend and totally worth a peruse) that immediately caught my eye. Because carrots, tahini, crispy chickpeas. But I wanted it to be substantial enough for my whole meal so I decided raw carrots we’re enough and I roasted big chunks instead.

I also added smoked paprika to the chickpeas because it’s delicious.

Carrots

4-5 carrots quartered lengthwise or cut in coins

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

Chickpeas

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry on paper towels

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cumin

¼ tsp. paprika

Dressing

1 medium garlic clove

Juice of one lemon

3 Tbs. tahini

2 Tbs. water, or more as needed

A pinch of salt

Salad

1/4 cup chopped pistachios, roasted

2 sprigs parsley leaves

Roast carrots: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange carrots in a single layer on a large, parchment lined sheet tray. Season with salt, pepper and oil, toss and roast for about 25 minutes, until the carrots are deeply roasted and caramelized.

Chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with oil and seasonings. Spread them on a sheet tray and roast alongside the carrots until crisp and crunchy, about 15-20 minutes.

Vinaigrette: Whisk ingredients in a large bowl until smooth, but not too loose. You may need to add more water to achieve this consistency. Don’t worry this is normal!

Assemble salad: tumble carrots, chickpeas, pistachios and parsley into a large bowl and drizzle with tahini vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Other favorite carrot recipes:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013106-carrot-tahini-soup-with-coriander-turmeric-and-lemon

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/bas-best-carrot-cake

https://smittenkitchen.com/2016/05/roasted-carrots-with-avocado-and-yogurt/

Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh’s beautiful book, Sweet, highlights a couple unlikely root vegetable baked goods. Of course the one that seduced me wasn’t the carrot cake, which is a personal weakness, but the beet cake! With spicy candied ginger and tangy cream cheese frosting it’s certainly a contender!

The picture in the cookbook made the frosting look light and fluffy. My results were a little on the runnier side, but still tasted delicious 🙂

Cake

2/3 cup walnut halves

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 red beets, peeled and coarsely grated

Finely grated zest of one orange (1 tbs.)

1/2 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger (they instruct you to steep these in boiling water for 15 minutes, however, I skipped this step to create a little more intense flavor)

2 large eggs

¼ cup soup cream

½ cup sunflower oil

Frosting

5 ½ cream cheese at room temperature

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more if necessary)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 1/3 inch piece of ginger grated into a fine sieve placed over a bowl and the flesh squeezed to extract all the juices; reserve the juice.

To make cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

Toast the walnuts in a skillet in the oven for 15 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine and aerate. Add the beets, orange zest, walnut and ginger, but do not stir.

Place wet ingredients: eggs, sour cream and oil in another small bowl and whisk to combine.

Pour mixture into the cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

To make frosting: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and beat for about 10 seconds until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the cream and beat for about 1 minute, until the frosting is thick and smooth. Add the ginger juice, beat for a few more seconds. If the frosting seems a little loose just add a little more confectioner’s sugar. Once the cake is cooled, frost with an offset spatula and slice to serve!

Ottolenghi stirs in a crushed 1500mg vitamin C tablet to help preserve some of the vibrant pink hue

Other favorite beet recipes:

http://www.feastingathome.com/beet-bruschetta-with-goat-cheese-and-basil/

http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/grilled-beet-burgers/

https://www.loveandlemons.com/beet-hummus/

 

Happy cooking,

Charlotte

Get to Know It: Chickpea Flour

Socca, an unleavened pancake made from chickpea flour and water.

Chickpeas are an ingredient we know and love. They’re satiating and a great source of plant-based protein. And, like most legumes, they provide an excellent canvas for flavor. You can really dress them up in any way you like.

We eat them chilled in our summer bean salads, warm in our winter stews. Pureed in our hummus, fried in our falafel. We love to roast them to crispy, baked perfection. To munch on them as a snack, to include them in our kitchen sink salads. Basically, we love to consume chickpeas pretty much any way, at pretty much any time.

But how often do you find yourself cooking with chickpea flour? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably not too often.

Chickpea flourtraditionally made by grinding raw chickpeasis gluten free and nutrient dense. Like whole chickpeas, it’s a fantastic source of protein, and one that doesn’t come with an ominous use-by date. It has a really nice flavor and a rather dense texture, so it holds up well during cooking and tastes delicious once it’s done.

You can use chickpea flour in many ways, most of which are easy, fast, healthy and economical. Read: this is an ingredient worth getting to know.

Not sure where to begin? I can’t think of a better way to break the ice than by making socca.

Socca, native to France, is an unleavened pancake that can be made from equal parts chickpea flour and water. The process will seem friendly to even the most novice cooks. It requires little more than whisking flour and water, heating a lightly oiled pan and cooking a pancake. Isn’t that lovely?

But there’s room for adventure, too.

For instance, you could amp up your socca with egg a la this genius recipe for “cromlet”, a chickpea-omelette hybrid developed at Bon Appetit and beloved by the team here at WWE.

Or perhaps you’d like to use it as a gluten and dairy free roux in your next vegan sauce, as Lindsey Love, a fellow chickpea flour evangelist, suggests.

Love also wrote this recipe for za’tar spiced chickpea crackers, which look to be delicious, healthful and minimalist all at once. They consist of little more than chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Other intriguing uses: pizza, wraps, baking (it’s a trustworthy binder) and soups, to name a few.

But don’t let me get carried away. If you’re new to chickpea flour, how about a simple, anything-goes, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Salad Socca? The guidelines are straightforward:

Purchase some chickpea flour (also called garbanzo or gram flour), then head to the farmer’s market and fill your tote with spring produce. Make your way home. Make a salad, then make socca, then top the socca with the salad. Easy, right?

A salad of baby greens, fennel and cucumber.

Below, a bit of inspiration: a recipe for a Salad Socca of my own creation. Let me know what you think of yours. Happy cooking!

 

Salad Socca

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups baby greens

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

Olive oil to taste

½ teaspoon sumac (optional)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

 

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tahini, garlic, half of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, combine greens, fennel and cucumber. Toss well with olive oil, remaining lemon juice, some lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, sprinkle with sumac.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water and a healthy three-finger pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.

Heat a medium (10-in or so) skillet, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat surface.

Pour socca batter into skillet and let cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on bottom. It will fill the entire skillet. Flip and repeat on other side.

Once done, top socca with a generous serving of tahini-yogurt. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread mixture to evenly coat. Using your hands, top with fennel and cucumber salad. Enjoy.

Yogurt: A Love Affair

Siggi's Yogurt Orange and Ginger Roast Pork Tenderloin and Scallions

We love yogurt at What We Eat. Plain yogurt is a super delicious and versatile ingredient; it gets as friendly with our granola as it does our roasted veggies. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also crazy good for you, too — chock full of probiotics which are good for your tummy, high in protein and low in sugar so extra filling.

So you can imagine that when we caught wind of Siggi’s recipe contest, we jumped at the chance to participate. Siggi’s is a local company that makes skyrr, a thick Icelandic yogurt that’s not too sweet. They, like us, champion the use of simple, whole food ingredients and not a lot of sugar. Their contest challenges registered dieticians to create recipes with Siggi’s yogurt that align with the ethos of their brand. The top twenty entrants will secure a spot in the forthcoming Siggi’s cookbook.

For recipe inspiration, we turned to our imaginations (or in my case, a healthy dose of the Sqirl LA Instagram feed). After some texting, some coffee and one epic trip from Williamsburg to Red Hook and back again (it’s a long story), we headed for the kitchen.

Siggi's Yogurt Roasted Acorn Squash with Frisee and Micro Greens, Pickled Fennel and Toasted Seeds

The rest of the day was a blur of cooking, testing, tweaking and tasting. Of course, there were some oh man’s and I should have’s. But you know what? There were more belly laughs than anything else. We had fun.

The truth is, cooking like this comes naturally to us. It’s the food we want to eat. And I think that shows in this recipe collection, which is small but mighty.

There’s orange and ginger roast pork tenderloin, super savory and full of flavor. Roasted acorn squash with tahini-honey yogurt, an ode to the end of winter produce. And last but not at all least, spiced pear panna cotta with cardamom, not too sweet but creamy and lovely to eat.

Siggi's Yogurt Spiced Pear Panna Cotta with Cardamon and Pear Puree

When we went home that evening, we felt full and nourished and happy. And, as always, we want to share that with you. So look out for our Siggi’s recipes, which we’ve been sharing weekly on Instagram. And try incorporating any yogurt into your meals in new and creative ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Green Goddess Dressing

Blend a few scoops of yogurt with ripe avocado, lemon or lime juice to taste, a little olive oil, plus fresh basil, mint, cilantro, scallions or chives for a super quick, healthy and delicious avo-yogurt dressing.

Tahini Yogurt

Mix 1/3 tahini with 2/3 plain greek yogurt. Season to taste with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Spread over the bottom of a serving bowl and top with raw or cooked veggies. Roasted sweet potatoes, freshly sliced avo, cilantro and sliced scallions is an oft-repeated variation on this around here.

Honey Yogurt

Add honey, toasted walnuts and cinnamon to taste and serve with any sliced fresh fruit or pound cake.

Yogurt Marinade

Whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lemon, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper. We love to use this with chicken or pork. Depending, you may also want to incorporate spices like paprika, cayenne and cumin, or an herb like chopped cilantro. Transfer meat to a ziplock bag and coat with marinade. If possible, let marinate several hours, preferably overnight.

Winter Wild Rice Salad with Charred Broccoli and Pickled Raisins

Winter Wild Rice and Broccoli salad with pickled raisins and herbs

The holidays are officially over. With the grind of the new year in full swing and the harshness of New York cold weather setting in, everyone is buckling down for the next few months. I’m trying my absolute hardest not to let the winter blues get me down, and I am finding that more often than not, I turn to food to bring me comfort.

While winter conditions definitely make it difficult to find fresh produce, the season still provides for many delicious and hearty meals. In fact, my very favorite vegetable is easily accessible this time of year. That’s right. Give me all the broccoli.

Charred roasted broccoli or broccolini

Broccoli is so versatile and can be addictive prepared in any way! Steamed, stir-fried, roasted, or even eaten raw, the possibilities are endless. One can even thinly shave the stems and use them in a salad or sautéed for a meal, but that is a conversation for another day. Today I want to talk about my favorite preparation for broccoli: roasting. Super simple and with a huge punch of flavor, I like to toss the prepped broccoli with seasonings and oil and then blast it in the oven set to a really high temperature. This ensures that the broccoli gets a healthy char while still retaining some crunch. Nobody wants to eat something that can be described as “limp”. Toss with some lemon zest and voila, you have brought life to something in this artic tundra.

Broccoli on a sheet tray to roast

Over the years I have learned that my own personal preference in flavor combination is to combine sweet with savory. Therefore, I have found great value in the use of fresh or dried fruit in many of my dishes. There’s nothing like the subtle pop of flavor in every few bites when you encounter something sweet. As of late, one of my absolute favorite additions to a salad is the ever persevered, simple and basic (drumroll please….) raisin. This traditional ingredient dates as far back in my memory as “ants on a log” in childhood snacks, but has now been reinvented by the chefs at What We Eat. Though a raisin in itself is a tasty little burst of sweetness, we sometimes opt to re-hydrate the chewy little grape into something else. This can be done using warm water, or if you like, you can opt to add an acid to the mix for a pickling effect.

Pickling spices and apple cider vinegar boiling on the stovetop

Through experimentation, we have perfected a winning combination of spices to create an amazing pickling recipe for grapes and raisins. The result is an unbelievably sweet, tangy and slightly spicy treat. Think warm winter spices with a kick of heat from red chili flakes. Having this recipe in your arsenal is a sure-fire way to add surprise and curiosity to a salad or grain dish.

With love, Kristina

Winter Wild Rice and Broccoli salad with pickled raisins

For the Wild Rice:

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

Cook rice according to package directions.

 

For the Broccoli:

1 head broccoli, cut into large florets

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 pinch red pepper flakes

½ tsp granulated

salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

On the stove top, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Blanch broccoli for 30 seconds and refresh in ice cold water. Dry completely.

On a large sheet tray, toss the broccoli with a good glug of olive oil, granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Roast, undisturbed for 15 minutes. Take broccoli out of oven and flip (it should have a nice char on one side). Return to oven for another 15 minutes until crisp and caramelized. Remove and allow to come to room temperature.
Pickled raisins mise en place

For the Pickled Raisins:

2 cups golden raisins

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 star anise

1 tablespoon fennel seed

½ tablespoon sugar

1 tsp salt

 

Method:

In a saucepot, bring the water, vinegar, spices, sugar and salt to a slow simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved, strain the hot liquid over the raisins and allow to sit until cool.

When you are ready to build the salad, drain raisins and mix with the charred broccoli and wild rice. Add in a large handful of mint/cilantro/scallions and dress with a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid and some olive oil. Enjoy!

Other Uses for Pickled Raisins:

Chicken salad

Grain bowls

Breakfast parfaits with granola and greek yogurt