Straight Fire

I’m not crazy about kale. This might be my most controversial unpopular opinion given the meteoric rise in popularity its seen over the years. When it comes to dark leafy greens, kale is hard to beat; it can be eaten raw or cooked, comes in a variety of colors and shapes, offers a potential array of vitamins and minerals, and is readily available at a reasonable price, even if you splurge on organic. That’s an incredible claim to fame for a vegetable previously used only as decoration in deli cases.

Despite all that, kale is never the first type of greenery I’ll reach for in the produce section, or the second, or even the third. I don’t outright dislike it, but I feel like so many other options just suit particular dishes better. Arugula gives me the peppery bitterness I crave in a salad. Collard greens melt into tender ribbons in stews and braises. Spinach is better for adding green color to baked goods since it has a fairly neutral flavor. Boston or Bibb lettuce are ideal on burgers or sandwiches for a juicy crunch. Given such a wealth of choices, kale tends to fall towards the bottom of my list.

Obviously, I’m not an arbiter of taste. Kale remains king on menus across the US, from fast food to five-star, low brow to high end. I can’t fully understand it but don’t begrudge kale’s success one bit. If anything, that repeated exposure has proven its value in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. Case in point: The Fire Kale Salad from Daily Juice.

It lingered in my memory long after my first visit to Austin despite being a rushed grab-and-go meal at the time. Prepacked in a plastic clam shell, it fit the bill for something fresh and healthy after days of indulging, as one does while traveling. While I quietly wished it was made with romaine or mesclun or just about anything else, I forgot about the kale entirely after one bite.

This kale was tender but still held up to the creamy cashew dressing, standing firm where other weaker greens would have wilted into a watery lump. The whole thing glows red from a final dusting of paprika on top so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The warm heat from blended jalapeƱos is apparent up front, growing stronger and brighter over time. Crisp cucumbers provide a cooling foil, a refreshing relief right when it’s needed most. That added layer of crunchy texture harmonizes beautifully with the handful of toasted cashews tumbling between the frilly leaves. Such a simple combination simply works.

Normally, I’d rattle off a list of alternate greens to swap in, but kale is really the one for the job here. You could go with purple kale instead of plain green, but that’s about it. Everything that usually disqualifies it from my other recipes is exactly what makes it perfect in this one. Whether you love it or hate it, this kale salad is straight fire.

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Land of Plenty

Have you ever tasted arugula so crisp, so impeccably fresh, that it could only be described as “juicy”? Voracious salad eater that I am, I was sure I had exhausted every variant of leafy fodder available on the market, until I forked into the baby greens from Plenty.

Before this moment, brand name vegetables or plain packaged produce in general always seemed like a marketing gimmick to me. Wasn’t this the same stuff you could buy in bulk, now dressed up with designer graphics and enhanced pricing to match? Granted, that’s exactly what drew my attention when I first spotted these shapely clam shell boxes, but the quality far exceeds shallow aesthetics.

Vertically grown indoors, using 99% less land and 95% less water than conventional methods, without any pesticides, they’re as sustainable as they are genuinely flavorful. In short, Plenty is making the tastier choice the one that’s more affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly, too. It’s hard to explain how revolutionary this is without it coming off as a sales pitch, but trust me, these aren’t empty promises coming from a far removed PR mill! It’s rare to find a company that really lives up to such high standards without sacrificing in one department or another, which is why I’m proud to partner with them to spread the love of all things leafy, well beyond the salad bowl.

If you struggle to get your greens in, you’re not alone. Raw roughage may be difficult to digest, both literally and figuratively, for the pickiest eaters, but there’s more than one way to get your daily dose.

Believe it or not, even children will beg for a second helping of this verdant Matcha Milkshake, infused with velvety baby kale. Harmonizing with the natural, satisfying bitter edge of ceremonial matcha powder, the concentrated, zero glycemic sweetness of stevia balances out the blend without refined sugars. Cashews are the magical ingredient that makes everything rich and creamy, no milk nor cream needed. This recipe is based on my formula for cashew milkshakes in Real Food, Really Fast, infusing the decadent drink with a virtuous serving of vitamins A, C, and K. To fool a kale critic, you can easily explain the color with the green tea addition.

For those who like a bit of spice in their life, that bold baby arugula has just the right subtle peppery twist, further accentuated by the warm breath of fresh jalapenos in a steamy bowlful of Pozole Very Verde. Tangling amongst tender bites of hominy and pinto beans, this nontraditional broth comes together in mere minutes, bearing the rich flavors of a long-simmered stew. You could very well double up on the leafy quotient, since it melts down so effortlessly into the piquant brew.

When the heat is on and you’re trying to keep your cool, though, I’ve got the perfect all-purpose, all-day kind of meal for you. Avocado toast, the ubiquitous millennial favorite, but with a heartier bite than your basic bread. Meaty portobello slices turn into a shockingly convincing alternative to bacon, crisp and savory, redolent of the earthy, smoky notes you’d expect from cured pork, but made from plants. Refreshing crispy lettuce cradles thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes in a tender embrace typically reserved for starcrossed lovers. Part open-faced sandwich, part tartine, you get more of the good stuff with this BLT Avocado Toast and less carb-heavy filler.

Cheap, greasy Chinese takeout does tempt even the most disciplined healthy foodies, but you can beat those eateries at their own game. Skip the deep frying for this flash-in-the-pan Salt & Pepper Tofu Stir Fry, dazzling with whole peppercorns, including the mouth-numbing Sichuan variety. The more timid of tastes might want to pick around those powerful flavor grenades, though I think those intermittent fiery bites add to the overall experience. As if designed with exactly this dish in mind, the diverse mizuna mix can withstand the blaze, folded in at the very last minute to tenderize the baby bok choy without making any of the more delicate leaves go limp. Switch up the protein with seitan, soy curls, or even tempeh if you’d like to branch out beyond predictable bean curd.

For my final trick, watch as I turn three full boxes of leafy love into one glorious grand finale, wrapped up in flaky phyllo like an edible present. Inspired by layered spanakopita, spinach need not apply for the job in this Arugula Spanakopita Strudel. Baby arugula melts down to an almost buttery filling infused with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic. Downright buttery and stunningly cheesy, you’ve never had greens that taste quite so decadent before. Even the Greek Gods would bow down to this contemporary twist on the classic pie.

Getting hungry yet? Ready to go green? Find Plenty greens at a Bay Area store near you by checking the product locator, and start making space in your fridge. While those shapely boxes contain an incredible volume of green goodness, you’ll quickly find yourself craving more.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Plenty. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Wordless Wednesday: Greens is the New Black

Potato Griddle Cakes with vadouvan and spinach. Served with coconut tamarind chutney, shaved fennel, mint, and lime vinaigrette.

Arugula Salad with charred cauliflower, watermelon radish, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts with muhammara sauce, pomegranate reduction, and slivered almonds

Mesquite Grilled Brochettes with mushrooms, Mariquita Farm potatoes, peppers, fennel, sweet potatoes, red onions and Hodo Tofu with chermuoula.

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Phyllo with Moroccan chickpea stew, green harissa, roasted carrots, and maitake mushrooms.

Broccoli Pizza with macadamia cheese, baby arugula, and spicy red pepper pesto sauce.

Blackened Hodo Tofu with Carolina Gold hoppin’ john, cabbage slaw, and golden BBQ sauce

DeVoto Orchards Apple Crisp with ginger streusel and coconut sorbet

Greens Restaurant
2 Marina Blvd A
San Francisco, CA 94123

New Year’s Ball Drop

Wait, where do you think you’re going? The party isn’t over yet! Just when you thought it was safe to crawl back home in a holiday-induced stupor, ready to hibernate for the remainder of winter, New Year’s looms large on the horizon with another round of festive demands. Still recovering from Christmas, and maybe even Hanukkah at that, it can be a challenge to summon enough enthusiasm for the final day of the year. It typically ends in an anticlimactic countdown at midnight and much more booze than food; never a good omen for the start of any resolution.

No matter how worn and weary from this season of relentless merriment, we can still do better. Why just watch the ball drop on TV when you can fortify yourself with balls of a more savory sort?

It’s been many years, if not decades since I last encountered these classic appetizers, yet they come back to me in flashbulb memories of parties past. Was it my mom in the kitchen, rolling up mounds of greens and cheese by the dozen, or someone else entirely? Though the details elude me, I do remember being swayed by their robust garlic flavor, even in my early days of hating vegetables.

Look, I know it’s getting late and we could all use a break, but this last request is an easy one! Let your food processor do the heavy lifting, throw the whole lot in the oven, and finish on a strong note. 2018 has been full of crazy twists and turns, but I can promise you that the conclusion will ultimately be gratifying when these bite-sized balls drop, even if you make it an early night.

Yield: Makes 24 - 30 Balls

Garlicky Spinach Balls

Garlicky Spinach Balls

Robust garlic flavor shines throughout each bite of these crowd-pleasing appetizers.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 Slices (About 7.5 Ounces Total) Sandwich Bread, Slightly Stale or Lightly Toasted
  • 1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Head Roasted Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups (About 10 Ounces) Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree or Leftover Mashed Potatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and place them in your food processor, along with the pine nuts. Pulse until broken down into a coarse meal. Add in all of the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine, chopping the greens especially well but leaving the mixture with a bit of texture. You don’t want a perfectly smooth puree like baby food here.
  3. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon for each portion and use lightly moistened hands to roll them into round balls. Place on your prepared sheet and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until dark green in color and firm to the touch. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving; enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

30

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 63Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 125mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

Got Greens?

Milk mustaches are out; juice mustaches are in. Unlocking a world of flavor and liquid nutrition that dairy could only dream of, it’s no surprise that fresh pressed produce has taken up the torch in this race for beverage dominance. Green Mustache is one of many companies making a splash with blended fruit and vegetable smoothies, all built upon a foundation of leafy greens like kale and spinach. Inspirational though unexceptional in this burgeoning field, the differentiating factor in their origin story is that these drinks are blended with younger tastes in mind, palatable for both kids and adults alike. More importantly, they don’t neglect the need for more traditional snacks with more mainstream appeal, which is what first sparked my attention- And appetite.

Though not green in color or overt taste, Mustache Munchies “Cheddarish” Crackers quietly sneak a serving of vegetative goodness into these adorable handlebar crisps. Tanned to a gentle golden hue, these aren’t the screaming florescent orange wafers of similar mainstream competitors. Instead, they’re a study of careful balance and nuance, bearing a subtle nutty undertone and light but naturally cheesy essence. Each piece is a perfect little bite, ensuring no crumbs nor mess to contend with later when munching on the run.

As a serial granola bar-eater, sweet snacks start to lose their appeal early on in the day, which makes these satisfyingly crunchy crackers an ideal alternative. I never thought a mustache might look good on me, but these lightly salted morsels could add stylish new flair to any smiling face.

Inspiration Vs. Desperation

What spurs you on to create new recipes? Inspiration comes in countless forms, lurking just beneath the surface everywhere you look. It could be a trip to the market that lights a spark, or a great meal at a new restaurant. Even something as innocuous as watching tv or chatting with a friend might start the wheels turning. Some recipes, however, have decidedly less grand beginnings. Born not in some great flash of genius, but by sheer necessity, the results are by no means any less spectacular. Sometimes it just comes down to what’s already in the fridge.

Adding a single box of phyllo to a recent coop order seemed like a reasonable impulse buy to complete the case- A least until it arrived, and needed somewhere to stay. Freezer stuffed to bursting, there was no choice but to let it thaw out in the fridge, with still no destination in mind. With time ticking and now fridge space dwindling, that phyllo had to go, and not straight into the trash! At times like this, the great interweb is a true godsend.

Still waffling between sweet and savory recipes, it was the idea of Susan‘s Spinach and Artichoke Pie that sealed the deal. Tweaking the seasonings and switching out spinach for kale, it was an impressive outcome for the phyllo that had no clear purpose. Instead of making one giant pie, it seemed more fitting to break the dish up into individual wraps; less messy to serve and easier to store. Shatteringly crisp and flaky, that phyllo is truly what makes the final bundle of gently spiced greens and goodies so compelling. Only when my parcels had finished baking did I realize the strange cultural mash-up at play. Indeed, what emerged from the oven turned out to be glorified Greek burritos.

Greek Burritos
Adapted from the Fat Free Vegan

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
12 Ounces Frozen Chopped Kale
1 Pound Extra-Firm Tofu, Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Dill
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Oil-Cured Olives
1/8 Teaspoon Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 12-Ounce Bag Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Thawed and Quartered

1 Package Phyllo Dough, Thawed
Olive Oil in Spray Bottle

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper; Set aside.

Begin heating the oil in a medium or large soup pot over moderate heat. You want a vessel with high sides that can accommodate a good amount of food, so don’t hesitate to spring for one size bigger than you think is appropriate. It’s not a bad thing if it ends up being too spacious either. Add in the onions and garlic, and saute for 10 – 12 minutes until fragrant, softened, and beginning to take on a golden hue. Toss in the frozen kale, stir well, and let it thaw as it mingles with the hot onions. Turn off the heat as soon as the leaves are no longer icy.

Meanwhile, crumble your tofu into a large bowl and toss with the nutritional yeast, salt, dill, oregano, lemon juice, olives, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Once evenly seasoned, stir the tofu mixture into the hot onions and kale until well incorporated. Finally, introduce the artichokes, and mix just to distribute evenly throughout the filling. The mixture should be warm to the touch but not hot at this point.

To assemble your burritos, first lay out one sheet of phyllo on an immaculate flat surface, and lightly spritz with olive oil. Carefully top that with another sheet, lining up the edges to the best of your ability, and spritz oil on top of that. Repeat twice more for a total of 4 stacked full rectangle sheets. Gently distribute about 1 cup of the filling vertically, about 1 inch in from the left edge, top, and bottom. Now, as if it were a tortilla, fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, and roll, starting from the left side, until you have one smooth cylinder resting on the open end of the dough. Gingerly lift the wrap and place it on one of the baking sheets, and finally spritz the top once more with oil. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling, placing no more than three burritos on each sheet.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through if necessary, until golden brown all over. Serve immediately while hot.

Makes About 5 Large Burritos; Feeds 10 with Dainty Appetites, or 5 Very Hungry Vegans

If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, you can keep any leftover filling and phyllo separate, assembling and baking individual burritos when desired.

Printable Recipe