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 jalapeños 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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More Bang for Your Buckwheat

Overlooked, underappreciated, and widely misunderstood, buckwheat has faced numerous obstacles gaining traction in mainstream markets, despite its extensive history and remarkable nutritional profile. Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t actually a type of wheat at all, and is in fact a fruit seed from the same plant family as rhubarb. Most people don’t realize that there are different types of buckwheat as well, which vary greatly in quality and flavor.

Big Bold Health has unleashed possibly the most potent, ground-breaking strain as the world’s first ever certified organic, US-grown Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat.

Also referred to as HTB for short, this unique genus of buckwheat is redefining the superfood field as we know it. HTB is packed with immunity-supporting phytonutrients, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and prebiotic fiber. If you don’t have time or patience to cook with the flour, you can also get a concentrated dose of its key phytonutrients in supplement form. HTB is also an essential ingredient bolstering Big Bold Health‘s protein shake mix, which easily turns into sweet treats with serious benefits.

For those seeking the full buckwheat experience by cooking and baking with the finely milled flour, even greater nutritional riches await, as HTB contains two times more protein per gram than quinoa.

The biggest barrier to widespread embrace of HTB is the distinctly earthy, bitter flavors created by the rich phytonutrients themselves. Generally speaking, HTB can be substituted 1:1 for up to one third of the wheat flour in many conventional recipes. Lacking gluten, it has none of the elasticity found in other blends, producing more fragile baked goods.

It’s a delicate balancing act, best highlighted by the art of classic soba noodles. Hearty and slightly chewy, with a delicate toasted, nutty flavor, they embrace the harsher, more polarizing taste of buckwheat with grace.

Plain soba is just the start. Spiked with a splash of vinegar, the acid helps to neutralize bitterness and even bring out a faintly sweet aftertaste. Fiery chili crisp brings the heat with crackling spice, setting off sensory fireworks with every bite. Long strands of cucumber join the tangle to cool things off, intertwining bright, fresh herbs with tender edamame.

Blending Japanese noodles with Chinese condiments, it’s a fusion of my favorite summertime sides. Smashed cucumber salad, drizzled with fragrant hot chili oil is cool yet invigoratingly spicy, with a touch of mala‘s numbing tingle. Zaru soba, on the other hand, is mild and refreshing, simple and understated. Combining the two creates an addictive savory experience that seems to hydrate and revitalize right down to the soul, quenching thirst and hunger in one go.

Though the flavor of HTB is distinct, it’s easy to embrace in such a harmonious dish.

For a 10% discount off your order on BigBoldHealth.com, use the code hannahkaminsky10 at checkout.

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Lettuce Feast

Don’t lose your cool as temperatures rise. There’s no need to sweat the details in the kitchen or the dining room when you could whip up an easy, breezy, no-cook meal in minutes.

Equal parts spicy and refreshing, each crisp bite will wake up your senses with an invigoratingly spicy, creamy almond sauce. Staying perfectly chilled with a refreshingly juicy, sweet and savory mango-tofu salad, the combination of tastes and textures can’t be beat.

Swaddled in fresh lettuce leaves, you don’t even need to break out the forks or knives. It’s a party starter, last minute meal, and relief from the heat all in one.

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Extra Virgin, Extra Special

One of the most important ingredients in my pantry, tied for a photo finish with salt, is olive oil. Always close at hand, in at least two or three varieties, it’s my top pick for baking and cooking, both sweet and savory. We’ve talked about the subject at length, but there’s still so much more to learn about such a historical, essential staple.

Reinvigorated by an inspiring Flavor Your Life Virtual Influencer Event, I’m taking another deep dive into this golden-green elixir. Assembled for the express purpose of sharing the rich, delicious heritage of authentic extra virgin olive oil from Europe, they’re on a mission to banish subpar, rancid blends from kitchens everywhere.

Extra virgin olive oil is the gold standard since it’s made simply by pressing olives without heat or chemicals, which makes it virtually free of the bitter acidity plaguing lesser, cheaper blends. A panel of trained, expert tasters test for defects, ensuring that each drop encapsulates a harmonious balance of fruitiness and spiciness. If the oil doesn’t have that signature essence, it won’t receive an Extra Virgin rating, no matter the painstaking processing methods employed.

Contrary to common belief, extra virgin olive oil has a high smoking point of 400°F, which is why it gets top billing in my cookbooks as a go-to for almost all recipes. The best dishes start with quality ingredients; there’s no two ways about it. That’s why I was so eager to put Le Stagioni d’Italia to the [taste] test.

Billed as having a robust flavor of artichoke and almond with a medium bitter, spicy aftertaste, as well as a green, ripe, fruity aroma, this powerful profile is a clear winner. Featured in a number of rice dishes during the online event, I was hungry for a piece of the action at home, with my own personal touches. Though the golden risotto was quite tempting, glowing luminously even on my dull computer screen, I had to go with cooler, more summery fare.

Sweet cherry tomatoes are slowly roasted to concentrate their natural sugars into tiny umami bombs, bursting with flavor across the landscape of plump carnaroli rice. Though these short grains are typically used for risotto or paella, they’re brilliantly tender yet toothsome once chilled, creating a more texturally satisfying salad than long grains that tend to get dry and brittle over time.

Amplifying the inherently rich profile of the oil itself, I decided to fold actual artichoke hearts into the mix, and instead of using cottage cheese as called for in the original recipe, finish each serving with a creamy dollop of almond ricotta. Infused with fresh herbs and zesty lemon peel, it’s bright, vibrant, complex, luxurious, and yet still approachable and comforting all at once. That’s the beauty of good olive oil; such versatility knows no bounds.

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No Harm, No Fowl

To anyone who still hasn’t tried any of the myriad chicken alternatives on the market now, I must ask: What are you, chicken? Ten years ago, I would have understood the trepidation. They were more frequently referred to as “mock meats,” which was fitting, considering they generally made a mockery of vegans trying to win over dubious omnivores. Old school plant proteins certainly have their place, but to compete with the hyper-realistic options now readily available, it’s time to embrace the other, other, OTHER white meat.

The best thing about these hot new chicks, aside from the complete lack of cholesterol, death, and cruelty, of course, is the fact that they work seamlessly in any preexisting recipes you may have held dear. No need to give up those favorites, or even modify them! Anyone could go vegan by simply opting for different brands the next time they go shopping.

As a seasoned herbivore, sometimes I need to stand back and marvel at the selection. In many cases, I’m trying dishes for the first time at the ripe old age of thirty-something, simply because there hasn’t been a means for easy replication before. In other cases, greater accessibly lends itself to further experimentation, because there’s nothing to risk here. If it doesn’t turn out, there’s no big loss.

Such is the case with chicken salad. No, I never had chicken salad before going vegan. I was raised to believe that mayonnaise was the Devil’s condiment, and adding fruit to a savory dish was purely verboten. Nope, nothing about that odd mixture of gloppy white meat slopped between two slices of bread appealed to me, so I wasn’t exactly clamoring to recreate it.

Honestly, its a good thing it took me so long to warm to the concept. Only with age and experience can I fully appreciate the subtle nuances and intricacies that make it a perennial staple in so many households. It’s all about balance, harmonizing textures and tastes that contrast and compliment, elevating the everyday into something worth eating on repeat. Everyone has their own formula, tweaked to suit individual preferences, so at long last, this one is mine. I hope you personalize it in turn, allowing the classic to live on, without any animal ingredients involved.

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Love Your Leftovers

Scaling down a recipe is a cinch… In theory. The math isn’t hard, the general procedure is all the same. Maybe the time or temperature needs some adjustment, but we’re not talking about anything drastic here. In reality, at least speaking from personal experience, there’s a strange mental block that makes it feel much more difficult. Why go through all that effort to make a meal for one, when you can just as easily feed an army? That would certainly explain why I’ve ended up with Thanksgiving leftovers that could very well last me until next Thanksgiving, no matter how consciously I planned for a downsized feast.

Now, however, I do have yet another thing to be thankful for. Leftovers are quite simply the best part of any meal, be it takeout or home cooking. Cook once, eat twice or thrice, and the flavors only get better over time. If repetition gets dull, it’s a snap to switch things up, re-purposing tired components into a vibrant, fresh dish.

If you’ve never tried toasting your quinoa, you’re missing out on a wealth of flavor, nutty and woodsy, with notes of warm cereal, and a gorgeous golden color. To this endlessly accommodating base, Thanksgiving leftovers get a new home, no matter what you’ve got kicking around in the fridge. Brussels sprouts, tender persimmons, and roasted pumpkin seeds cozy into these plush grains, revived and enlivened with a hot browned butter vinaigrette- No dairy need apply, of course.

Sometimes, the leftovers are simply too good to mess around with aside from reheating. There’s no shame in eating Thanksgiving on repeat, verbatim. Just make sure you don’t miss out on this winning combination, even if you have to start from scratch.

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