The Many Magical Wonders of Kale

Resolution: to be more self-disciplined.

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I know I haven’t posted in a while, and, well, I don’t really have any good excuses. I could say something super compelling, like that I’ve been backpacking through Europe for a month with nothing but a knapsack, a cat, and a notebook and post poorly Photoshopped pictures of myself rifling through brass beetles and sea glass at the Ecseri flea market in Budapest, or that I got hired at VICE magazine in New York and had to move immediately and am currently blogging from some tiny NYC apartment where the walls are yellow with old nicotine, or that I met an ethereal French woman who convinced me to elope with her before the new year.

But really, I’m just kind of lazy.

Resolution 2: to eat healthier. At this, I’m doing an okay job. One of the things I eat about twice a week is kale. I know, I know—it’s totally en vogue and trending with foodies everywhere. But it really is A) good for you, loaded with vitamins C, A, K and a bunch of minerals, and B) pretty darn tasty. I have a low tolerance for gross-tasting health foods. I enjoy food. And I enjoy kale. There, I said it! I’m drinking the Koolaid! (I’ve never really understood what that meant…)

Before I get into food business, here’s a video I made that’s somewhat relevant to the topic at hand:

Curiosities for Sale from Sarah Brooks on Vimeo.

Kale is like a cheap and desperate whore—you can pretty much do whatever you want to her, and she’ll still put out. So far I have:

• Used pre-washed, pre-chopped, frozen kale in smoothies (Oh, she sounds like a real douche now) (I know that’s what you’re thinking) (Or maybe I’m just insecure)
• Sauteed kale
• Made kale chips
• Ate it raw but was unenthused

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My favorite thing to do with kale is to saute it. Takes about -30 seconds and is so easy that your great aunt who lives alone and is blind in one eye could do it.
First, heat up some olive oil and sliced garlic in a big ol’ pot over medium heat. Before the garlic gets too hot, add in as much chopped, washed kale as possible, and then just kind of add in however much vegetable broth feels right. (OK, maybe like, half a cup? For one bunch of kale.) Cover it for about seven minutes. Once it gets wilty, stir it up and add many enthusiastic splashes of red wine vinegar. Boom, done.

How about chips made of kale? Don’t make the same mistake I did and assume that they’re going to taste like ass. This led me to salt them liberally so that they just tasted like I was licking one of those Himalayan salt rocks. Salt them a little bit, then taste them and feel free to add more. You can flavor these however you like, but I tend to stick with sea salt.

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With the sauteed kale, you can use the whole thing, stem and all. With kale chips, just pull off the leaves. Wash, pat dry, and lay out on a sheet of parchment paper or foil that’s layered over a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (is there such a thing as using too much olive oil? I literally use it multiple times a day) and salt and bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes. Keep an eye on ’em as they’ll burn quickly.

See? Easy as pie, and almost as tasty. Well, not really. But way better for you.

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Next time: I will prepare an overview of all the items I’ve pulverized in my new NutriBullet. I feel myself becoming obsessed, and I’m OK with that.

put on your sombrero and grab some queso

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I was about to apologize for not posting in such a long time, but I guess I should first apologize for my title…#sorryimnotsorry #fml #lol

OK, let’s get the fuck down to business. A few days ago I made some empanadas, using this recipe for guidance. Empanadas are baked/fried pastries filled with whatever-the-hell and found in Latin American, Southern European, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread (all of this via Wikipedia. Ermahgerd, Werkerperderer!) I’m surprised the translation specifies wrapping something in bread…does that happen so often that it warrants its own verb?

Oh, I forgot about tacos. And burritos.

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Since I’m rapidly progressing in my culinary skills, and also because I couldn’t find any pre-made at the local Kill-Me-Now-Kroger, I made my own empanada dough. I don’t think I did it the authentic way, which I’ve heard involves using lard (I could have finally made use of Cat!), but I did do it the really freaking simple way.

Basically, you mix 3 c flour with a couple pinches of salt, 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter (this one’s for you, Paula Deen), an egg, and 4-5 tbsp. water. I kind of eyeballed everything and mixed it all together with my hands, but I’m guessing a food processor would have been helpful.

I had a couple of friends over to help me cook/eat the food. Stephanie acted as sous chef and took photos. Leanna rolled out the dough with an empty wine bottle (who has a rolling pin?) and, employing the use of her production design skills, grabbed a vase that I had totally forgotten about to cut out small circles.

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While she worked with the dough (which, shit, I forgot to mention—you need to chill it for, like, 30 minutes before handling it), I started the empanada filling.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 1/4 of a large white onion, diced
• 1 c green peas (the original recipe calls for “fresh shelled,” as well as “twice peeled fava beans,” but I’m not a fucking trophy wife with enough time and money to prance around organic markets in 6-inch heels and buy esoteric beans for my personal chef to peel, not once, but twice, so I bought a can of green peas), for Christ’s sake
• 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
• 1 tbsp. chopped thyme (I didn’t have this…)
• 1/2 lb of asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces. We used a whole bunch, so I had leftover filling that I later used for pasta. Genius!
• 2 tbsp. butter
• Salt and pepper

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Melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the diced onions and cook for a few minutes, then add in the asparagus and, like, half a can of drained green peas. Or thrice shelled mystical fava beans, if you’re a princess. Add in some herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and then mix in the goat cheese. The filling will become creamy and delicious-smelling.

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To assemble, take your little circles of dough, place a spoonful of filling in the center, and then fold the circle in half. Make an egg wash with a whisked egg and some water and brush this around the edges to help seal the pastry. Score around the edge with a fork to finish the packaging process, and brush your egg wash over the tops of each empanada.

If you feel like it, you can also make an empanada-cat. Empanacat. Catpanada.

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tops and edges are golden brown. Naturally, my oven charred some of the edges and left the tops baby-bottom white.

Now for the important part. This sauce is crucial. Like, seriously. It’s a balsamic chimichurri sauce that I found on the same blog—super easy to make, fresh-tasting from the herbiness, and totally something that I want to pour over my face and naked body.

Hmm, scratch the last part.

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Here’s all the shit that you need to mix together for the sauce. Try to use it the same day you make it.

• 3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (I didn’t have this but used dried instead)
• 2 tbsp. chopped parsley (yes! The parsley I’ve been growing finally came in handy!)
• 4 minced garlic cloves
• 5 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp. chili powder
• 3 tbsp. finely chopped green onions (or scallions…aren’t they the same thing? Or are scallions those little oniony-looking things?)

Mix all of these things together, and enjoy. We opted to drizzle it over the tops of the empanadas in a very chic way.

The dough was a little dry, so I would recommend looking for a more authentic recipe or simply buying pre-made dough. Enjoy!

baked zucchini that wants so badly to be deep fried

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I originally found a recipe for quinoa baked zucchini on, you guessed it, Pinterest, but I ended up making some necessary alterations.

I spent a good fifteen minutes looking for quinoa flakes in two different grocery stores. I barely even understand what quinoa is, let alone how it can be made into flakes. Corn flakes? Check. Quinoa flakes? Sounds like bullshit.

I asked a disgruntled employee at the Piggly Wiggly for help, who simply tilted her head and said, “Keen-what?”

At this point I decided that quinoa flour, which the original recipe also calls for, should be enough. I couldn’t find this at the Pig. So I ventured to Kroger and pushed my way through packs of hipsters to get to the organic aisles. I finally found a 10 dollar bag of quinoa flour. Ten dollars for a tiny bag that I would never, ever use again. Ten bucks. That’s more than I would pay for a 6-pack of beer.

Nope, not gonna happen.

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So these zucchini slices are merely coated in egg white and breaded with Panko bread crumbs. Consider this the ghetto version, if you will.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 1 egg white
• 1 c bread crumbs
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• 1 tsp. onion powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. pepper
• whatever other seasonings you want to add—fuck it

After slicing the zucchini, coat each section in egg white. Mix the bread crumbs with your seasonings of choice in a small bowl and submerge each zucchini slice, covering both sides in breading. This is pretty much impossible to do, for some reason. My dry ingredients formed globs and fell off of the zucchini. The process is slightly infuriating.

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Line a greased-up baking sheet with the little guys and bake at 425 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until golden brown.

If you’d like to make a sriracha dipping sauce as an accompaniment, mix 1/3 c Greek yogurt (plain—the recipe also offers “tofu mayo” as an option, but it’s hard for me to type those words for about 75 different reasons) with 1-3 tbsp. of sriracha, depending on how much spice you like in your life. Add in 1 tbsp. of fresh lime juice and 3 cloves minced garlic.

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This sauce is powerful stuff, folks. Consider adding less sriracha and garlic, unless you need to clear up your sinuses.

Once the zucchini cools, I’d recommend eating it within 10-15 minutes before it goes cold and soggy. This is a great dish if

A) you have a deep frier, and
B) you have company over.

Meanwhile, 1/3 of my zucchini chips are still sitting on my kitchen counter top—Cat stupidly sniffs them before letting out a mournful meow, lamenting the fact that they are not tuna.

C’est la vie, mon petit chat.

a little help never hurts

This past Wednesday, I took a break from struggling to cook successfully on my own and visited a classmate, Domenica, for some cooking lessons.

She seems quite the culinary master (at least compared to someone like me, who has managed to burn boiled potatoes more than once) and uses her world travels to inspire weekly cooking sessions with her friend’s two kids. One, a seventh grader, seems like she’s probably smarter than me and a better chef.

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Still, I did my part and julienned some cucumbers and carrots for spring rolls. The process took me about 65 minutes longer than it should have, and the slices were still probably not thin enough, but eventually I got to a point where I was too ashamed to keep chopping.

These spring rolls were super easy and really delicious. We used rice paper wrappers to bind the ingredients together—with those, you just soak them in water for a couple of minutes to render them pliable and then carefully wrap them around your veggie slices, noodles, chopped peanuts, herbs, shrimp, tofu, and whatever else you have on hand. (Ooh, what if you wrapped them around bacon and chocolate and then deep fried them til they were no longer recognizable, and then topped them with powdered sugar?)

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Can you tell it’s that time of the month?

We also had shrimp wontons and tempeh. Domenica had picked up some items from a local Asian market, one of which was…grass jelly drink? If I’m remembering correctly. It was thick, brown, and slightly sweet, with cubed chunks of…something. Tapioca, or gelatin. Might be good with lots of vodka. Or poured into a glass next to a cheeseburger and then set aside indefinitely.

Domenica showed me around her home before I left, which she and her husband had decorated with eclectic works of art ranging from Picasso sketches to naive art to a fascinating postmodern art installation about slavery.

So like, I kind of want to be her when I’m older. I now have several things to add to the aspirational self list.

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In other news, my aspirational self and my real self have converged for one of the few times in recorded history through the practice of power yoga. This is essentially yoga, which is already hard as balls for someone as out of shape as myself, but sped up and heated so it feels just like torture. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. When we moved on to something called the “pro pose,” which is when people lift their hips and bent legs off of the ground using upper-body strength, I maintained the “dolphin pose” balanced on a foam block and actually started to laugh. I’m not sure why I was amused—maybe I was simply on the brink of insanity. The instructor kept not-so-discreetly mentioning “people who look like they don’t want to be here,” which I have to assume was me, since every 5 minutes I had to wipe a swamp of sweat off of my face in order to see.

I will say, though, that yoga has been awesome, and I’m just getting started. I do feel great when I finish—relaxed, more mentally clear, and like I’ve just had a really beneficial workout. I hope to continue for as long as I can!