Kale Salad

I love salads as a side dish or as a meal unto itself.  Kale has become one of my favorite ingredients to substitute whenever I want to change my salad routine.

There are many types of kale.  Curly Kale is probably the most recognizable one, sold in bunches at your local grocery store or at your local farmer’s market — where I bought mine.  It is usually bright or dark green with tight ruffled leaves and fibrous stalks that can be difficult to chop, but easy to tear if fresh. It has a pungent flavor with peppery and bitter qualities, so make sure to pick younger looking leaves for less bitterness.  It is a power house in terms of nutrients and its low caloric content :-).  So many health benefits and so yummy!

Confession: many moons ago, I used to buy bottled salad dressing.  But once I learned how easy it was to make it my own, I never went back.  If I don’t want to spend time making one, it is just easy to add olive oil, lemon and voila.  In fact, growing up this was the de facto salad dressing.  My mom would just squeeze some lemon into our salads (no measurements whatsoever).   So aside from tomatoes,  we go through a lot of lemons and limes at our house.

In this recipe I used nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese.  I love cheese but like to substitute whenever possible.  Nutritional yeast is favored by vegetarians and vegans alike.  The name is not the most appetizing name but it provides a wealth of vitamins, minerals and protein.   I buy mine at Whole foods in the bulk section.

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

1 Kale bunch (about 4 cups once cut up)

1 red pepper diced

2-3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (or parmesan cheese)

1 Tsp powder garlic

3 Tbsp lemon (or more)

salt to taste

Preparation:

Step 1: Tear the leaves from the stalks, wash and dry.  Once they are dried, stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll them into a cigar, and then use a sharp knife to slice them into thin ribbons. This is a technique called Chiffonade.  It sounds complicated but it is not.  The secret to eating raw Kale is that you want to slice it as thin as possible so it is easy to digest.

Step 2: Dice the red pepper

Step 3: Put all the ingredients in a bowl, add the olive oil, lemon and mix. Next, add the garlic powder and nutritional yeast and mix again. Finally, add salt to taste.

Attention: feel free to substitute fresh garlic instead of garlic powder.  I much prefer fresh garlic but the powder one is quick shortcut if pressed with time.  Also, do adjust the lemon taste to your liking.

Finally, try vegetables and recipes that challenge your comfort zone. Why the hell not?

Watercress salad

Here is a salad perfect for hot summer days. Watercress is filled with so many nutrients: more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.  In American diet it was used as a little more than a plate garnish but it has gained popularity as the next superfood.  Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used it to treat his patients. In England watercress sandwiches were a staple of the working class, until the 19th century.

My mom uses watercress often in soups and salads.  In Guatemala it is known as “Ensalada de Berros.” Repeat after me: berros and start rolling those r’s!  This was one of my favorite recipes growing up.

I made this today and it was the perfect accompaniment for our salmon and quinoa dinner.  You can buy it pre packed or a bunch in the vegetable section.

Prep time: 15 minutes                                    Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

4 ounces of watercress

1/2 cup diced radishes

1/4 cup chopped onions

1 medium size tomato, diced

1 1//2 limes or lemon

salt to taste

Preparation:  

Step 1: Chop the watercress

Step 2: Dice the tomatoes and radishes

Step 3: Chop the onion

Step 4: Add all the diced vegetables to a bowl

Step 4: Add the lime/lemon juice and salt to taste

Attention — Watercress is a bit bitter so the sweetness and acidity of the lemon/lime will balance that out.  Enjoy!

 

The Perfect Guatemalan Guacamole

 

There are plenty of versions of Guacamole, mine is a simple one.  I grew up eating this version as an accompaniment to a good churrasco, to make Guatemalan tostadas (more on this later), or as a spread on French bread.

A simple rule of thumb to making a perfect guacamole is using good, ripe avocados. My mom taught me to check for ripeness by gently pressing the outside of the avocado. If there is no give, the avocado is not ripe yet and will not taste good. If there is a little give, the avocado is ripe and ready to eat.  Warning: If there is a lot of give, the avocado may be past ripe and not good.  The challenge sometimes is finding that perfect avocado so an alternative maybe planning ahead in which case unripe avocados are okay to buy.

Prep time: 10 minutes                                Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 cup minced white onion

1 Tbs spoon of freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

Preparation:

Step 1: Cut the avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out the flesh with a fork. Place in a bowl.

Step 2: Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. (Don’t get carried away! The guacamole should be a little chunky.)

Step 3: Crush the oregano leaves (Guatemalan style by placing it on the palm of your hand and then rubbing gently) and add.

Step 4: Add salt, lime (or lemon) juice, chopped onions and mix gently

Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.  Remember that it is always better to add more salt or lime if needed than to over do it.

Add the pits to the guacamole and cover with plastic and chill to store: Place plastic wrap on the surface of the guacamole cover it and to prevent air reaching it. (The oxygen in the air causes oxidation which will turn the guacamole brown.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.