This dinner began with a piece of albacore, which we eat with some regularity. We can buy it fresh at our farmers market and it’s a favorite with everyone. I’m not sure what sent me down the composed salad path, but it might have had something to do with the week of composed salads we ate after Easter and something to do with the fact that I’m tired of the Korean style tuna we’ve been eating–delicious as it is. And it definitely had something to do with the fact that Finn doesn’t often like his foods all mixed up. So if I can separate ingredients without trouble, sometimes I do. For this salad, I made this easy dressing with what I had on hand. I didn’t have a lot of traditional Nicoise ingredients (potatoes, olives) but I had other things: a tender Boston bibb lettuce and some baby Romaine, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, white beans, artichokes. I did a quick pan sear of the tuna, roasted the baby artichokes, steamed the green beans. I topped the tuna with the dressing and set out the other ingredients out on the counter with the dressing.
Here’s the very best part: kids get to choose what goes on their plates. I dressed each ingredient individually in the glass bowl, which is the traditional way to prepare a Nicoise in any case, and then set it on their plates. Caroline & I are together on this: when you can give kids choice and control, that’s always a good thing. This was Finn’s custom plate: tuna, white beans, green beans, lettuce. He came back for seconds. I think we also had some fresh bread.
The second best part: everything can stay at room temperature so it was ready to go for my husband and I later that evening. In one of those great moments when what makes the kids happy makes the grown up happy, we had a win/win kind of night. And: you can endlessly adapt this: substitute canned tuna or salmon, fresh snap peas or carrots….whatever you have on hand.
Continuing this week’s foraging theme, lunch the other day required a bit of refrigerator rummaging, since there were no good leftovers with which to construct a garbage salad. I wound up with a meal that tasted a bit like winter, a bit like spring, just right for this transitional season.
I found some garlicky cannellini beans from a recent pasta dish, a bunch of kale, a sweet potato, and a big carrot from last week’s wintry CSA box, plus some green garlic from this week’s more springlike assortment. So I turned the oven on to 400 and got to work with the vegetables. Usually, I save roasted vegetables for dinner, when I can slow roast them and give them time to caramelize. But the sweet potato and carrot, diced into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces, drizzled with olive oil and blasted at high heat for 10 or 12 minutes, turned crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I left the stalks of green garlic whole while they roasted; they were ready after about 5 minutes, and I diced them up, too. While the vegetables were cooking, I washed and shredded the kale leaves, and then put them in a big bowl with the roasted garlic, which started to wilt the kale nicely. Once the carrot and sweet potato were done, I tossed on top of the shredded kale with the beans, a splash of vinaigrette and some toasted almonds, for a perfect and relatively quick clear-out-the-refrigerator lunch.
Ben was sick. He lay on the couch, with neither an appetite nor a fever nor any other symptoms. It was starting to get worrisome, the lack of symptoms. At least when a child is sneezing or vomiting you have a general idea of how to make them feel better and when they might turn the corner. He’d missed two and a half days of school, and I was just starting to think I should consider calling the doctor when he got up off the couch, pulled a couple books off the kitchen bookshelf, and took them back to his cozy spot under the blanket, now paging through his Spatulatta cookbook, showing more energy than he had in days.
“Can we make this, Mama?” he asked. And without even knowing what recipe he was looking at, maybe Stained Glass Cookies or Extra-E-Z Fudge, I said yes, we can make that. And we did, and we will again because it is a) delicious; b) healthy; c) quick; d) easy enough for even a sick kid to make. We added a carrot and some black sesame seeds (Ben is wild about sesame seeds) to the recipe, but otherwise followed it as written. Here’s how you can make it, too:
3″ piece fresh ginger
1 carrot (optional)
10 oz tofu
2 scallions, sliced in rounds
2 T soy sauce
sesame seeds of any color, to taste (optional)
Peel the skin from the ginger and grate with a microplane or the small side of a box grater. Peel the carrot and grate with the large side of the box grater. Slice the tofu into 1″ cubes and place in a serving dish. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, carrot, ginger, and scallions over the tofu, drizzle with soy sauce and serve.
We make raw kale salad a lot, but over Christmas my sister made a version that was a revelation to me: raw, shredded kale massaged with avocado, then tossed with avocado chunks, slivered almonds and lemon juice. Yum. I ate it almost every day (an antidote to my daily handful of Christmas cookies?) and the whole family loved it. Yesterday we made it at home for the first time, and Eli wanted in on the action. I supervised at the beginning, but by the end he had taken over the process and, as you can see from the photo, was well pleased with himself (I should have supervised a little more closely; look at that knife!)
There are various versions of this recipe online, but I had a boy eager to make salad (that bears repeating: a five year old boy eager to make salad) so we just improvised, and it tasted great. Here’s how it went:
1 bunch of kale
1 handful (approximately 1/4 cup) toasted, slivered almonds
olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste
Strip the kale leaves from their stems, wash them, and then slice them into ribbons. Dump them into a large salad bowl. Slice one avocado onto the kale and mash it into the leaves with your hands. There is no kitchen implement that can do this for you, just dig in with your bare hands or enlist a willing helper to massage the kale leaves until they are all nicely coated with avocado. Juice the lemon over the leaves, and then add the other avocado, chopped into chunks. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with almonds, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve.
As I’ve written before, I love a salad for lunch, but when it’s rainy and cold, as it’s been in the Bay Area lately, something warmer is called for. Sometimes I make roasted potato and kale salad, but the other day I didn’t have quite the time, energy or ingredients to pull it together. So instead, I improvised with some dinner leftovers and one fresh market egg to make a warm and brunch-like dish that I will make again, even if I don’t have the leftovers with which to start. Here’s how it goes:
1 handful of kale
salt & pepper to taste
Scrub and chop the potato and boil till tender, 5 – 10 minutes depending on the size of the chunks.
While the potato is cooking, stem, chop and rinse the kale. Steam in a saute pan (or, if you’re really efficient, in a bamboo steamer over the boiling potato) until tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain the vegetables. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the potato, then fry until browned and crisp around the edges. Add the kale, plus some salt and pepper to taste, and heat until warm through. Off load the vegetables on to a plate and now fry an egg in the pan. When the egg’s just how you like it, slide it onto the vegetables. Drizzle with a bit of hot sauce if you like, and enjoy!