Monthly Archives: April 2012

Santa Fe Kale Salad

Yes, kale is the ‘it’ health food everyone is blabbing about these days and even though I love it and have been eating kale for the past few years I still sometimes feel like a hipster bandwagoner when I talk about it. However, those health nuts have good reason for euphoria. Kale is low in calories (33 in one cup), low in carbohydrates, it gives you fiber and well-rounded protein as well as tons of vitamins and nutrients. It’s packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, C, and K.

Ignoring all the health aspects of this leafy green kale has shown to be highly filling per calorie, according to Nutrition Data. This means that you can eat a large salad and actually feel full; it’s cost effective and helps with weight loss since you’ll be full for a longer period of time on fewer calories/carbohydrates.

I used to shy away from kale because the first few times I tried it the leaves were rather tough. It can be an intimidating vegetable to try; however, with the right approach anyone can easily incorporate kale into their meal and actually enjoy it. One easy way to enjoy kale is to cook it in a saute, soup or with pasta. Cooking kale helps break down some of the cell walls so it’s no longer tough but resembles steamed spinach. Kale also takes on flavor really well; seasoning your food right before it’s done cooking then letting it sit for a minute or two amplifies the taste.

Eating raw kale is my favorite method; the cool thing about making a kale salad is that you can and should toss the dressing when you make the salad rather than waiting until the very last second. Most salad greens turn limp and slimy if you let the dressing sit; however, leaving the dressing on kale helps make the leaves more pliable and flavorful. The important factor you can’t forget in your dressing for this to work is an acid, usually lemon juice or vinegar. Whatever acid you choose will be the component that covers the leaves and will beat the toughness out of them.

I have a few standby dressings that I often use depending on what flavors I’m craving at the moment. The one I’m going to show you is my Mexican dressing. It’s a very simple recipe; a little cumin, lemon juice, and olive oil is all it takes to bring out a spicy and earthy flavored salad. I love this salad recipe because it doesn’t take much effort, there are endless topping combinations, and it’s quite filling. In the summer I pile on fresh tomatoes and avocados and in cooler months I rely on pantry staples like quinoa and black beans. Anything goes with this salad; assess what you have on hand or what produce is in season and go nuts!

Santa Fe Kale Salad

Makes 2-4 servings


4 cups chopped kale

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup soy chorizo (I use the Trader Joe’s version)

1 avocado, diced

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 medium lemon usually yields this amount)

1 tablespoon cumin

6 tablespoons olive oil

pepper to taste


To make the dressing: combine the olive oil, lemon juice,  cumin, and pepper (I usually use just a pinch) in a bowl and whisk.

Toss the kale with the dressing so that the leaves are well coated. For best results, place dressed kale in the fridge for an hour or overnight (I make my lunch the night before and this works wonderfully); however, no wait time is necessary if you’re really hungry. Add the quinoa and soy chorizo. Be sure to add the avocado just before you’re about to eat or it will turn brown.

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A Mediterranean Vegetarian Tagine

I like to bring easy self-serve dishes to a party; anything that can fit into a bowl usually does the trick. This strategy pays off since it doesn’t require a lot of space or dirty lots of dishes, it’s not as fancy as tiers of complicated little bites but if the flavors are good and hearty people will go for it.

One of my favorite choices is a simple, uncomplicated Moroccan dish; I first tried this with a recipe from Bon Appetit; however I found a few elements to be too time consuming as well as a hinderance to the clean flavors of the dish. After reworking the recipe I ended up with a real crowd pleaser and the best part is that after you chop a few vegetables the hard part is over. The vibrant orange hues of this dish really stand out; the brightness matches the flavor perfectly. The rustic flavor of the turnips plays into the soft sweetness of the potatoes and carrots, balanced out by the zing of sun-dried tomatoes and olives. And my absolute favorite part of a good stew is the texture; it gives your mouth a break so you can play with your food a bit and don’t have to worry about getting anything stuck in your teeth.

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

For a quick version, you can use store bought ground spices instead of toasting and grinding the spices yourself. An interesting fact about coriander: it’s the same thing as cilantro and in the UK the seeds and the fresh herb both go by the proper title, coriander, whereas in here in the U.S. the fresh herb/leaves are called by their Spanish name, cilantro.

If you want to make some of this ahead of time you can make the spice mixture a up to 1 week ahead and store in a plastic bag or container. You can prep the vegetables 1 day ahead and store in plastic bags or containers, just be sure to keep the sweet potatoes and turnips submerged in water to keep them from browning. You can make the couscous 1 or 2 days ahead.

Makes 6 servings


1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled carrots

1 celery stalk, chopped

4 cups water

1 1/4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound turnips (about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch wedges

3/4 cup brine-cured green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped (I would advise against using canned olives as they can be quite bland)

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (about 1 ounce; not oil-packed), thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon dried or chopped fresh mint (optional)

10 ounces couscous

3 cups vegetable stock


In a skillet over medium heat toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds until they start to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer seeds to a spice mill (or if you’re more low tech use a mortar and pestle) and process until finely ground. Add red pepper flakes, turmeric, and salt and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in spice blend, garlic, and tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in carrots and celery for 2 minutes. Add water, sweet potatoes, turnips, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for 35 minutes with lid ajar; stirring occasionally. Add parsley, cilantro, and mint; season with salt and pepper. Close lid, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are simmering you can make the couscous, or you can make it beforehand. Add vegetable stock to a small pot, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add couscous, put on the lid, and let sit for 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spoon onto plates, placing the stewed vegetables on top.

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St. Patrick’s Day in SF

Ironically the only place in California where it didn’t rain on March 17th was San Francisco; it was icy-cold though. I wandered the streets of San Francisco with some friends enjoying the citywide celebration and Irish pride all over the city. The temperature caused everyone to stand a little closer to each other among the crowds.

Our first stop was the park with a quick vista of the Golden Gate Bridge, I don’t care how many times I’ve seen it or how familiar I get with this city; whenever I see that bridge a part of me thinks of all the tourists and photographs that are devoted to this one particular view. It will never be commonplace.

For lunch we stopped at Patxi’s for some exquisite Chicago deep dish pizza. It did not disappoint. The crisp red ale we ordered paired perfectly with the deep, cheesy layered goodness of the pizza. It’s a 30-minute wait for the deep dish style but it’s well worth it when you sink your teeth into such a huge pie. The spinach, onions, cheese and sauce bring out the best in each other especially when loaded on top of the thick crust with the right amount of crunch; it was perfectly satisfying especially on such a cold day.

In true St. Patrick’s Day spirit we then traveled to O’Reilly’s Pub for some guinness and real holiday celebration. An afternoon full of green lighting, leprechauns, and a few Irish themed drinks definitely set the mood. Did you know that Guinness Extra Stout is a vegan beer? That made me quite happy.

The cap of the day was The Creator’s Project at Fort Mason. Walking through a giant illuminated cube that seemed to produce music spurred by the wind immediately engulfed us in the 3-dimensional experience. Then being packed in a warehouse with tons of people to see Squarepusher with his entrancing artwork moving across screens all over the stage paired with his fluid, rolling sounds as well as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with their contrasting energy and vibrant performance. It was truly unforgettable. I’ve been to some memorable shows, but this one seemed magical, the raw, experimental aspect of this definitely left an impression.

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The cost of silence

Last month Mercy For Animals released undercover footage of severe cases of animal abuse at a Butterball turkey farm in North Carolina. Five Butterball employees are now facing felony and misdemeanor charges for torturing turkeys at their facility, all thanks to the efforts of Mercy For Animals undercover investigators who gathered evidence to prove animal abuse was going on in a big corporation factory farm.

Butterball is a namebrand that most poultry-eating households purchase, and yet it has deniability in this case since the company has set regulations as to the treatment of its livestock. However, what good are regulations when they aren’t enforced? In this case, the regulations seem to be a cop out to avoid corporate punishment and to let things blow over with the public. There have been arguments that undercover investigators should take more immediate action than spending months gathering evidence. However, Mercy For Animals has stated that their investigators always report animal abuse to their supervisors and are repeatedly ignored when they do speak up. This proves that corporate enforcement doesn’t exist; the big agriculture companies running these farms are just as much to blame as the employees who have been indicted.

The irony is that now these corporations are publicly outraged at their violated privacy. Just recently Iowa has passed a law declaring it a crime to falsely gain access to farms; therefore making it a misdemeanor for undercover investigators to expose the abuse going on in many factory farms. Not only does this dampen animal rights groups’ ability to investigate the treatment of farm animals but it sets a legal precedent that it’s alright for factory farms, or any farms for that matter, to keep their practices hidden and unavailable to the public eye.

This is the opposite direction we should be going. We live in an age of hyper-exposure: twitter, facebook, news outlets, etc. all can release information at the blink of an eye and gain widespread exposure within hours or even minutes. Yet the food we eat, the food that is supposed to nourish our bodies is developed in secret. Our bodies deserve respect, we deserve the respect to know what’s affecting our own well being as well as the well being of the animals slaughtered for our consumption.

If you couldn’t tell already I fully support Mercy For Animals and I believe that any company that needs to keep it’s methods secret is probably hiding something outrageous or illegal. I cry every time I see a dead animal on the side of the road, I can’t imagine how anyone could harm an innocent creature for the sake of production and profit.

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