A good salad dominates the dinner conversation. When it doubles as a vegetarian main course, that’s even better.
That was the case last week with this Kale, Quinoa, Feta, Avocado, Cucumber and tomato creation that we enjoyed at my sister’s house in Iowa. As soon as we got back to Austin, I had to have it again, and made the mistake of steaming the kale for too long. It’s a whole different thing when the leaves all clump together without any of the that robust kaleness that we have learned to love. So rule No. 1: Only steam the kale leaves for a split second — just long enough for the green to become deeper.
Otherwise, this salad is a sure hit. First time around, we had discussion about whether or not to go with the quinoa once all of the other ingredients were tossed together. It seemed perfect already without tossing in a grain when a grain did not seem necessary. We took the leap of faith. Turns out, it was a good leap.
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 large bunch of kale, rinsed and torn into small pieces
1 avocado, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Rinse quinoa and add to a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool.
Using a steamer or a metal colander, steam kale for 45 seconds. Remove from the steam and allow to cool.
Transfer kale to a large salad bowl and top with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and quinoa.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss.
Broccoli Pancakes with Pesto. Seriously, these were delicious. One of my favorite blogs, Beyond the Peel, came out with a recipe for 3 Ingredient Savory Pancakes, and I had to try them immediately, largely out of disbelief that
2 cups chopped broccoli,
4 eggs and
2 Tbsp. of ground flax
zapped together in a food processor could turn into a game-changing pancake batter. They cooked up in a skillet with a little oil, just like a regular pancake.
Topped with warm pesto, we had the pleasure during dinner of experiencing something truly new under the sun. Gluten free to boot. Great for dinner, I can’t wait to serve these for a brunch and convert a whole new crew of doubters to the concept of a broccoli pancake.
It’s fairly recently that I’ve started pushing the envelope of pesto possibilities, stirring in a tablespoon of pesto here, spreading it liberally there, and discovering more and more reasons to love pesto.
Pesto is simply amazing. Packed with more flavor per square centimeter than any other item on the savory shelf, it also serves as a vehicle for some of the finest superfoods out there — garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, walnuts, lemon juice. One could almost make an argument for popping a pesto capsule on days when it did not make it onto the plate.
What we’re talking about here are dishes that incorporate pesto — not recipes for pesto. But first, a few words on pesto itself. Earlier this year, I experimented with a Basil Arugula Parsley Pesto, which became my standby. Recently, I took a crack at a Basil Almond Pesto, and even though I’m thinking that might be my new go-to, I’ll never tire of new pesto possibilities. My only rule when making pesto: make a lot. A refrigerator that’s stocked with this wildly versatile standby tends to spark the creative juices.
Here are some more of the ways that pesto has managed to spice up our lives lately.
I bought a few ears at the Farmer’s Market. Shucked them. Immersed them in boiling water for a few minutes and was about to bring them to the table with a stick of butter and a shaker of salt — like I’ve done since I was 10 years old — and I stopped myself in my tracks thinking, “I wonder what a little pesto would be like instead.” There are those who would advocate mixing half butter and half pesto, and that’s one way to go. We went for straight pesto and loved it.
Pesto Pilaf. A side dish doesn’t get much easier (or better) than this: One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the water is fully absorbed. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of pesto. Top with toasted, sliced almonds. Perfect.
Cheese and Pesto Sandwich. A cheese sandwich began as a very blah lunch-on-the run until I eyed some pesto in the fridge, spread some pesto on a slice of whole wheat bread, and added a slice of cheddar along with a few arugula leaves. The transformation to an entirely new sandwich stratosphere was immediate.
The next day, Sarah took the same concept and grilled it. Even better.
Pesto/Lemon Dressing. Equal parts pesto and fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s all it takes to unseat the standard Dijon vinaigrette.
Pesto Frittata.Fun with frittatas — brunch, lunch or dinner — is a big theme around our kitchen these days. A recent addition of a tablespoon of pesto into five beaten eggs, took a potato, onion and tomato frittata up several notches.
Pesto Omlette. And next we have the obvious extension of the pesto frittata. Two large eggs, a tablespoon of pesto spread in the center, and about a half tablespoon on top.
Baked Salmon with Pesto. Once again, pesto comes to the rescue. 30 seconds is all it takes to transform a plain plank of salmon into a perfectly moist and flavor-packed filet. Spread about 2 Tbsp. of pesto across the skinless side of a 1 to 1 1/2 pound salmon filet. Wrap in foil and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Pesto Salmon Cakes. I’m a big proponent of always having a can of wild-caught sockeye salmon on the shelf (as well as a container of pesto in the fridge), because it means that Pesto Salmon Cakes will always be an option. One 14 1/2 oz. can of red salmon, 3 Tbsp. of pesto, 2 eggs and 2 slices of whole wheat bread ground into crumbs, and that’s it.
Pesto Croutons. Bill could not be a bigger fan of homemade croutons and pesto couldn’t be a more perfect crouton mix. Combine 2 cups of cut up cubes of bread with 3 tablespoons of pesto mixed in with additional olive oil to ensure that the pesto spreads evenly. Toss gently until all of the bread cubes are coated and toast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minute. Toss again after about 10 minutes and monitor closely to ensure croutons don’t burn.
Pesto Pasta. Serving as the poster child of this blog’s Auto Pilot page, pasta with pesto is where my love of pesto began — and the point from which is did not stray for many years.
Broccoli Pesto. And for a variation on the basic pasta with pesto, steam broccoli for a good seven minutes and mash it with a fork along with a few tablespoons of pesto. Mix with hot pasta and top with parmesan.
The popularity of the Mediterranean Diet might be that the arteries and the taste buds are equally happy.
That’s certainly the case with this recipe. If we think of butter at one end of the health spectrum, a spread consisting of olive oil, parsley and garlic is at the other.
I’m not one to blaspheme butter, but if a basket of rolls hot from the oven were placed on the table: no contest. Olive oil mixed with garlic and parsley wins.
We happened upon this alternative about three years ago when eating at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco — a restaurant the celebrates garlic in all of its glory. Within seconds of being seated, a loaf of crusty bread, along with a bowl of pulverized parsley, garlic and olive oil arrived at the table, which leads one to question, how these people manage to make any money. After a deep dive into this kind of a a delicacy, it’s hard to imagine anything on the menu being better.
Long story short, this combination worked it’s way into our hearts and has stuck with us ever since. Thank you Stinking Rose.
I never asked for the recipe, so the following proportions may not be true to the source. But they’ve always worked for us.
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh parsley (If fresh oregano or basil are on hand, toss some extra leaves into the mix)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Finely chop parsley and other herbs. Add minced garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt and olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
Serve with bread or rolls and keep on hand as a condiment or seasoning whenever a flavor boost is needed.
Wait there’s more!
This Tomato Herb Soup fits the Mediterranean Diet and would be great with whole grain rolls and this Garlic, Olive Oil and Parsley Spread.
The brilliant red of the beets, the deep green spinach leaves and the contrasting white feta: looks like Christmas. If only this was the kind of dish that we actually ate during Christmas …
I got into the habit of adding hard boiled eggs and/or nuts to salads many years ago to take the protein consumption up a notch for a household of half vegetarians. The eggs add a tasty dimension of substance that we’ve come to count on. This kind of salad is easily a meal in itself.
16 oz. spinach leaves
3 medium roasted beets
3 oz crumbled feta
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 avocado, sliced
3 sliced, hard boiled eggs
1/3 cup orange vinaigrette salad dressing
Gently place eggs in a small saucepan of cold water. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil for one minute. Turn off the heat and leave eggs in the hot water for another 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Peel and slice.
Beets can be roasted in advance and sliced chilled from the refrigerator. To roast beets, preheat oven to 375. Scrub beets and coat with 2 tsp. oil. Larger beets can be cut in half. Cook for 25 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Remove skin and slice.
Pour spinach into a large salad bowl. Top with sliced avocado, chopped red onions, sliced beets, hard boiled eggs, feta, salt and pepper.
Toss with orange vinaigrette and serve.
Salad dressing used to be a balancing act between the way-too-oily and the canker-sore-producing vinegary. The problem was solved for good when I switched up the proportions to 1/3 vinegar, 1/3 fresh-squeezed orange juice and 1/3 olive oil. this is not a completely all-purpose salad dressing. One does not ALWAYS want a fruity twist on a salad, but for now, it’s our go-to.
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup organic, apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
grated zest from one orange
2 cloves minced garlic
Combine all ingredients in a covered jar. Shake well. Great on spinach salads, avocado salads and most fruit and vegetable salad combinations.