Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken :)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Zucchini Noodles with Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

Keeping with my New Year’s Resolution, I am still doing at least one vegetarian dinner per week. Last night Hubs was out so it was just me and S. It came together relatively quickly but I HIGHLY suggest making the pesto before the kids go to sleep…because the whirring of our Cuinsinart caused our daughter to FREAK. OUT. I mean, she has heard it before…but for some reason last night she was not a fan to say the absolute least. But the dinner was great! Healthy and delicious. And vegetarian!

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The Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

  • About two cups of de-stemmed and torn dinosaur kale
  • One large handful of baby spinach
  • Half of an avocado
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • Grated parmesan
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

The “Pasta”

  • Two large, thick, fairly straight yellow zucchinis
  • 3/4 thinly cut sliced red onion
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • olive oil to cook
  • 1/4 cup salted water

In a cuisinart, blend pine nuts, lemon and kale while slowly pouring in some of the olive oil. When the kale is chopped and there is room in the work bowl, add the spinach and avocado. As that whirs, add more olive oil until blended smooth. Add the chopped red onion and the salt and pepper and about 2 heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan (this is to taste…check the taste and add more if you want).

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Spirulize the zucchini (if you don’t have a spirulizer, cut lengthwise slices into a zucchini almost to the end but leaving the end in tact and use a veggie peeler to make “noodles”) and sprinkle with salt and coat with olive oil.  

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Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the sliced red onion and cook until slightly crispy. If needed, cut the noodles (as they can be QUITE long) to about 1′ in length. Add them to the pan over the onions. Cook the “noodles” for a bit until softening and put in a bit of water. Add in the pesto and stir until all of the noodles are coated. Once warmed through, add the chopped tomato and sprinkle in the goat cheese. 

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Plate and serve! Easy peasy! (Serves two with enough for one lunch leftover…today I am going to add leftover chicken to the leftover sauce. YUM!)

 

We devoured this spring salad

Is it a salad? I don’t really know. It is more like one of my standard mash-ups of yummy ingredients. A bit like the Ranch Salad. A bit of a variation on the Avocado Tartare from Food & Wine that I posted a few weeks ago.

And as usual, I wanted something easy, quick and healthy. This met all of those requirements.

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Ingredients (serves two):

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • One firm but ripe avocado
  • One large red shallot
  • A few fronds of curly kale
  • A heaping handful of spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two meyer lemons
  • A tablespoon and a half of dijon mustard
  • A few sprigs of curly parsley
  • A few drops of sriracha
  • A teaspoon of Worcestershire 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter/olive oil for cooking

Chop the chicken into 1″ cubes and salt and pepper all sides. In a pan, heat up (over medium to high heat) a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook until opaque and almost cooked through (about 135degrees). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onion and kale by thinly slicing the shallot and removing the stems from the kale and chopping into tiny bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil and turn the pan to medium heat, and throw the thinly sliced red shallot and cook until starting to crisp. Add the kale and a dash more of the olive oil. Cook, turning often, until the kale is soft. While the kale is cooking, chop the spinach into smallish pieces (about 1/2″) and prepare the sauce. Juice two meyer lemons into your serving bowl. Add the chopped parsley, dijon, srirracha, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook until the chicken is at 160 degrees. Pour the hot chicken, kale and onion (and all of the juices) into the sauce and add the spinach raw. I always add the avocado last as I hate when it starts to turn brown. So now cube your avocado and add it to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients gently until the sauce covers everything.

We scarfed this down. It was SOOO good. From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes and probably could be sped up if I used two pans (to cook the onions/kale and chicken separately). 

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Chicken tikka masala with cauli-rice, kale and red onion

Ever since I “discovered” cauliflower rice, I’ve been on a “I used to eat this with real rice and couldn’t imagine it without it” kick. Foods that needed to sop up the sauce, in particular. Or foods that need the bulk of rice to finish out the meal. Or, in the case with last night’s dinner, foods that have a little kick and can use some “rice” to temper the heat.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a tikka masala simmer sauce that didn’t use coconut and I just about ran out of the store with it to get it into my belly. And it is delicious. I couldn’t recommend Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce more. 

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People: Buy this. It has a good balance of spice and savory-ness. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Behold! Chicken tikka masal over cauli-rice with kale and red onion!

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Ingredients:

  • Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
  • Three small chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • Half of a red onion
  • One head of cauliflower
  • Handful of kale
  • Tumeric
  • Salt/pepper

 

Put one teaspoon of salt into a bowl of hot water and mix until the salt dissolves. Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and add it to the water to brine. Let it sit while you prepare the cauliflower. 

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and chop the entirety of the cauliflower into smallish pieces. Cut the stem into one centimeter pieces. In a cuisinart and in small batches, pulse the cauliflower until it it resembles the consistency of rice. Don’t keep on pulsing if there are a few larger pieces. Take those out and add them to the next small batch. You don’t want to make the pieces too small or it becomes more like mashed potatoes (also delicious, but not what you are going for). 

You will use two saute pans for this meal. Have them set up side by side on your stove as once you start cooking, it will go quickly. 

Cut the onion into thin, two inch pieces. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until they are starting to soften and char (we like our onions on the crispier side so will leave them longer than you probably will). 

Chop the kale leaves (after removing the spines) into TINY pieces…almost a mince. You want the kale to intermingle with the rice, not overtake it. Once the onions are ready, add the kale and a bit more olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat up a bit of olive oil in the other pan and drain the chicken and pat with paper towels to dry. Add salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on one side.

While the chicken browns, add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan with the onions and kale. Heat should be on medium. Mix the cauli-rice, kale and onions together and sprinkle tumeric across the top. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I usually put in a bit more salt that usual on this dish. Mix it all up and let it sit while you tend to the chicken. It should look like this:

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Flip the chicken to the other side and brown for a short time. Pop the top on the simmer sauce, put it back on and shake. When the second side of the chicken is starting to turn opaque, pour the entirety of the simmer sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat to medium low (depending on your stove) to a low simmer and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Keep on turning the cauli-rice to make sure all of it is heated through and keep it over low heat while the chicken simmers. Pour yourself a drink. Set the table.

Add hefty amount of the cauli-rice to a bowl and cover with the chicken tikka masala. Pour on extra sauce if that is to your liking. I like to mix it all up so that the cauli-rice covers the chicken.

I always have to make more of this than I think because EVERYONE wants second helpings. It is delicious.

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Ham and cheese quinoa “pizza” bites

I’ve heard about these so called quinoa pizza bites here and there and I knew I wanted to make them but didn’t know when. Until we had another couple and their son over to watch the Oscars last night and I knew I wanted to have food that was somewhat “handy” but also hearty (as I didn’t want to have a lot of dishes downstairs with a 3 year old, a 2 year old and an almost 2 year old running around).

I also don’t have a mini-cupcake pan as they recommend. Probably would have helped, but they turned out pretty great anyway, if I do say so myself.

As is my wont, I looked at the recipes/directions I had seen elsewhere, looked at my fridge, and came up with my own version.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water)
  • half of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • two leaves of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 large eggs (I used three smallish eggs)
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar
  • 4 slices of ham, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano (plus a 1/4 tablespoon in the quinoa)
  • salt/pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • paprika
  • grated parmesan for the top (while cooking)
  • pasta sauce (to dip)

Preheat oven to 375.

On the stovetop, cook the quinoa by putting quinoa and stock into pot, salting and adding a few dashes of the oregano and bringing to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

In a saute pan, cook the onion with a bit of olive oil until translucent, add the mushrooms and cook until softening, add the kale and a bit of salt and pepper and stir until all are cooking through and soft. (This time is when I chopped the remaining ingredients)

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Spray the cupcake sheet with Pam or the like (I use smart start). Divvy out the quinoa mixture into the cups until just over the edge (next time I may make them a bit more shallow so that they come together more quickly). Put in the oven for 30 minutes. At that time, put a bit of the parmesan on top, turn the oven up to 400 and cook for another 15 or so minutes. Test by running a knife around the sides and seeing if the “muffin” is crusty on the sides. Once they are finished, let them sit for about 10 minutes. This will help them set.

Serve with pasta sauce. Easy peasy!

Variation on boerenkool stamppot with tomato/cucumber/barrata salad

With the cooler weather coming on and a few leaves on the streets, I’ve been craving mashed potatoes. A great bowl of savory mashed potatoes is such a treat. But holy lord is it terrible for you. Well, terrible for me*. And the next day? Oy. I never want to get out of bed. So, as many do, I substitute in pureed cauliflower.  It is the PERFECT substitute. 

We also have a hefty amount of heirloom tomatoes about to drop off the vine. And I wanted to use those.

What to make…what to make…

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I had a conversation recently with a friend from the netherlands about kale and he had mentioned that his mom used to make something that I thought was called baren-cool (I later learned it was boerenkool stamppot…basically mashed potatoes with kale and sausage). He described it as his comfort food. Sounded amazing to me. And I could do it with roasted cauliflower. 

I also learned last night that our au pair’s mom makes her something very similar in Italy. Not sure what it is called there. :)

Ingredients:

The Boerenkool Stamppot (variation)

  • one large handful dinosaur kale stalks
  • two medium heads of cauliflower
  • two sausages of your choice…we used sundried tomato chicken sausage (two of us were eating meat, the third not…adjust your sausage amount accordingly)
  • half of a large vidalia onion
  • salt/pepper/olive oil
  • one tablespoon paprika
  • one teaspoon dry sage
  • half teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (or any other dairy…you could use plain yogurt or cottage cheese, too)
  • 1/8 cup of feta
  • 1/4 white wine

The Tomato/Cucumber Salad

  • two regular cucumbers
  • one lemon cucumber
  • two large, very ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves
  • balsamic of choice
  • salt/pepper/olive oil

This was overall pretty easy to do but just took a bit of time. 

Preheat the oven to 425 and get a cookie sheet out, covered with a silpat. Cut the cauliflower into medium florets and spread them on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with a healthy amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and the paprika and mix together. When the oven is hot enough, put it into the oven on the middle rack.

Put some olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. While that heats up, cut the onions into thin rings and then add them to the pan. While those begin to cook down, pull the kale off of the stalk and rinse and dry. Add in the kale once most of the moisture is gone, stirring it into the oil and onion mixture. It will start to wilt. Add in the wine now. Keep stirring it, getting even heat on all of the greens.  When it is soft and a dark, bright green, turn off your heat and push the greens and onions to the outside ring of the pan, make an area in the center for the sausage. Cut the sausage into 1/4 inch coins and, after turning the heat back on to medium, fill the hole with sausage. Keep an eye on it and turn it when it starts to get brown.

By now the cauliflower should be well roasted. This is where it gets messy. Using a cuisinart (or other chopping device), shred the (hot) cauliflower (using the shredding disk) and transfer all of the shredded cauli back to the pan. Put in the standard blade and add in half of the mixture. Add in half of the milk, half of the sage, half of the nutmeg and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Then do the same with the other half of the cauli. 

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The salad is the easiest part. Chop the tomatoes roughly, skin the two types of cucumbers and chop roughly. Put them both in a bowl and add the balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Then chop the basil and mix.

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Cut the barrata evenly between the number of eaters and plate. We put the salad in a bowl to keep it from messing with the stamppot boerenkool bit.

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Yup. Delish. And totally in line with my mood. 

 

* I don’t believe one type of diet is correct for everyone. Listen to your body, not mine. Mine tells me that starchy foods make me feel tired and heavy. Yours may say that fruit makes you hyper, or veggies make you gassy, or whatever. My point is: listen to YOUR body. And eat what makes you happy AND healthy. 

Scrambled eggs with sausage and kale: AKA A quick and easy dinner for one when the hubs is away

Last night I was on my own for dinner…this rarely happens. And it was glorious. I watched bad television and ate the below yummy-ness by myself and put as much cheese on it as I wanted! The hubs was gone and the au pair was out with friends. And it was just ME.

You see, hubs isn’t the biggest fan of cheese. And I LOVE cheese. And I usually use nights when he is gone to cook with garlic. But by myself? I didn’t really feel like making a big production. So I used up the last of the sundried tomato chicken sausage, a few fronds of kale (is fronds the right word? branches?), three eggs and feta. LOTS and lots of feta.

Ingredients:

  • Two links of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage
  • Four fronds of dinosaur kale
  • Three medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup of feta

As the chicken sausage has so little fat in it, I had to add some oil to the pan first. I chopped the sausage into bite size pieces and threw them into the hot pan. I stemmed the kale and chopped it into tiny pieces and threw them into the pan, as well. When the sausage was cooked through and browning, I cracked three eggs directly into the pan and stirred them with my wooden spoon to do a quick scramble. When the eggs were firming up, I dumped in the feta and stirred until just melted and mixed in. It was crazy quick, majorly easy and truly delicious. Would have paired well with a big glass of cold rosé had I had a bottle open.

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