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!)

 

Pea, Avocado and Mint Dressing Used Two Ways

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I’ve seen a few versions of this recipe floating around but I knew it wouldn’t be hearty enough on its own for a meal for my family (I kept on seeing it on toast or as a dip for chips). So tonight, as usual, I am going to MacGuyver that recipe and make it something the Suhlizis would eat.

As our au pair isn’t the biggest fan of chicken, I made two versions: veggie and chicken.

Ingredients (leave the chicken out if cooking the veg version):

  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One bag of frozen peas
  • One avocado (peeled and seeded)
  • One cup of mint leaves
  • Jalapeno, finely diced, to taste
  • Half of a red onion, roughly chopped
  • One can of chickpeas (more will go into the veg version than the chicken version)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • A few stalks of raw dinosaur kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Limes (both zest and juice)
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Chop the boneless, skinless breasts into one inch chunks. Add salt and pepper and marinate in yogurt, sriracha and lime juice, covered and in the fridge, for a few hours.

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Cook the peas as directed on the package. As mentioned previously, I like the steam in the bag kind. Cooks for five minutes and little to no mess. While that steams, in a dry sauté pan, toast the pine nuts and set aside.  The picture here shows the before and after. A lot of times I toast them up a bit darker as hubs REALLY likes that, um, burnt flavor. Not my thing. I went a bit less toasty tonight.

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In a food processor or using a stick blender (whichever is handy…I made the mistake of being TOO handy and using my vitamix. NOT the best tool suited for the job), puree the cooked peas, the avocado and mint and a few pine nuts until smooth. Tasting it along the way, I also pureed in some jalapeno, lime juice, some lime zest and salt and pepper.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter into the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the half of the red onion and then, a minute or so later, the chicken. Turn the chicken once the panside is slightly browned. If the yogurt becomes too liquid-y in while you are cooking, drain it out and put it back on the stove. The more liquid, the less browned. Continue to turn and cook through (using a instaread thermometer if needed) and remove to a separate plate. Dollup on a few spoonfuls of the pea/mint/avocado mixture to the chicken.

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Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add the rest of the red onion and the chiffonaded, stemmed kale, cut into small pieces. If you have any handy, pour in a 1/4 cup of wine (any color) when the kale starts to turn color. It really adds a depth of flavor and cuts the sharpness of the kale. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and chickpeas to the pan to warm. Cook the kale until tender but not wilted.

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(This is when I add the wine…when it looks like this)image (4)-005

Because two plates of the three will be non-veg, put this together on/in the plates/bowls you will be using. Chop the spinach into one inch pieces and then put the fresh spinach on the bottom of the bowl. Top with a bit of the pea/mint/avocado mixture. If you are adding the chicken, add it now. Then top with the veg mixture. More chickpeas for the veggie dish. Then add some more of the pea/mint/avocado mixture and top with a boat load of toasted pine nuts and more sriracha.

This was INCREDIBLY filling. I could have had half a bowl and been satisfied. But it was so GD healthy, that I stuffed it back guilt free. This would be fantastic for a group of people (luncheon, shower, etc.) and could probably be improved by grilling the chicken instead of sauteeing it. I might also consider thinning out the pea/mint/avocado mix by making it more of a dressing…maybe some vinegar/olive oil? More like a salad dressing. It was so thick, it was a bit difficult to mix.

A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

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Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

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It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

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In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain. Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

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Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

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After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

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