Citrus Salad

I recently discovered that I like grapefruit. No, love grapefruit. The pink variety, specifically. All these years I thought that I didn’t like grapefruit mostly because I loathed grapefruit juice, but I should know better than to judge a fruit by its concentrated juice counterpart.

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These bright pinks ones are my favorite. So juicy and mildly sweet. I’ve mainly been eating them in two iterations: on their own as breakfast or in a salad for lunch or dinner. This version is my most basic one – the one that I make when I don’t have much time – but I often jazz it up with avocados, sesame or pumpkin seeds, or some lightly blanched green beans or asparagus. With a simple vinaigrette, the salad makes for a nice contrast to the cold, snowy scenery outside.

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We went on a couple fun trips within the last couple months. I piggy-backed on a work trip of Eric’s to El Paso to visit White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns, and for Eric’s birthday, we paid a visit to his birthplace – Puerto Rico. In Carlsbad, we went on a fun wild cave tour that had us crawling through crevices and rappelling down underground cliffs. We were also planning on camping at nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but unseasonably cold weather forced us indoors. We still had a weekend’s worth of camping food, though, so we still cooked our meals on the camp stove inside the hotel – and only set the smoke alarm off once!

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Puerto Rico was a week-long adventure. We flew to nearby island Vieques and drove around stopping off at whichever secluded beach we wanted. Back on mainland PR, we drove around the island the rest of the week, stopping in Ponce, Boqueron, Rincon, Arecibo, and of course, San Juan. Oddly enough, we barely stepped foot on a beach once we left Vieques – too much other fun stuff to do!

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Citrus Salad

*As mentioned above, there are many ways to spruce up this salad to make it heartier. Add sliced avocado, blanched asparagus or green beans, and cashews or seeds.

1/2 pink grapefruit, peels removed and segmented with no membranes
1 blood orange, peels removed and sliced into rounds
1 head butter lettuce
1 tablespoon red wine or champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

Wash and dry the butter lettuce, then tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Prepare the fruit and arrange them atop the lettuce. Mix the vinegar, oil, and salt together and pour over the salad.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 4: Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

Day 4. (days 1, 2, and 3) Are you sick of veggies yet? In anticipation of the fatty, porky tacos that are to come tomorrow, today we have a kale salad. You might have noticed that I make kale salads a lot. They’re just good.

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We’re back from Louisville and had so much fun driving around rural Kentucky to taste bourbon. Our favorite of the day was at the Heaven Hill Distillery; they make the Elijah Craig 12-yr bourbon that went down nicely without the aid of water. Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve had the prettiest distilleries with a lot of old buildings; Buffalo Trace is pictured below.

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This picture is of Willet Distilleries bourbon aging warehouses… they look like eery old prisons.

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With our newfound educations, we felt a lot more comfortable ordering bourbons at the bar!

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We ate at Chef Edward Lee’s restaurant in downtown Louisville called Milkwood. It was so delicious, and the cocktails were perfect. The octopus bacon was a killer starter, but the pork burger was what we thought about the rest of the night.

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And now… back to healthy food for the week!

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Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

1 bunch lacinato kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 can full-fat coconut milk

zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon honey
mixed veg

To prepare the kale, remove the stems and roll the leaves up into a tight bundle, then finely shred the leaves. Place the kale in a large bowl and mix in the olive oil. Massage the leaves until they are all coated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and honey.

Toss the kale with the veg and dressing.

Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

[Please excuse the poorly-lit iPhone photos.]

I stopped by the farmer’s market this weekend to pick up some peppers for our Sunday afternoon of pickling and canning. In the process, I came across these cute little cherry tomatoes. And kale. And in my search for some type of cheese to throw into this evolving salad, I bought some cheese curds.

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It may seem like a strange combo, but it was really tasty. Be careful when adding the salt because cheese curds are pretty salty already. Eric and I ate this, walked around the neighborhood a bit, then came back and canned 13 jars worth of pickles and pickled peppers. If they turn out like I think they will, I’ll share the recipe on here.

Eric also got his first lesson in mandolin technique when slicing the cucumbers. About two minutes after I showed him how to use it and warned him to be very careful not to chop his finger off – you guessed it – he sliced the top of his finger off. The cukes were fine, though, and so was he. As for me, my eyes burned putting my contacts in this morning from the pepper oils that are still on my fingers, but I think it will be worth it.

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Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

1 bunch Lacinato kale, finely shredded
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup squeaky cheese curds, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh cayenne pepper or other spicy pepper, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, kale, and cheese curds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pepper, and lemon. Dress the salad to your liking and season to taste with salt.

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad

I’ve been using my mortar and pestle almost daily lately. I’ve been making loads of tasty salad dressings with it and last night I made fresh basil pesto. What I love most about using the m&p is the way the garlic forms this liquid-y, flavorful paste when you smash it with a little salt. I’ve been getting this mild variety of garlic from the farmer’s market that works perfect in its raw form in a salad dressing.

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We went backpacking in the Cucamonga Wilderness outside of LA a couple weeks ago, which was pretty fun. It was my first time backpacking and it was pretty brilliant. Now that we have some gear, Eric and I will be doing more camping trips since they’re pretty inexpensive and fun.

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We have a little weekend trip to Portland coming up, also, which will include copious amounts of micro-brewed beer and tasty PNW food. I feel like I should be an advertisement for Southwest since that is who we have been and will be flying for all these trips. This view from my seat was too good, so I turned on my phone below 10,000 feet to take this picture while we were landing. Gasp!

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Green Bean Salad 1

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fresh green beans
garlic scapes, optional
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 small clove raw garlic
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Start by bringing a pot of water – large enough to fit all the beans and garlic scapes in – to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath while the water is warming up. When the water starts to boil, add the green beans and garlic scapes and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the water and immediately put in the ice bath. Strain and set aside.

Slice the onion into thin slivers. Quick-pickling them by soaking in vinegar or lime juice while you’re preparing the recipe is great. I forgot to do this here, but feel free. Otherwise, set aside. Toast the almonds for a few minutes in a dry pan.

For the dressing, smash the raw garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt until it forms a paste. Add the roasted garlic. I like to pan-roast my garlic these days – just throw a couple cloves in a dry pan and move them around until the skins start to darken. Should take 5-8 minutes. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and then add those and the black peppercorns to the mortar and pestle. Crush the whole mixture together and add a splash of olive oil. Remove the mixture into a jar and add the lemon and olive oil. Shake to combine.

To serve, combine the beans and garlic scapes, onion, and almonds with the salad dressing.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad

I’m back in the US of A and enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been getting in lots of cuddle time with my kitties and Eric in between all the activities – Lollapalooza, pickling and canning (!), farmer’s markets, and workouts. Eric got my bike tuned up over the summer so we’ve been biking everywhere! Biking = freedom, and it’s been awesome.

I’m working on sorting the 2000+ photos and videos that I took over the past month. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia, one week in Uganda, and then one week on the Kenyan coast. Every part of the trip was different and incredible. What a blissful month.

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One thing I love about being home, though, is the ability to cook the way I like to cook. In the past week I’ve been to the farmer’s market twice and am so in love with the variety of veg we get here in the summer. I bought about 10lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I plan on making bloody mary’s with, and I pickled loads of different varieties of chiles today. The kale in this salad also comes from the market, and while I do enjoy the kale you find all over Kenya – sukuma wiki – I still prefer dino kale in my salads.

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Kale and Black Lentil Salad with Black Pepper + Avocado Dressing

The ripeness of the avocado for the dressing is important – if it’s not soft enough, it won’t mash nicely. You could alternatively use a food processor, but it’s much simpler to just make it in a mason jar. I like it still kind of chunky.

I actually bought the black lentils at a health food store in Nairobi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with other sturdy lentils.

1 bunch dino kale
1/2 cup dried black lentils, rinsed and cooked 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 carrots, shredded on a grater
1 big heirloom tomato, diced

2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
1/2 very ripe avocado, finely diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Remove kale from the stems and cut it into fine ribbons. Combine in a large bowl with the lentils, chickpeas, carrots, and tomato.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with salt to make a paste. Add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds and process until the seeds are crushed and everything is combined. Scoop the paste into a jar and add the avocado and liquid ingredients. Use a fork to mash up the avocado in the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.

Toss salad with dressing and add salt to taste.

 

Detox Week: Kale, Carrot, and Fennel Salad

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but after the holidays or other big trips that involve a lot of eating, Eric and I go into detox mode and try to eat a lot of salads. I, for one, ate my weight in Buckeyes this past weekend. We decided some heavy-duty detox was needed, which is when we brought in the kale.

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad (6)

I received some fun new kitchen toys for Christmas, including a cast iron pan and a mandolin. I also received a huge box full of fancy olive oils and vinegars. Yesterday I went to work making three different vinaigrettes for salads throughout the week as well as a homemade chili powder from Rick Bayless, which I saw on Mexico, One Plate at a Time before we left for Christmas. The vinaigrettes include a saffron + red wine vinegar + olive oil, chervil + sorrel + blood orange vinegar + lemon juice + olive oil, and basil + apple + chili powder + elderberry balsamic vinegar + olive oil. I just toss stuff in the food processor with an almost 1:1 acid to oil ratio. I use just a touch more oil than acid, but this produces a pretty acidic dressing. If you’re vinegar averse, add more oil. I prefer my salads vinegary.

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad (3)

We dressed this kale salad with the chervil + sorrel + blood orange vinegar + lemon juice + olive oil salad dressing. I like the strong citrus flavor on kale. I also tossed in some farro to make this a bit more substantial for dinner. Oh, and the carrots and fennel were very finely sliced using my new mandolin – fun!

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad

Kale, Carrot, & Fennel Salad

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 bunches lacinato kale
1 large carrot, very finely sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, very finely sliced
1 cup farro, cooked
handful of sunflower seeds and shaved almonds

De-stem the kale and role the leaves up, then finely slice the leaves so you have long, noodle-like shreds. I used a mandolin to shave the fennel and carrots so they were just paper thin and super easy to eat. Toss everything together in a large bowl

For the dressing, I put 5-6 sorrel leaves, 1 small bunch of chervil, 1/2 cup of blood orange vinegar (or use apple cider vinegar), juice of half a lemon, and 1/2 cup of olive oil in the food processor along with some salt and pepper. Process until emulsified.

Tofu and Cucumber Salad + Africa Pictures

So this recipe is not at all African. It just so happens that I’ve made it twice since I have been here. I have not (and will not) stock a full pantry here for a mere two months, so I am trying to create some recipes with just a few basics. I have soy sauce, and oil and vinegar, and I bought a nice spice mixture called Pilau Masala, which is used for making a rice dish called – you guessed it – Pilau. So with just a few items, I have been throwing together this nice little salad.

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I never really wrote much about our 2-week pre-internship trip through Tanzania and Rwanda. It was yet another wildlife-centric trip for us, with just a bit of beach and city time on each end. I only have photos from Zanzibar and Rwanda uploaded to flickr right now, so safari photos will have to wait until next time, but here is a little preview of my favorite photos from those two places.

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Sunset at Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

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The evening sun illuminates a building in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Eric eating chapati while watching a local soccer match

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The red colobus monkey of Zanzibar

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A mass grave at Kigali’s genocide memorial, Rwanda

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Eric paying his respects to the victims buried in the mass graves

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Locals participate in gorilla conservation by entertaining hikers each morning

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Manicured streets of Kigali, Rwanda

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Rwandan countryside

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Silverback gorilla posing for the camera

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Female gorilla, contemplating

In other news, I have settled into a work routine here in Nairobi. Many days I will wake up and head to Kibera to meet up with the KDI Kenya team. Others I will work from home if I have to use internet or the computer. We have not had many days off yet – public meetings need to happen on weekends when people are home from work, so that means Saturdays and Sundays have so far been off limits for traveling.

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Soccer field in Kibera

It is striking to me what a different world Kibera is – especially compared to the wealth you see in other parts of Nairobi. You enter Kibera on foot because there are not really roads – just dirt paths that are steep and uneven. When you walk in, you see row after row of small businesses – a clothing shop or a butcher, a vegetable stand or a hair braiding salon, a tailor or a knife sharpener – each set up in its own little tin-roofed shack. Further in, you can start to smell the fragrance of Kibera. If it’s a warm or sunny day, the smell can be especially strong. Sewage, sweat, and animals (including farm animals such as goats and pigs) are the main scents I can identify. Trash collects at dumping grounds along the river and is scattered along the paths. The rivers are essentially open sewers, and in many places in Kibera, the stream runs black.

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Trash builds up along the river; there is no formal garbage collection system in Kibera

The extravagant wealth that you can find in other parts of Nairobi may not exist in Kibera, but you will still find well-dressed men and women, children attending school, eager entrepreneurs, and happy, friendly people. As I walk through – with my pale skin and blonde hair – children break into a sort-of song and dance, chanting “how are you” as they stomp their feet and run to shake my hand. High fives and fist pumps are huge with the kids. And if you respond to their “how are you” – if you say “I am fine, how are you?” back to them – they will often giggle and turn their head shyly. The younger children know few English words beyond that.

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School children love posing for the camera

Tofu and Cucumber Salad

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1 english cucumber, halved and sliced
1/2 medium sized daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 package tofu, cubed
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon vinegar (preferably rice vinegar, but I used red wine as I had none on hand)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Combined tofu, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a sprinkling of vinegar in a container and marinate tofu for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and combined. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, water, vinegar, and honey. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate.

When the tofu is done marinating, pour some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, making sure it is in a single layer. Let sit for a couple minutes until 1 side of the tofu has a crispy, golden edge. Stir around or flip the pieces and continue until most or all sides of each piece are crispy. Combine the warm tofu with the cold salad and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Cheese-less Pizza

Eric and I have started a Friday night pizza ritual. We generally pick up some multigrain pizza dough from Whole Foods, though making your own is just easy (but messier!). It seems crazy that I only recently brought home my first haul from the farmer’s market. My Saturdays have been so busy, I just never had time to go. Nonetheless, we turned Friday night pizza night into Saturday morning pizza day because we wanted to load up our pizza with fresh veg from the market. We also bought baby kale, sorrel, and radishes for a perfect spring salad.

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Radishes are cute, aren’t they?

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We eat most of our pizzas without cheese these days. I already have enough of a cheese habit – I don’t need it on my pizza, also! The key, then, is really good tomatoes. We always buy San Marzano in the can for this pizza, then load on tons of fresh garlic and black pepper. I rarely make an actual sauce – the tomatoes with fresh garlic are enough to make this a great meal.

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And for the salad, I just juice some lemons into a mason jar, put in equal amounts of olive oil, sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it up and drizzle it on – easy.

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So there’s no real recipe here. For this particular pizza, we chopped asparagus into little discs and sprinkled them all over. Fresh slices of an heirloom tomato went on top, and make sure to sprinkle salt over the whole shebang. And seriously, do not skimp on the garlic. I think I added 5-6 cloves to this pizza. I minced them finely, but sometimes I’ll just do thin slices. Eric and I have been practicing making pizza so that he can make it perfectly while I’m gone all summer. His version will likely include granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic, but even he can handle rolling out the dough and smearing canned tomatoes all over it!

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing

This post comes a little late. Or a lot late. I made this at least two months ago, and the early spring has us eating asparagus and ramps rather than squash now, but it’s still good so I figured I’d share.

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And speaking of sharing… did you know I am going to Africa this summer?! I accepted an internship position with an NGO that works in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. I am really, really excited to test out the waters of working for an NGO and be confronted with new and probably life-changing challenges. Hopefully I will post more about my job at a later date and throughout my time in Kenya, though I cannot promise anything until I get a real sense of how I will be living over there.

In other exciting news, Eric and I will be traveling through Tanzania for 2.5 weeks prior to my start date in Kenya! I am still in research mode, which involves lots of spreadsheets, books, and websites, but rest assured, we will be visiting the Serengeti at least and checking out some awesome African wildlife. Other parts of the trip are currently unplanned, and they may remain that way until we hit African soil.

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing
inspired by 101 Cookbooks

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 16-ounce package extra firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil, like grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon white miso
juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
5 tablespoons water

Steam the squash until just fork tender or even just a little underdone. Also make sure the tofu has no moisture by patting it dry in a towel.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, miso, acid (lemon juice or rice wine vinegar), chile flakes, and water. Set aside.

In a pan, heat the neutral-flavored oil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu cubes in the pan in a single layer and let it sit for a few minutes, until the bottom becomes crispy brown. Toss the tofu around a bit to get the other sides browned (if you want to be meticulous here, you could brown each side of tofu, but after one side is browned, I usually just toss it around let it sit for a few more minutes – the lazy way). Add in the butternut squash (and a bit more oil, if needed), and stir it around with the tofu. Let this cook for a minute or two. Finally, add the kale and stir around until it gets soft – just a minute or two.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the dressing. Serve warm.

Raw Radish Salad

This little salad is something I have been making lately. It’s simple, which makes it nice when I’m packing a lunch in the morning. The combo of really good extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt makes the humble little radish taste like something you have never known before. Who knew?!

I also just noticed that I accidentally deleted a bunch of my pictures from Flickr, which makes for a bunch of broken links on this blog. Bummer. Not sure when I will get around to fixing that with my busy schedule these days. Might just have to wait until Spring Break!

Raw Radish Salad

radishes, however many you want, thinly sliced
drizzle of really good evoo
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

Do you really need me to spell it out for you now? Mix it all together and serve!