A Veggie Melt That’s So Tasty You Won’t Even Care That It Kind Of Falls Apart When You Eat It



No substitutions are allowed for this sandwich. Switch out the Colby Jack for cheddar? You wouldn’t dare. Use a pita instead of pumpernickel bread so the filling stays intact? Blasphemy. Leave out the sprouts? We can’t be friends anymore.

Seriously, I’ve tried doing all of those swaps and it’s just not the same. The worst experiment was making over-stuffed closed-faced sandwiches instead of smaller open-faced ones. Going Dagwood-style is a guarantee that you will end up with a large glob of avocado/veggie goo plopping onto your lap. Even with the open-face, no matter how you stack the veggies or even layer in some extra sprouts for grip between the tomatoes and cucumbers, eating this sandwich is kind of like playing Jenga with your food. You’re never quite sure if the next bite is going to make it fall apart or not. I need J. Kenji López-Alt to fix my veggie melt problems.


I dunno, maybe I just have some serious cognitive dissonance going on here and I’m only convincing myself that this sandwich is top-notch because, well, I wouldn’t keep making it and going through the hassle of tucking runaway mushroom slices and pepper strips back under the cheese if it weren’t exceptionally good, right?

But really, when you have tangy, toasty pumpernickel bread… Some tomato-on-mayo action… Summer-ripe peppers and cucumbers… Sautéed mushrooms for extra umami… Let’s not forget the avocado…. A healthy handful of sprouts for crunch… And a delicious cap of melty cheese to top it all off… How could it not be worth the messiness? The only way you could go wrong would be by wearing white while you eat it.


Note: If you’re only planning on making 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time, still cook all of the mushrooms and peppers in advance. Everything else can be freshly prepped as needed.

A Veggie Melt That’s So Tasty You Won’t Even Care That It Kind Of Falls Apart When You Eat It

makes 8 open-faced sandwiches, serving 4

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil (maybe more)
  • 1 container (8-10 oz.) cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 medium to large tomatoes
  • kosher salt
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 avocado, mashed with a generous pinch of salt
  • a couple of thin slices of red onion
  • alfala sprouts
  • 8 slices (about 1 oz. each) Colby Jack Cheese, each cut diagonally in half
  1. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they’ve released their juices and the juices have mostly evaporated. Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant, about a minute. Spoon the mushrooms into a bowl and return the skillet to the burner.
  2. If the pan is dry, add a little more oil. Add the red pepper strips and sauté until tender and bendy.
  3. Turn the over to 350º and toast your bread while you prep the other veggies.
  4. Cut the tomatoes so you have 8 slices that are about 1/4″ thick. Cut each slice in half diagonally. Sprinkle with salt and let them hang out on a paper towel while you finish prepping.
  5. Slice the cucumber crosswise into 3″ logs, and then lengthwise into 1/8″ slices. Then, cut the slices in half again lengthwise to make strips. Sprinkle these with a little salt too.
  6. Crank the oven up to broil. Take the toasted bread and spread each slice with a little mayonnaise. Top each with 2 halves of sliced tomato, and then alternate the cucumber and pepper strips on top of the tomato. Carefully spread the mashed avocado on top of the cucumber and pepper, and then layer on the mushrooms, pressing lightly so that they stick to the avocado. Finish each sandwich with a little bit of sliced onion, a generous mound of sprouts, and 2 halves of Colby Jack. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each sandwich in half diagonally. This is important. If you leave the cheese slice in 1 piece and try to cut the sandwiches after they are toasted, putting a knife through the melted cheese will take down the sprouts and make a landslide of your carefully layered veggies.
  7. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

A Belated Ode to Spring: Smoked Trout and Egg Salad Tartine + Green Salad with Peas, Radishes, and Homemade Ranch


Yes, it’s kind of too late for good spring veggies now. And Yes, I made this over month ago with the intention of sharing it when peas, lettuce, and chives were in their prime, but I was lazy about getting my act together to post it. But also—Yes, it was so light and delicious and springy that I ate it for lunch for two weeks in a row. And Yes, it is seriously the best egg salad I’ve ever had. And Yes, you could totally redo the green salad with summer produce. I’m thinking thinly sliced cucumbers, blanched green beans, and good tomatoes.

So, let’s step inside my time machine and go back to the garden circa mid-May. The tarragon, sage, and chives were so robust that after being delighted to see them coming back, I starting willing them to stop growing already! because they were taking over the herb garden. Thanks to weeks of showers, the lettuce was looking worthy of being displayed at a farmer’s market, and it had actually stopped raining long enough for me to go outside and pick some. And the peas were finally fattening up enough to convince me that they were, in fact, sweet peas and not sugar snaps. (I checked the seed package more than once to make sure.)

Version 2These vegetables needed to get eaten—not only because they were ready to be picked, but also because I had plans to rip them up in order to make room for planting tomatoes and green beans. Look, I have limited space, and peas and lettuce don’t get to extend their rent for a month when there are summer vegetables that need to get in the ground.


The lettuce I used, by the way, was Green Ice Lettuce from Burpee. I have planted many a mesclun mix that bolted too quickly and included some varieties with tough or bitter leaves, but this Green Ice lettuce was perfect if you’re looking for a crisp, sweet leaf. I will definitely stop experimenting with other types of lettuce and will be planting more of this next year.

I wanted to make a salad that would include my peas and other spring produce and herbs, but Woman Cannot Survive on Vegetables Alone. Egg salad to the rescue, made infinitely better with the addition of a can of smoked trout from Trader Joe’s. I held it together with more sour cream than mayo, because sour cream goes with fish, right? Bonus: if you have a super skinny dog like I do and are constantly trying to fatten her up (or at least convince her to eat her food), I can assure you that she will gobble up her whole bowl of kibble if you pour the leftover oil from the can of trout over it.


Note: The ranch dressing is adapted, barely, from the recipe in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynn Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift.

Smoked Trout and Egg Salad Tartine + Green Salad with Peas, Radishes, and Homemade Ranch 

serves 4

For the egg salad:

  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 can, about 4 oz., smoked trout (I used a 3.9 oz. can from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped chives
  • scant 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • a few grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 big slices good bread; the photo shows a smallish slice of rye but in week 2 of this meal, I discovered that a generous piece of an Italian boule is better
  1. Peel and coarsely chop the eggs. In a bowl, combine everything except the bread and smash together with a fork. Adjust seasoning if needed.

For the green salad:

  • about 8 c. chopped or torn lettuce leaves
  • about 1/2 c. sweet peas, blanched for 1 minute
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 large radishes, trimmed and sliced as thinly as possible
  • fresh chive blossoms
  1. Toss everything together. Or pile the lettuce on plates and arrange the veggies on top so it looks prettier.

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • splash of fish sauce
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or microplaned
  • 1 tsp. each fresh basil, fresh parsley, and fresh chives, all chopped together
  • salt and pepper
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight lid. Shake to mix well. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

For the assembly:

  1. Toast the bread slices and top them with the egg salad.
  2. Dress the salad.
  3. Eat, and marvel at how satisfying vegetables and toast are. Yum yum yum.


What To Do With Your Extra Cabbage From St. Patty’s Day: Crunchy Baked Falafel Salad (or Sandwiches)


When I discovered that certain grocery stores sell celery by the stalk, it was a revelation. No longer would I have to purchase an entire bunch of celery just to make a recipe that called for one measly stalk. Someone was kind enough to apply the same idea to extra-large items like pumpkins and watermelons, which you can often find in plastic-wrapped halves or quarters, just in case, you know, you weren’t planning a blow-out party any time soon and were doubting your abilities to polish off 20 pounds of fruit before it went bad. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen cabbage treated the same way (maybe because it turns brown after you cut it, but still…). The only option is to get a whole head, and you’re left wondering what sort of crazy fertilizer everyone must be using because you swear the smallest head you can find is about the size and weight of a bowling ball.

So, when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, after you’ve enjoyed a dinner of corned beef, cabbage, Guinness, soda bread, and pudding, what do you do with the rest of this forlorn cruciferous that’s taking up space in the produce bin like an unfinished beer left abandoned on the counter? Embrace spring and turn it into an essential part of your baked falafel salad, that’s what!

Whenever I go out to Lebanese or Middle Eastern restaurants, I can’t resist ordering some falafel, but I hardly ever make it at home because deep-frying isn’t something that makes the regular rotation in my house. I have tried some baked falafel recipes in the past, but they just weren’t as savory or crunchy as I wanted.

Chickpea flour and asafoetida.

So, I added a couple of inauthentic ingredients to mine: first, a spoonful of nutritional yeast, or “nooch”—even though it’s often used as a vegan cheese substitute and falafel never calls for cheese, I like the flavor it adds. I got mine from the bulk bins at Whole Foods; you can also find it online. Second: a pinch of asafoetida—also called Devil’s Dung, apparently, for how stinky it is. I had bought some from an Indian grocer a while ago, and it was indeed so smelly that I had to double-wrap the container in sealed bags to keep my husband from complaining about it every time we opened the pantry. It’s one of those odors that is 60% bad and 40% good—I honestly can’t do justice describing it. It’s like the smell of a sweaty workout after a meal that contained large quantities of garlic. I know, I know, that sounds so gross!  who would want to eat that? but just a pinch of it is delicious in falafel. Trust me.


Mmmm, a big bowl of beaten bean water!

To make the baked falafel nice and crunchy, I generously oiled the pan and pre-heated it in the oven. I also borrowed a technique from the crunchiest crab cakes I’ve ever made and double-coated the falafel with flour (chickpea flour, natch) and then a layer of fine breadcrumbs. Instead of egg whites in between the flour and breadcrumb layers, I used the drained liquid from the can of chickpeas, beaten until it was foamy. Yeah, did you know you can whip chickpea liquid like egg whites?? I recently discovered this, and it’s pretty amazing. Some sources I’ve read call it aquafaba, which is the fanciest name for ‘bean water’ that I’ve ever heard. Anyway, let’s not let nomenclature get in the way—asafoetida or Devil’s Dung, drained chickpea liquid or aquafaba, I’ll take it if it makes my food taste better.


To serve the baked falafel, I (try to) stuff it into a pita with loads of thinly sliced cabbage, matchsticked radishes, fresh cilantro, and tahini sauce, but I usually I go overboard on the filling and the thing falls apart. However, I recently discovered by a happy accident that it comes together great in salad form—in fact, the salad might even be better than the sandwich because you can mix everything together more evenly. Whatever you choose, don’t skimp on the toppings.

Note(s): Many falafel recipes call for using cilantro, but I prefer putting parsley in the cooked patties and adding a little handful of fresh cilantro to the salad (or sandwich). You can find chickpea flour and asafoetida at Indian grocers or online. The patties can be made ahead of time and they freeze well; they just won’t be as crunchy when you reheat them. The falafel recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman, and the crunchy coating technique was borrowed from a crab cake recipe from Epicurious.

Crunchy Baked Falafel Salad (or Sandwich)

serves 4

For the falafel

  • 1. Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved in a medium bowl
  • 1/4 c. chickpea flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned or finely minced
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped yellow or white onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. (generous) kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 c.plain dry breadcrumbs
  1. Spread the olive oil and vegetable oil evenly into a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375º.
  2. Pulse the drained chickpeas in a food processor until finely ground.
  3. Put the ground chickpeas in a medium bowl. Add 1 tbsp. of the chickpea flour and then all of the other ingredients except the plain dry breadcrumbs (so, nutritional yeast through baking soda). Mix well.
  4. Put your oiled pan in the oven to get nice and hot while you shape the falafel.
  5. Place the remaining 3 Tbsp. chickpea flour on a small plate or shallow dish. Divide the falafel mixture into 16 evenly-sized patties, and coat each patty in the chickpea flour, gently brushing off the excess. Set the patties aside on a cutting board as you coat them.
  6. Place the plain dry breadcrumbs on a small plate or shallow dish. Beat the reserved chickpea liquid until thick and foamy, like egg whites. Use a pastry brush to brush each patty all over with a little bit of whipped chickpea liquid, and then coat both sides lightly in the dry breadcrumbs. Set the patties aside on a cutting board as you coat them.
  7. Once all of the patties are coated in flour and crumbs, use a oven mitt! to take your hot pan out of the preheated oven. Place the patties in the pan (the oil will sizzle) and bake for about 10 minutes on each side, flipping once.

Putting it all together—do not skip or skimp on these toppings!!

  • 1/4 c. well-stirred tahini
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 medium garlic clove, microplaned or finely minced
  • 6 c. finely shredded green cabbage (slice it as thinly as you can) (use closer to 4 c. if you’re making a sandwich instead of a salad)
  • 8 or so good-sized radishes, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 c. coarsely  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 pitas
  1. Make the tahini sauce by stirring together the tahini, water, and garlic. Season to taste with salt.
  2. If you’re going the salad route, first toast the pita. Then toss the fresh veggies together, place the warm falafel on top, drizzle with the dressing, and finish with pieces of your toasted pita. Make sure to get a little bit of everything in each bite.
  3. If you’re going to make sandwiches, I like to layer them: two falafels-veggies-sauce-two falafels-veggies-sauce. That way, you’re not stuck with all the cabbage at the top and all the falafel at the bottom.



Smoked Salmon, Avocado, and Cream Cheese Sandwich


Just remind yourself that salmon and avocado have healthy fats, and enjoy it. Balance it out with some sliced veggies and a piece of fresh fruit.


I usually avoid taking sandwiches for lunch because of the morning prep that they require. You can’t make them the night before unless you’re okay with damp bread and limp lettuce. The time it takes to cut the tomato and onion and cucumbers, layer everything correctly in order to minimize the chance of anything getting soggy before lunch, carefully peel off one piece of cheese without little corners of it sticking to any of the others in the package and breaking… Those could be the precious 10 minutes between waking up at 5:50 versus waking up at 6:00. Huge psychological difference and totally not worth it. (Granted, this is coming from someone who is so categorically not a morning person that she packs her bag, sets up the coffee pot, makes her breakfast, and picks out her clothes the night before for the sole reason of being able to sleep as late as possible.)


This sandwich makes the cut because it hardly takes any time to throw together, and, surprisingly, it holds up well. The avocado will stay green for a few hours because it’s cozied up in between the cream cheese and salmon, which act like little bodyguards that protect it from getting exposed to air and turning brown.


I usually keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and occasionally pick up a package of smoked salmon when it goes on sale, so when I don’t feel much like cooking, I buy an avocado and some cream cheese and then make this sandwich for lunch. Here is how it’s done: You take your bread out of the freezer and pry two frozen slices off of the loaf. You build your sandwich and then take a sharp knife and cut the whole thing in half (yup, straight through the frozen bread), tuck it away in a tupperware, and let it hang out at room temperature until lunch time. If you are squeamish about it being unrefrigerated for a while, just remind yourself that every day in high school you snarfed down a turkey and cheese sandwich that had been sitting in your backpack for three hours, and you never thought twice about it. Or tell yourself that the frozen bread slices are performing the same function that a couple of ice packs would.

There are no huge quantities of anything here. You know when you start to chow down on your Chipotle but the first few bites are nothing but rice because the burrito is overstuffed and the filling hasn’t been distributed evenly? Yeah, as delicious as salmon is, you don’t want to get a mouthful of nothing but smoked fish. You want to be able to taste all of the ingredients since there are only three of them, right?! Four if you count the bread. Five if you count the sprinkle of salt. I’ve tried adding tomato, onion, or other extras, but it’s just not as good. I really believe that, for this sandwich, less is more. Choose some sides that will explore other parts of the food pyramid.


Note: Don’t go for a chewy artisanal bread here. Everything holds together better with a soft sliced loaf.

Smoked Salmon, Avocado, and Cream Cheese Sandwich

per serving:

  • 2 slices soft whole-wheat or multi-grain sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp. (or so) whipped cream cheese (this is important—the “whipped” kind is soft enough to spread without ripping the bread)
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • pinch of table salt
  • 1 oz. smoked salmon
  1. Spread one slice of bread with the cream cheese. Go all the way to the edges, just like you would if you were making a peanut butter sandwich the right way.
  2. Cut the avocado into 5 or 6 even slices. Place them in one layer on top of the cream cheese. I like to cut them into the appropriate shapes to get full coverage. (See photo above.) Sprinkle with table salt.
  3. Arrange the salmon evenly on top—it’s going to be a sparse layer.
  4. Top with the other bread slice and cut in half.
  5. Tastes best at room temperature.






Za’atar Turkey Meatballs with Chard and Bulgur


After Thanksgiving, you have absolutely zero motivation to go grocery shopping and make dinner again, right? You feel satisfied that dinner was success. The dishes got done while you were still tipsy, so cleaning up all those pots and pans didn’t feel like such a chore. You enjoyed leftovers for a few days and yup, you had pie for breakfast and mashed potatoes with gravy for lunch because hey, it’s still a holiday weekend, and besides, you don’t want all that food to go to waste!

It’s when I finally come home and look at my own messy house and empty fridge that the real aversion to cooking sets in, albeit temporarily. It puts me in a bad mood to think about having to pack my lunch for the week, and the only thing that makes me at least scrounge around for a passable meal is the knowledge that if I don’t make something, I’m stuck eating high school cafeteria food for lunch. Not to mention having to go to the cafeteria when it’s packed with students and then trudge back up to the workroom with a ridiculous pinkish-red styrofoam tray and the obligatory carton of milk. I’m not sure which would be worse, the food or the experience.

I finally was compelled to put something together as an act of productive procrastination—you know, when you do a more tolerable chore in order to avoid facing the completely unbearable task that really needs to gets done (in this case, unpacking and laundry). (Usually, the only time my house gets cleaned is when I have papers to grade.) I was hoping to make one of those good post-Thanksgiving dishes, where you’re not ready to go cold-turkey (haha, no pun intended) to a strict post-holiday diet free of meat and cheese and other delicious things, but you want to make something a little on the healthier side.

I had some ground turkey in the freezer (I always buy it when it’s on sale, and then I never get around to using it), an unopened package of feta in the fridge (ditto), all sorts of grains in the pantry, and some red chard and herbs still clinging to life in the garden since it’s been so unseasonably warm. I decided to go the turkey meatball route, and the feta made me think about Middle Eastern spices. You can get za’atar pre-made, but since I still had fresh thyme, I decided to flavor the meatballs with the components of za’atar—thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt—instead of using a mix. You can find sumac at places like Penzey’s spices. I bought mine a year or so ago to make a Lebanese dish, and it’s still very flavorful. I rounded out the meatballs with some coarse bulgur and the chard since they are both common in Middle Eastern cooking.


Note: I would use more greens next time. I didn’t get as much as I expected out of the garden, and the bunch I supplemented from the store was on the small side. I used a combination of red and white Swiss chard, but you can use whatever you prefer, as long as you don’t mind that the red stems can get muddy-colored when cooked. Lastly, I call for coarse bulgar because I prefer its larger size, but fine or medium bulgur (or honestly probably any other grain…) would work fine; just adjust the cooking time.

Za’atar Turkey Meatballs with Swiss Chard and Bulgur

serves 4

  • 1 lb. ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese, divided
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ground sumac
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 c. fresh soft breadcrumbs made from a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread (I freeze the slice then whir it in the food processor)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of cayenne flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus some
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. oil, divided
  • 1 c. coarse-grain bulgur
  • 2 c. + 1 Tbsp. water
  • 2 small bunches Swiss chard (about 3/4 lb), stems removed and chopped into 1/4″ – 1/3″ dice, leaves coarsely chopped
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat.
  2. Gently mix the turkey, 2 oz. of the feta, 2 of the cloves of minced garlic, and the next 9 ingredients (onion through 1/2 tsp. of salt) in a medium bowl. Do not overmix. Form into 16 evenly-sized balls.
  3. Cook the meatballs in 2 batches. Turn every 3-4 minutes until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes for each batch. They will lose their shape and come out more like pyramids than balls. Keep the cooked meatballs warm on a plate tented with foil, or in a low oven.
  4. While you’re cooking the meatballs, put the bulgur and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil, put a lid on it, reduce the heat to low, and cook until all of the water is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat when done, and let sit with the lid on.
  5.  After you have cooked the meatballs, add the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and the chopped chard stems to the skillet. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. water and stir to scrape up all of the browned bits. Continuing stirring frequently until the stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining clove of minced garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the chard leaves and salt to taste and stir until wilted, 3-5 minutes.
  6. To serve, fluff the bulgur with a fork and divide it among 4 plates. Top each with 1/4 of the cooked chard, 1/2 oz. of the remaining feta cheese, and 4 meatballs.

Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

After the last post, here’s a more seasonal lunch I made with ingredients I already had. We had some Napa cabbage and bell pepper that needed to get used up, and this is the salad that they turned into. Napa cabbage is my favorite cabbage—it’s crunchy and mild, and it lacks the toughness and pungency that some other cabbages have.

IMG_4826I wanted to use the Napa cabbage raw and make some sort of salad with it, but most of the recipes I found with it were meant to be used as side dishes, and I wanted something that would be more filling so I could take it as a one-dish meal for lunch. I went with carrot, bell pepper, and red onion for the other vegetables, partly because that’s just what I had, and —you guessed it—I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I imagine that cucumber, sugar snap peas, and/or snow peas would also be good in it.

IMG_4827For the dressing, honestly, I was hoping to re-create something similar to the sesame coleslaw at Café Asia, which is dynamite. Usually, trying to imitate something I had in a restaurant is a recipe for disaster. (Pun intended.) My version inevitably ends up significantly inferior to whatever I was trying to mimic, and it just leaves me with an even worse craving for the restaurant dish. This dressing, though—this dressing turned out pretty darn well. Just be sure to read the note about the consistency.

Note: If you’re going to use the dressing right away, you might want to thin it down with extra vinegar or some water. If you’re going to keep it on hand for a while, just let it rest. Mine got much, much thinner after a night in the fridge, and I don’t have an Alton Brown-y scientific explanation for why.

Also, for the chicken, I used the spicy asian marinade from Epicurious.

Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

serves 2

For the dressing—you might not use all of it:

  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used light)
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
  • 4 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. mirin
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasoning. I didn’t add any salt because the miso paste was salty enough.

For the rest of the salad and assembly:

  • about 4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 grilled chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken breast, or leftover chicken from whatever), sliced
  • optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds
  1. Divide the vegetables evenly onto two plates.
  2. Top with the chicken, and the sesame seeds if using.
  3. Add dressing to taste and toss. You might not use all of the dressing.

Shrimp and Kale Over Kabocha Squash Purée

IMG_4733This post is long overdue. I made dish, took the photos, and polished it off for lunch, ohhhh, about month and a half ago. I wasn’t planning on procrastinating about posting it, but spring happened. You know, those glorious few weeks in between nasty late-winter bleakness and disgusting East Coast summer humidity, when it’s actually nice to do things outdoors? When that sort of weather finally rolls around, everything else takes a back seat to being outside and working in the garden. TV doesn’t get watched. Papers don’t get graded. Blogs don’t get updated. Also, it got so warm that I almost didn’t post this dish because it seemed too unseasonal, but the relentless chilly drizzle this week has taken care of that.

So, this was a creation thrown together out of laziness. It was a Sunday night, and I didn’t have anything to take for lunch on Monday. Being a teacher, this meant that I needed to pack my lunch. Because no, I just can’t bring myself to go purchase a school cafeteria meal. I kind of like having to bring a lunch to work every day since it does make it easier to be healthy, but it kind of blows when you really just wish you could go out somewhere and buy something if you don’t feel like cooking.

So, back to that Sunday night. I needed to make my lunch and I really didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I found some raw shrimp in the freezer, had a whole kabocha squash hanging out in the pantry, and lucky me, there was a bunch of kale in the garden that I had accidentally over-wintered, and it was just waiting to be picked because it was going to seed. It was actually the same stuff I made the frittata with back in December; I never got around to pulling it out of the ground, and it just starting growing again earlier this spring.

I decided to make a one-dish meal and start with a purée from the kabocha, keep the kale pretty simple with onion and garlic, and go spicy with the shrimp to balance out sweetness from the squash. For a weekday lunch, this is ideal for me. I’m pretty happy if I can make something that will last for a few days, can hang out in the fridge without getting soggy or wilty, and won’t require any more prep / chopping / assembly in the morning or during my precious 30 minutes of lunch. And I maybe get a little OCD about putting individual servings in tupperwares. And using matching tupperwares.

Shrimp and Kale Over Kabocha Squash Purée

makes 3 servings

For the kabocha purée:

  • 1/2 medium kabocha squash (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. half-and-half
  • 2 Tbsp. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Scoop the seeds out of the kabocha, cut into pieces, brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  3. Bake until tender, 25-30 minutes. It’s done when you can pierce it easily with a fork.
  4. Let it rest until it’s cool enough to handle, and then scoop the flesh from the shell and purée it in a food processor with the half-and-half, broth, and smoked paprika until smooth. Season to taste.

For the kale:

  • 8 cups (about 8 oz.) kale—I used Red Russian
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced crosswise
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat,
  2. Add the onion and sauté 6-7 minutes, or until starting to brown.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté for another 6-7 minutes, until completely soft.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute or so.
  5. Add the kale in handfuls, stirring between each one. Keep adding kale and stirring until it’s all wilted. Season to taste.

For the shrimp:

  • 12 oz. medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  1. Pat the shrimp dry. Combine the salt and all of the spices, and rub it evenly over the shrimp.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and sauté until just barely cooked through.
  3. Serve the shrimp over top of the kale and the squash purée. It tastes best all mixed together.