Garlicky Kale & Bulgur Skillet

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So for the longest time I scoffed at kale. I thought it was a pretentious hippie+hipster superfood that people only ate because it was trendy. (I still feel that way about quinoa and chia seeds-but that’s also because they are both so so expensive at health food and gourmet shops here.)

So anyway. I’ve saw it everywhere, from Martha Stewart to Goop to Food Pleasure Health and of course, Yum Universe and One Part Plant. One of my reasons for being so wary of kale was the fact that I just couldn’t find it easily in Mumbai. But in Pune, you do find it at the market. I finally ordered it after signing up with Green Tokri, they grow the pebbly lacinato variety.

Since that first order of kale, it’s been a staple every week. I’ve played around with it quite a bit. So far, I’ve managed to:

  • Juice it;
  • Add it to scrambled eggs;
  • Wilt it into soup;
  • Bake it;
  • Fry it;
  • Eat it raw.

I love the deep green hue and how it turns almost jewel-toned sauteed in olive oil. I love separating the leaves from the stalks, like this, in one fluid motion. I love massaging kale with olive oil for a salad.

So yes. I’m late to the party, but now, I realllyreally love kale, to the point where it is probably getting nauseating for my friends who hear me go on and on about it on social media.

image courtesy | funnytimes.com

image courtesy | funnytimes.com

I am turning into that annoying person, who waxes eloquent about kale. Who has suddenly discovered #cleaneating and hashtags it all the time. Who puts her green juice in a green cup with a green straw. (True story.) I have turned into the woman who is so smitten with kale, you want to throw a bag of Doritos at her and say STFU, we get it. Now go chew on something else. I have fallen into the kale abyss, and it’s leafy cushiony goodness means I’m not going to stop publicizing my love any time soon.

Self-deprecation aside, kale is packed with nutrients and is really good for you, so if you can get your hands on it, give it a try. It’s versatile and can be added to pretty much anything, from salad to soup to pasta, but I really enjoy it as a one-pot meal, with a grain, a protein and some seasoning. Unlike spinach, which wilts and softens easily, lacinato kale has more body and can hold up better, with a pleasant chew or crunch, depending on how long you sautee it. This one is an easy recipe, and if you’d like to add more bulk to it, you could top it with a fried egg or some chicken or tuna.

image courtesy | cartoonstock.com

image courtesy | cartoonstock.com

GARLICKY KALE & BULGUR SKILLET

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup of bulgur, cooked
  • 1 cup kale, packed
  • ½ cup boiled chickpeas
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chilli pepper or jalapeno, sliced
  • A handful of black olives, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Soaked raw almonds to garnish

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and allow it to soften.
  • Throw in the bulgur and stir till well-coated, then add the kale and sautee for about two minutes.
  • Add the cooked chickpeas, chilli, olives, salt and pepper, and stir-fry for a few minutes until the kale softens and crisps up a little.
  • Garnish with the raw almonds, squeeze some lime over, and you’re done!

Roasted Tomato & Lentil Soup

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I’ll admit I have a short temper. Sometimes it’s with an applicance that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s triggered by muddy shoe tracks around the house. Sometimes by my son, who is being his 3-yr-old self but making a mess and racket while doing so. I try to work on it as much as I can- but there are times when I blow my fuse.

Cooking and being in the kitchen, however, makes me forget whatever it was that made me angry. I’m happy to toss a salad. Shake some vinaigrette together. Chop some onions into half-moons, dice tomatoes and slice cucumbers. And if my son has been punished, then a snack is what is produced as a peace offering.

Happy as I am to prep, chop, cook and stir, there are days when I take the lazy route- that is, cooking without having to stand over the stove for too long. For me, lazy cooking is about chopping some vegetables, roasting them in the oven, and tossing them with pasta, creating a salad, or blitzing everything into a soup.

The great thing about roasting veggies in the oven is that the oven does all the work for you…the natural sugars come alive, the juices come out and the vegetables just dress themselves, absorbing all the lovely flavours of the herbs and oil.

 

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If you think garlic sautéing in butter/olive oil is one of the nicest (savoury) aromas, think again. Tomatoes and peppers roasting in the oven with rosemary is an aroma that can make any stomach growl. Ever since I tried Clara’s blistered cherry tomatoes, I’ve had a weakness for roasting tomatoes in the oven- big and small. I agree, cherry tomatoes look prettier when roasted and paired with pasta or a topping for a tartine, but when you are roasting tomatoes for a soup, it doesn’t matter. I also found these red chillies in the market earlier this week, and was a little undecided about what to do with them.

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Anita suggested pickling them, which I intend to do, but I was impatient to get cooking with them, so I slit, de-veined and de-seeded them, tossed them with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, thyme and crushed pepper, and put everything in a 200 degree oven for 40 minutes, with a gentle toss and massage after 20 mins.

Once done, I blitzed everything in a blender with a little water, and added the mix to a pot of simmering lentils- dinner is done.

ROASTED TOMATO & LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium red chilli peppers, halved, deveined and de-seeded
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, fresh or dried
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils or husked masoor dal
  • Water for boiling

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Place the tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a roasting tray/baking dish and toss with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper till well coated.
  • Place in the oven for 40 minutes, checking on them after 20 mins and giving everything a quick toss.
  • Once cool, place everything in a blender and blend, adding a little water, till smooth.
  • Place lentils in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium-low heat until lentils are tender, skimming off the foam at the top periodically. Once the lentils are tender, add in the tomato-pepper puree and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Add more water or vegetable stock if necessary.
  • Season with more salt and pepper if you wish, and drizzle some olive oil over the top before serving.

Brown Rice Noodles With Ginger Scallion Broth

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I love reading about food trends, and if there’s one that is definitely going to be big in 2015, it’s broth. Everyone from Joy The Baker to The New York Times to The Guardian have called it, and broth is becoming a trendy alternative pick-me-up to coffee.

I began to read voraciously about broth after reading about Hemsley +Hemsley in Goop and The Coveteur. I’ve been following the Hemsley sisters’ work obsessively online for the past month or so, and since broth forms the basis of many of their recipes, I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ll admit, I’m the queen of the stock cube. Whether it’s soup or pasta sauce, I reach for stock cubes and throw them in- they are convenient and give a quick taste-boost. It’s not that I haven’t made my own stock before- I have, but stock cubes are just more convenient. And who’s going to save fish, chicken and mutton bones anyway?

When I buy fish, I almost always get it filleted so that I can use it for curries, pan-frying or preparing en papillote. Chicken is either boneless, drumsticks or a curry-cut; I rarely roast one whole. Boneless strips are stir-fried. Drumsticks are turned into a Kerala-style chicken fry; and a curry-cut becomes an easy one-pot chicken curry to go with rice or rotis. So chicken bones are just discarded. Mutton too, is made into a curry and we end up chucking the bones after we finish our meal.

Anyhow. After reading so much about home-made stock or broth, I had to give it a try. I made a bean-and-kale soup the other day, and instead of using a stock cube, I made my own stock with some aromats (onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, garlic, ginger,) and a handful of bony mutton pieces. Not bones, but small bony pieces. I put everything into a ceramic dutch oven, poured some cold water over it and allowed it to simmer for 2 hours. I then strained the liquid and went on preparing the rest of the soup, adding tomato puree, beans, vegetables, herbs and kale.

A stock cube is definitely easier, and the flavour is stronger- and saltier. The homemade stock, however, had a much more well-rounded flavour, though subtler.

For broth as a meal, I thought I’d take small steps, and zeroed in on a simple recipe from It’s All Good. Ginger-scallion broth with soba noodles.

I replaced the soba noodles with some quick-cooking brown rice noodles, and I prepared it without the seaweed. Still really, really good. The slow simmer really brings out the flavour and kick of the ginger, and it makes for a light, soothing and flavourful meal-in-a-bowl. I topped the noodle broth with stir fried vegetables, but chicken, seafood, meat or tofu would work just as well.

BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH GINGER SCALLION BROTH (Adapted from It’s All Good)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, crushed
  • 8-10 green peppercorns (optional)
  • 8 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 more scallions, sliced thinly, to serve
  • A handful of mint and coriander leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 250 grams brown rice vermicelli (You could also use regular white vermicelli. Use Thai vermicelli, not the semia that is used for kheer and sweets- that gets too sticky.)

METHOD

  • Combine the ginger, scallions and soy sauce with 3 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the liquid boils, lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add some mint leaves and cilantro, cover with a lid and allow the broth to rest for 5-7 minutes. Strain the liquid and set aside, covered.
  • Meanwhile, cook the brown rice vermicelli according to package instructions, drain and set aside. Divide the noodles evenly between 4 bowls, ladle the broth over it, and top with the thinly sliced scallions.  Add some stir-fried veggies/chicken/meat/tofu to make it a full meal!