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Month: March 2016

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

The first time I had a massaged kale salad was at a culinary event at a college where I worked.  The theme was farm to fork and the student chefs had prepared a curly kale salad massaged with a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, served with shavings of parmesan.  The kale was raw, but not particularly chewy and definitely not tough.  It piqued my interest in figuring out how to duplicate this salad, and particularly how to go about massaging kale to make it so relaxed and happy.

I’ve played around with the technique here and there over the past year or so.  I’ve used oil and vinegar, a bit of lemon juice, as well as just plain salt.  The technique is what it says it is – you add your oil or acid or salt and just dig in, massaging the kale until it goes a little limp.  It will still maintain some shape and leafiness – this is just the nature of kale.  It’s definitely more robust than a lettuce salad.

radish and kale salad 2

Massaged Kale and Radish Salad
Serves 2

1 bunch curly or lacinato kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
6 sliced radishes
½ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
Dressing of your choice (I had ranch on hand, so used it; I can see this being tasty with a vinegar and oil dressing as well)

Combine the kale and the salt and use your hands to knead in the salt and massage the kale.  Add the radishes and toss with dressing.

Cheese Plate Basics

Cheese Plate Basics

For all of my adult life, I have had a serious abiding passion for cheese.  I’ve heard that it has been scientifically proven that one can be addicted to cheese, and I think as far as addictions go, this doesn’t seem to me to be so bad.  I think my predilection for stinky cheeses came from my first taste of chevre from the farmer’s market back when I lived in Denver.  The tangy goatiness of chevre made me want to explore other soft cheeses, so various blue cheeses were the next step for me.  I don’t remember the first time I ever had a cheese plate, though I would imagine it was probably traveling somewhere when I was a vegetarian and trying to find the most innocuous vegetarian thing I could on some restaurant menu.  I have a memory of a particularly good cheese plate at a hotel restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, which was my first introduction to membrillo, which is a sweet paste made out of quince fruit.  I also have fond memories of traveling alone and grabbing a bit of cheese, some bread, some fruits and veggies and dark chocolate and having an informal dinner of cheese in my hotel room.  It was a matter of time before I tried to reproduce these experiences as my lunch.

The key to a good cheese plate is a little variety, but not too much.  Three cheeses are a good amount of cheese.  In this case, I used one riper nearly blue cheese, one soft cheese, and one hard cheese.  I’m fortunate that we are finally living in an area where such cheeses are accessible.  If I was still somewhere very rural, I’d likely go with easy-to-find cheddar, some chevre and a blue cheese of some sort.  From there, it is good to have some accompaniments for the cheese.  In this case, I went with fruit – apples and strawberries; nuts – almonds; cherry chutney (I was so glad I was able to find this one jar among hundreds that are still packed); and whole wheat Ritz crackers.  Cheeses definitely need a vehicle for serving and I find either simple crackers or bread work well, as does, honestly, a slice of apple.  I probably used about an ounce of cheese total – it doesn’t take a lot to be filling.  I also had a salad with me, which paired well.

I’ll sign off today with my favorite cheese story.  Clay and I had been living in rural New Mexico, and I had a chance to go to New York City for a conference.  It ended up being a crazy trip that involved flying to both NYC and Denver in a short time span.  I had been doing some research about cheese and learned about Murray’s in NYC, which has wonderful cheese tasting classes.  I convinced Clay that we had to sign up for one.  In that process I was introduced to a cheese that was super runny when ripe.  It was grassy and sweet and I had to have some, so we bought a small block.  This was a cheese that is highly aromatic when ripe and it was ripening very quickly.  The hotel in NYC had a refrigerator, but it was the intervening transportation to the airport and on the plane that had me worried.  It was all fine – the cheese made it through in my checked luggage, but my bag was searched, and I do wonder what the TSA agent must have made of my stinky, runny cheese.

cheeses

From the top, going counter clockwise: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (this is a ripened chevre); Le Delice De Bourgogne French Triple Creme(this is a ripened cow milk cheese); Midnight Moon Goat Gouda (this is an aged goat cheese – nicely firm).

cheese and chutney

This is the triple creme cheese and the Humboldt Fog with my cherry chutney.

cheese plate 2

The final cheese plate.  To pack for lunch, I put the cheeses, fruit, and almonds in a glass Pyrex and the chutney in a separate container.  The crackers went into a plastic sandwich bag.  Don’t forget to bring a knife for spreading the cheese on crackers.  The only thing missing for me was a good glass of wine – I think I’ll have to try this combination on a weekend sometime.

Cheese Plate Basics
One lunch size portion

6 – 8 crackers or small pieces of baguette
10 or so almonds or other nuts
1 or 2 ounces of assorted cheeses, with various textures and styles, sliced into small pieces
1/2 an apple or other fruit, sliced
2 tablespoons of chutney or other preserves

This Week’s Lunch – March 28

This Week’s Lunch – March 28

We are still recovering from our move.  Slowly, but surely, there is art on the walls, the numbers of boxes in the garage is starting to dwindle, and I can (mostly) find what I’m lookin g for in the kitchen.  We’re building up our condiments again and I even found a Chianti red wine vinegar in our new go-to market.  Part of the challenge to fully settling in is that we are also trying to get our house in the southern PNW ready to go on the market.  I’ll end up with half a weekend the next few weeks, which makes it a bit challenging to do wide-scale food prep, not to mention find the time to really shop.  I decided this would be a good week to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: create my own cheese plate for lunch.  So this week is a picnic-style cheese spread and a kale and radish salad to celebrate spring.

I was unbelievably happy that I was able to find, on the first go, my cherry chutney in the boxes of pickles and preserves that I still haven’t unpacked.  I’m also delighted that where we live has no fewer than four natural foods markets that all sell really good cheese.

Here’s a photo preview of the week.  I’ll post more about the cheeses and the salad later this week.

cheese plate 1radish and kale salad1

 

Week in Pictures

Week in Pictures

spring flowers spring flowers 2

Because it’s spring, and everything is blooming everywhere here in the PNW, I wander around the area where I work and take lots of pictures.

leftover hash

Brunch leftovers made eggs and hash on Sunday morning.

grapefruit and granola

So then I had to try to be healthy the rest of the week with broiled grapefruit, honey, greek yogurt and granola.

bagels and chips

Bagels were a go to for lunches.  I found a great place for Terra chips on the cheap: both the mixed chips with Mediterranean flavors and the picked beet flavor.

fava1roasted fava 2

Favas made a great mid-week snack.

boba

And then late in the day on Friday, I wandered to the corner coffee shop to get Thai tea with boba.  I think I could get used to this city life.

Roasted Fava Beans

Roasted Fava Beans

One of my most favorite spring vegetables is fava beans.  I distinctly remember first becoming aware of favas through reading my mother’s Martha Stewart magazines.  Martha uses lots of fava beans in her magazines and cookbooks and I often wondered what made them so wonderful.  I equally wondered where on earth you would find them fresh.  The farmer’s market I used to go to in Denver didn’t have favas, and then I spent several years overseas where so many fruits and veggies were a rarity, and then four years in New Mexico, where I ate lots of green chili, but no favas.

When I moved to Oregon, I found favas in a market an hour away from our home and greedily bought about a dozen.  I was then faced with the question about what, exactly, to do with them.  I have no idea where I found the very easy preparation of roasting fava beans with olive oil and salt, but it is so, so very easy and makes these somewhat complicated veggies very accessible.  For a very, very brief period of time, there was a farmer in my little rural town in Oregon who grew favas in the spring – I’d buy heaps of them and we would gorge ourselves on the roasted beans.  That farmer, unfortunately, decided it was more profitable to go to just one farmers market in the region in the early spring, so I was left fava-less for several seasons.

Now we are in the Portland area, and in a last resort, we can always go to Whole Foods and similar markets for produce.  I gasped with delight when I saw these the other day when we were out looking for greens for our salad.  I’m also hoping for favas to show up at the farmers market.

If you have thirty minutes, olive oil, salt and fava beans, you can easily throw these beauties together.

fava 2

roasted fava 2

Roasted Fava Beans
Serves 2

12 fava beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put the fava beans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 12 minutes and then flip the favas. Bake for another 12 minutes.  The favas should be soft and golden.

You can pull the beans out of the fava shells at this stage or eat the whole bean – shells and all.

 

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

One of the more interesting challenges of moving has been what to do with all of the preserved goods from last year.   I dutifully packed three large boxes worth of pickles, marinara sauce, and jams, and then realized once we were in our new place just how small the kitchen is and just how little kitchen storage we have.  For now, it’s cool in the garage, so that’s where the boxes are hanging out.  I had the presence of mind to pack six jars of marinara separately so we could easily make spaghetti and meatballs in our first month in our new place.  I also packed two small jars of marmalade and jam, as I couldn’t stand the thought of not having a few tablespoons of homemade jam in my yogurt in the mornings.

In the meantime, farms keep producing and it’s already farmer’s market season in the PNW.  I couldn’t resist going to the new market this past weekend and came home with the most lovely radishes.  I think you’ll soon see a blog post from me just about radishes – that’s how much I love this vegetable.  I’d just as soon eat radishes as a snack with salt, but decided I wanted to also include some quick picked radishes on my bagel sandwiches this week.  We had some carrots leftover from some quick chopped salads we made last weekend.  I’d also packed rice vinegar.

An aside – I had a strange sense of what was essential during this move: honey, rice vinegar, bread flour, marinara, one bag of pasta, and salt and pepper.  However, I managed to leave our half open bottle of olive oil behind and still can’t find my unopened bottle of red wine vinegar.  Since I didn’t bring sugar with us, nor remembered to buy it at the last run we did to the grocery store, I used a little bit of honey for this recipe. I also had juniper berries on hand, but these aren’t essential to the recipe.

spring pickle2bagel 1

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced mixed spring vegetables (I used radishes and carrots – I think this would be a great recipe with spring peas, red onions, celery, etc.)
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine the rice vinegar, water, spices, honey and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables.  Let cool and then store in the refrigerator. These will keep for about a week.

This Week’s Lunch – March 21

This Week’s Lunch – March 21

I’m slowly but surely returning to something that resembles normalcy.  We went to the local farmer’s market this weekend.  Luckily, we live in a place where the farmer’s market runs for two days – both Saturday and Sunday, so while Saturday was busy with shopping and unpacking, we braved the rain on Sunday to check out what was available and got a nice early spring haul of eggs, spinach, radishes, garlic and flowers.

spring market

 

I’m currently in an office space that has no external window, so flowers on my desk are essential.  Ok – fine – even when I had an office with a window, I still brought flowers in every week.

spring flowers

I suspect I’ll be having a combination of lunch out and lunch at my desk, at least for the first few weeks.  Today, Clay stopped by and we found this wonderful food right across the street.

pho

I wish I’d gotten a better picture of just the herbs.  This bowl of pho came with the traditional basil, but also a narrow-leaved herb that tasted like a more mild basil.  A little research and I’ve discovered it’s an herb called culantro (common names include Mexican coriander or saw-leaf herb).  It’s the saw leaf herb on the far left that you can just see in this photo.

The rest of my week looks like this:

bagel 3 bagel 2 grapefruit

The top two photos are of the bagel sandwich I put together tonight for tomorrow’s lunch.  I made a veggie cream cheese with carrots, cilantro and a few red pepper flakes, which compliment quick picked radishes and carrots, avocado and spinach.  Given I haven’t had much time for food prep, I’m also taking Terra chips for a side snack, and broiled grapefruit with honey and granola for later in the afternoon.  I had to buy granola this weekend (gasp!) but hope to be back to normal home granola production soon.

I’ll have a recipe for the quick picked spring veggies coming up tomorrow on the blog.  For a preview pic, check out my instagram feed (fixmealittlelunch).

Fix Me a Little Lunch is Back!

Fix Me a Little Lunch is Back!

You may have noticed my extended absence over the past few weeks from the blog.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was searching for a new desk for my little lunches.  About three weeks ago, I was offered a job in the beautiful northern part of Oregon – in Portland.  It all happened very quickly, and the last few weeks have been a frenzy of moving, starting a new job, and settling in.  I’m finally getting my feet back under me, but thought I’d at least share what we’ve been eating since we moved.

First up – Portland and surrounding areas are a haven for brunch.  On the first weekend we were here, we ventured to Vancouver, WA and brunched at  Dulin’s Cafe.  The wait was long, of course – that seems to be a theme for brunching around here.  However, the wait time conversations can be enlightening, and in this case, the woman I was sitting next to and chatting with highly recommended the eggs benedict.  I have to confess – I’d never had eggs benedict before.  I’m more an omelet kind of girl.  I went out on a limb though, and had the asparagus and Dugness Crab eggs benedict and…food bliss.  brunch1

Today, we went to Gravy Restaurant.  Again, there was a wait, though it was a short one and we were fortunate to have a sunny day for a change in the PNW.  I tried out the corned beef hash.  We have enough leftover to have breakfast for several days here at home.brunch2

Beyond this, we’ve had some great lunches at Sen Yai Noodle, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.

Sen Yai1

We also found a lovely Indian restaurant: Abhiruchi   This meal produced both a wonderful dinner, but also leftovers of my mutter paneer for lunch.  This was, technically, my first real lunch at my desk after I started my new job.  All and all, in the first week, I had a sandwich at the local coffee shop, Indian leftovers, two days of Amy’s Macaroni and Cheese and Pesto Tortellini, and one day out for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant that has food that defies description – it was that good.   I wish I’d gotten photos at the Lebanese restaurant – they have two full shelves of house made pickles.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back, though.

indianlittle_desk_lunch_indian

Meanwhile, at home, we’ve alternated to desperation meals (Chipotle, Burgerville), some great meals out, and then these two home-based meals: easy, easy chopped salad, and roast chicken and spinach salad with simple focaccia on the side.  I have to say that the latter has made home feel like home finally, as it represented us being unpacked enough to find key cooking equipment, like my stacking bowls and the meat thermometer.

chopped saladchickensalad

 

All and all, I’m super excited about this new adventure, and super excited to be food blogging again.

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