Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Obsessed with Kale

I'm generally irked by phrases such as 'black is the new pink' or '40 is the new 30,' but kale, my friends... kale is the new spinach. And my favorite way to eat it is raw.

Raw kale salads have been popping up with alarming frequency on almost every food blog I frequent. It's one of the healthiest vegetables out there, according to various nutritionists who extol its cholesterol-lowering and cancer-risk reducing effects. I've had requests for more vegetarian/vegan friendly recipes, and while my last post was beef-minded, one of the side-effects of traveling abroad for me is that I hate coming back to meat in the States. The massive hormone-fed drumsticks and flavorless flesh leave quite a bit to be desired, especially after eating far tastier versions abroad, so I take refuge in locally-grown vegetables. And so I thought I'd share one of my favorite (vegan) recipes with you.

I'm happy to say I caught on to kale's wondrousness fairly early in the game, one delightful afternoon in Ithaca, when we hosted a potluck with our neighbors on our porch. One of the neighbors brought a kale salad that had been marinated with nothing more than rice vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and slivers of raw garlic and then tossed with some goat cheese and vegan sausage. Now, if you know me at all, you know it would take something of colossal import to make me partake in something like vegan sausage.

And it was the kale salad that did it. I went back for seconds, thirds and then cried a bit when it was done. I got the recipe and made it so frequently that it was the only thing I had left in my fridge on our moving day; I tried repaying the kindness of a friend, I, who had shown up to help, by forcing him to eat some of this delicious salad. Turns out rice vinegar and garlic don't agree with *everyone* at 10am.

Anyway, my obsession with raw kale didn't end there. I played around with caramelized onions,  learned to love its ceasar salad preparation, and thought it was the best vehicle for mustard vinagrette. But, now, I have found the kale salad that trumps all other kale salads: The Garlicky Kale Salad.

I found this salad one desperate lunch hour at the Whole Foods near my gym. I usually hate the prepared food bars, even at WF, but once my obsessive eyes spotted kale, I had to give in. I came home, devoured the salad, and swore I wouldn't rest until I figured out the recipe. And the great thing about WF is that they list the ingredients under their dish labels, so it actually wasn't as dramatic as I was prepared for it to be. So, I give you Garlicky Kale Salad and dare you to not LOVE this. And it's gloriously healthy to boot.

Garlicky Kale Salad
2 cups raw kale, torn off of the stem and chopped roughly
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp water
1-1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce (WF asks for liquid amino acids, but this works just fine as a substitute)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Drizzle the olive oil over the kale and massage into individual pieces (this helps loosen up the kale and is why you don't need to marinate this salad for the 8 hours that some other kale salads can require). Next, combine the tahini, water, lemon juice, soy sauce and garlic and douse the salad. Again, massage it in. Finally, add black pepper to taste. Refridgerate for 5 minutes and then serve. It will only get better with time, so feel free to make plenty for leftovers.

There are obviously other things on my mind of late, most importantly Japan and the unfolding tragedy over there.  Interesting tid-bit: the Japanese love Kale so much, culinarily and aesthetically, that they introduced it ornamentally to their gardens. The people of Japan are in my thoughts right now, especially the workers at the nuclear plants and the hazards they're facing. If you're looking for some aid organizations to contribute to, here's a short list. (Just a note: I've heard that the phone companies' 'text-to-donate' plans can take up to 90 days to reach folks in need).

Doctors Without Borders
Red Cross
Google's compiled list of resources

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lucking out in Lucknow

I've apologized for my blog's neglect before, by explaining that when I write here I don't write my dissertation. Well, turns out I finished, so now I have no excuses. Not much else has changed--I think it's funny to choose 'Dr.' as a prefix on online surveys and I'm looking for a job because I chose to take a break from academia (more on this later, I'm sure).

I did, however, just get back from a trip to India to celebrate my cousin's wedding. This involved roughly 64 members of our clan flying to Kanpur for a weekend and being graciously hosted by his girlfriend's family. There was excellent food, tremendous fashion and heartening time with our huge family. On the way back to Bombay, a smaller subset of us (18 people) took a detour to Lucknow for 2 days.

There, I ate a damn good meal.

It was a foodie trip for sure. Lucknow, you see, is known for two main things: chikan embroidery work and pretty phenomenal kebabs. My family agreed from the start that we were going to Lucknow to eat, first and foremost, and that we might shop on the side for some chikan gifts for others back home.

We shopped a bit the first evening, where my cousin, L, used her mobile to text pictures back to cousins in Bombay and take their orders if they liked something. It was all very technologically saavy and, in the midst of these Arab revolutions, pretty consistently demonstrated that we've entered an age completely pervaded by social media. In the end, I got a kurta, watched some men blockprint fabric by hand, and played with my nephew.

The rest of the trip was about the food. We were stopped by some disturbance in the streets from going to Tunday Kebabi our first night, but ended up at an excellent dhaba in the middle of a street of streetstalls. We feasted on shaami kebabs and reshmi kebabs, with some tandoori chicken, biryani, and meat "stew" on the side for good measure. The best part of the meal, we all concurred, was the "stew" gravy, which we sopped up with our freshly warm rumali rotis (named after the indian hankerchief).

The genius of our trip was that we made it to Tunday Kebabi the next day and had exactly the same meal there. That's what I love about my family and the way it eats. They love trying new things (my grandmother is particularly fond of beef burgers in the US, it turns out), but they know when something is worth reveling in. It was a comparison of sorts, and we discussed which place had the better of two dishes while reminiscing about the family memories. Both meals were made remarkably indulgent by one of my bhaoji's attentive ordering for the entire table. He stood over us, watched which dishes we loved and devoured and then ordered more immediately. An endless supply of heaven, basically.

I regrettably fell sick with a stomach bug for the second half of my trip, so Bombay was (surprisingly) unable to top Lucknow's meals. If I'd had the tum for it, however, I know Trishna would have done the job. As it is, I'll just have to make sure I get there next time. It's been too long.

In honor of Lucknow's upset victory, I'm making reshmi kebabs for dinner tonight. Here's the recipe I use:


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 3 green chilies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, pureed
  • 1 tbsp ginger, pureed
  • 1 tbsp garlic, pureed
  • 1 tsp all spice powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to pan fry

  • Mix all the spices, cilantro, green chillies, breadcrumbs and eggs in the minced beef and make elongated kebabs or patties.
  • Pan fry till dark golden brown on each side.