Kale, Apple and Pomegranate Salad with Japanese Sesame Dressing

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This to me is the perfect autumn salad. It tastes great with butternut squash and other fall vegetables, potatoes, and roasted poultry. Kale also keeps incredibly well and only tastes better with time as the flavours from the dressing and fruit marinate it. Great for Thanksgiving dinners and leftovers! I made this over the weekend to bring it to a retreat upstate in the Catskills, and the salad valiantly survived 8 hours before it was promptly devoured by the crowd ;).

The Japanese sesame dressing is store-bought. I use the Arabiki goma/sesame one from Sunrise Mart, a chain in NY. I recommend using store-bought dressing because the prep is a little tedious, what with prepping the kale and scooping out those pesky pomegranate seeds without making your kitchen look like a crime scene. (The pomegranate juice inevitably gets everywhere.)

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

 

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Kale, Apple and Pomegranate Salad with Japanese Sesame Dressing

Ingredients
1 bunch kale (approx 1-1.2 lb of kale), de-stemmed and leaves chopped finely
1/2 red onion, minced finely
2 crisp apples like Jonagolds/Fuji/Honey Crisp, sliced into thin and short matchsticks
1 pomegranate, seeds only
6 tablespoons Japanese sesame dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
fine sea salt

Method
1. Put kale into a large pot, drizzle olive oil. Massage softly with hands. Sprinkle a couple dashes of sea salt in.
2. Add red onion, apples, and pomegranate. Toss carefully.
3. Drizzle dressing and toss again. This salad keeps well for 2 days in the fridge, but I’ve also found that it’s fine sitting on the countertop in this cooler weather for up to 6 hours.

Happy autumn!

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Spaghetti Carbonara, Re-visited*

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

Classic spaghetti carbonara: one of my absolute favourites. You can’t go wrong with bacon & cheese, and it’s also quick to make. Tops 45 minutes for prep and cooking maybe? What do you think?

A quick internet search suggests that the conventions are pretty much set: we need spaghetti, bacon, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, egg, black pepper, and salt. I cheat a bit and add a little whole milk to the egg + cheese mixture, but that’s about it. I don’t remember which recipe I referred to initially but usually use 1 large egg to about 0.5 cup of Parmesan cheese, with extra for serving, for 2 big portions. Do use a good quality cheese and make sure you save a little of the hot pasta water for the sauce.

The only downside to carbonara is that you can’t really keep leftovers, but I guess W and I generally don’t have a problem cleaning off our plates when it comes to pasta :D.

Buon appetito!

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*Re-visited because I posted a recipe a long while back on a rather unorthodox take on carbonara with ham and spinach (my Italian friends, please forgive me)

Creamy Pasta Gratin with Mushroom, Chicken, and Kale

Creamy Pasta Gratin with Chicken, Mushroom & Kale

This pasta gratin is something that I had in my head to create for a long time, and I finally did it! The combination of mushroom, chicken, and kale turned out really well. The kale in particular was a great addition because the green gave the dish extra colour, in the way that parsley would, but it tasted better than parsley.

The sauce is just a basic bechamel (white sauce). I think of my mom whenever I cook this kind of sauce because it was she who first taught me how to make it for a tuna macaroni bake one afternoon when I was back home for the summer. I treasure that memory deeply, and I think it’s because we naturally cling to memories of our parents teaching us how to do something new.

The bechamel recipe I learned from Mom is most probably from the 12th edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, which was a culinary bible if you will for many home cooks throughout the 20th century—Wikipedia tells me it was first published in 1896! Bechamel makes for a simple base for any white sauce you’ll ever need to make. Add herbs like thyme or rosemary or nutmeg, or minced garlic and onion, to give it extra flavour.

Creamy Pasta Gratin with Mushroom, Chicken & Kale

Ingredients (for 3 portions)
0.75 lb dried pasta, your pick
0.5 lb chicken breast, diced and marinated in salt and black pepper
6 large mushrooms, diced into same size as chicken
kale leaves, 3-4 stalks worth, chopped finely
1 cup cheese mix, your pick (mozzarella, cheddar, etc)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon + extra olive oil

Bechamel–
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk + a bit extra
salt and black pepper

Method
1. Cook pasta as per package instructions. Tip into an oven-safe 8×13 dish or equivalent.
2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 205 Celsius).
3. Bechamel sauce: in a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Gradually add in flour, mixing it in thoroughly. When flour is well incorporated with butter, add milk. Heat to boil, then simmer while stirring thoroughly. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Heat olive oil on medium heat in skillet. Pan fry chicken, leaving to brown on one side before flipping.
5. When chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove from pan. Add extra olive if needed, then cook garlic and mushrooms together until fragrant. Mix in kale last and cook until soft.
6. Mix in chicken, mushroom, kale mixture with pasta in oven-safe dish ready for baking. Pour in bechamel sauce and stir to mix.
7. Top pasta with cheese and extra black pepper.
8. Bake until cheese is nicely colored, at least 20 minutes.

Pan Fried Country Dijon Mustard Chicken

I haven’t been doing much on the blogging front at all since I started a new job in April, and for some reason feel supremely guilty about abandoning my blogs. Blogging to me feels like exercise, a testament of self-discipline and endurance; you need to make it a habit in order to create and extract any value from it. So here I am, trying again :).

Pan Fried Country Dijon Mustard Chicken: I first made this back in March, or as it is known in my memory, as the Month of Interviews. I didn’t have much mood or will to do much cooking during those tiring weeks so our meals were very simple. This is one of them.

Pan Fried Country Dijon Mustard Chicken

Pan Fried Country Dijon Mustard Chicken


Ingredients
(for 2 portions)*
2x chicken breast (slice width-wise into 2 thinner slices)
2+ tablespoons, or enough to cover both sides of chicken, of country Dijon mustard (hybrid of Dijon mustard and whole-grain mustard)
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
salt and black pepper for marinating and to taste
water/wine for cooking process

Method
1. Sprinkle salt and black pepper on both sides of chicken. Then coat chicken with mustard using back of spoon or hands.
2. Let chicken. marinate for 15 minutes.
3. Heat frying pan on medium. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
4. Pan fry chicken breasts when oil is hot but not smoking – do not overcrowd. Cook first side until brown, then flip over. I usually cover the pan with a glass lid to ensure the meat is fully cooked. If the pan gets a bit dry, I’ll add a bit of liquid like water or wine.

Goes great with mashed potatoes, asparagus, string beans! Hope you enjoy.

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Feta cheese was on sale the other day so I knew I had to buy some – I love salty and sharp cheeses! And as feta is practically synonymous with Greek cuisine, we enjoyed a Greek-style salad to go with cheeseburgers for dinner on Sunday. Didn’t have any lemon on hand so the dressing is honey mustard.

Salad with FetaCucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

I mixed the following together in a large bowl:
finely chopped red leaf lettuce
chopped cucumber (cut into quarters)
grape tomatoes
crumbled feta
and minced red onion

(Perhaps what was missing is olives!)

For the honey mustard dressing, I whisked together:
extra virgin olive oil
rice vinegar
country Dijon mustard (= Dijon mustard mixed with mustard grains)
honey (the runny kind)

This is the approximate proportion of dressing ingredients I like:
5 olive oil, 2 rice vinegar, 3 country Dijon mustard, and 2 honey.

I hope that makes sense. For example, if you use a teaspoon to measure, then it’s 4 teaspoons olive oil to 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar, etc. Depends on how many portions you are preparing. I would use like a quarter-teaspoon amount as the basis.

Salad dressing is just oil, some kind of vinegar, some kind of salty-tangy, and some kind of sweet all mixed together. If you have balsamic vinegar, or rice vinegar, then you’re pretty much set.