In 2005, I spent a summer doing a culinary apprenticeship at a hotel in Scotland. It was one of the more fun, hard and complicated things I’ve ever done. I mean, the cooking wasn’t hard. It was really everything else. The homesickness, the lack of female co-workers, the drinking, the drama and the living situation. The hotel provided their staff with accommodations, which were not much different from my freshmen dorm room. No kitchen, tiny room with a dresser, a closet, and a shared bathroom. Only, there was no cafeteria or Jimmy Johns close by to keep me fed and plump. I worked 50 hours a week so most of my meals were taken from the kitchen. Usually pockets full of shortbread and chocolate chips I took from the pantry. Because we didn’t really get breaks, and dinner was usually eaten after your shift was over at 10 pm, I had to eat when I could. It was no wonder with such sweet, buttery diet, along with all the beer I drank, that I gained 10 lbs that summer. One particular day I was really feeling the extra weight, so I decided to make a beautiful, massive salad for dinner after my shift. It was gorgeous, with loads of veggies, feta cheese, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. I sat down by my co-workers and began to shovel salad into my face. After a couple minutes of silence, I looked up to see my colleagues all staring at me. “What?” I said, with a extra long piece of lettuce still protruding from my mouth. “What are you, a rabbit?” one of my co-workers replied. Everyone started to laugh.
Apparently giant salads is an American thing. Lesson learned: never eat a huge salad when you’re in Scotland. Or maybe just go about it more attractively than I did.
I love greens. They are a major staple of our family’s diet. Willow has even grown fond of salad. It is so good for you and tasty but the other great part is, it is frugal, frugal, frugal (the repetition of the same word, over and over for emphasis is called an epizeuxis. Just because I wanted you to know that I know a big word). A giant bundle of kale costs a little over a dollar but adds so much substance and nutrition to your meal. Many times, food considered “frugal”in our culture, are typically processed, boxed foods. Although coupons and all that other “money saving” nonsense is typically for your packaged foods, I think they are a royal waste of your money. With greens, you spend some change and the nutritional output is 100 fold compared to that garbage that food producers are making. Oh, by the way, that boxed food, that is what makes grocery stores and food producers the most money. Although it’s cheap, it would be so much cheaper for you to make it yourself. And even if it’s not cheaper to make homemade mac and cheese, the most frugal foods are typically whole foods. Ok, off my soap box.
We tend to eat a lot of kale 1) because we like it 2) because it keeps longer than other greens and 3) because it makes us feel better about ourselves [a little self-esteem boost couldn’t hurt]. Some other greens we tend to chow down on is swiss chard, spinach, romaine and arugula. The microgreens tend to be a little more expensive, but we indulge every once in a while. And we have stopped buying boxed lettuces altogether. They go bad quickly and are way more expensive per ounce than just buying a head of lettuce or bunch of spinach.
In honor of the green, I’m sharing with you one of our standard salad recipes that we really adore. It is a vegan avocado, kale, caesar salad. It is garlicky and citrusy and really gives the creamy dressing sensation that a traditional caesar delivers. It’s amazing. I hope you give it a try and tell me what you think. Try to keep from shoving the entire salad into your face at once.
Vegan Avocado Kale Caesar Salad
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 clove of garlic finely minced or grated
2 Tbsp tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 bunch of kale
1. The key to a successful kale salad are 2 things. 1. finely chop the kale. 2. massage the kale in the dressing (like, with your hands– please wash them first). This keeps that choking sensation to a minimum and tenderizes the leaves. Wash, dry, and devein your kale (hold the stem with one hand and pinch the other end of the stem where it begins to turn into the leaf. Quickly drag your pinched fingers along the stem, toward the leaf, separately the leaf from the stem.) Finely chop the kale and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
2. In another bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except the olive oil. Whisk them together fiercely until you get a smooth, creamy paste. Slowly drizzle in your olive oil while simultaneously whisking. Taste to check if you need to adjust the salt and pepper. [You can also do this in a blender. I just hate cleaning my blender.]
3. Pour the dressing over the kale and massage with your hands, firmly squeezing it, until combined. Serve immediately with croutons or as is [this is not a dressing you will want to make ahead of time as the avocado will oxidize].