Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.


0830 Pan-Fried Tofu and Kale

Sweet Chili Lemon Tofu with Wok Steamed Kale and Quinoa
Photo by sysadmnling

We’re leaving for vacation on Wednesday, so I harvested aggressively on Saturday to minimize the inevitable waste from a week-or-so of neglect. This resulted in nine pounds of tomatoes, six plus pounds of potatoes, a beautiful orange pepper, and a giant bag of kale, among other things that were tossed in the compost pile or left to their own devices. Jackie and Leah both enthusiastically recommended this recipe, which seemed like a great way to use up a giant amount of kale without requiring much additional grocery shopping.

Shane worked from home today, so I emailed him mid-day to ask for help with a bit of prep – pressing the tofu and making the marinade – so that we could eat right after work. Instead he surprised me by making the whole meal!  While I made myself a drink, he fried up the tofu and kale, gave the too-thin rice noodles a quick stir around in the cast-iron skillet, and plated everything with a drizzle of the dipping sauce.

I insisted on eating with chopsticks, but quickly dispensed with the idea of dipping in the dipping sauce – the noodles were too fragile, and we kept having to move the bowl back and forth between us to avoid dripping on the table.  Shane spooned sauce over his dish and seemed much happier with that solution.

With the right noodles – we only had very thin ones on hand from another recipe – this recipe might be a keeper.  Also a keeper?  My husband.  For real.

Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles from Vegan Yum Yum

0820 Big Bowl of Kale

Big bowl of kale

Recipe for a good solo dinner:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Thinly slice two large cloves of garlic and add to the oil, moving around until golden.  Wash, stem, and shred as much kale as you happen to have in the fridge.  Shake out the excess water, then add to the pan.  If you have a lid that fits – or that kind of fits, or that at least covers your pile of kale – cover the kale and let it sweat a little, removing the lid and moving the kale around every so often.  Eat while reading cookbooks and planning the next week’s meals, then go for ice cream later.

0726 Mushroom Tart, Sautéed Kale

I’ve always thought that the concept behind  Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee was a strange idea.  It feels like a throw-back to an era when processed food was glamorous – you don’t need to roast your own chicken or make your own gravy or biscuits or even chop your own vegetables to make chicken and dumplings! Just open a couple of packages!

On the other hand, I suppose this sort of show does make cooking more accessible for those who are intimidated by glossy food magazines and too-perfect tv chefs – and that’s a step in the right direction.  I’ve read in a couple of places – and now can’t recall any of them specifically – our culture now fetishizes the chef (or the eater) while at the same time abandoning cooking ourselves.  This NYT article from Michael Pollan is problematic but gets the point across – as a country, we are becoming morbidly obese on processed food while drooling over ridiculously complicated foods prepared on Top Chef or disgustingly huge portions on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  And I quote: “What can possibly be the appeal of watching Guy Fieri bite, masticate and swallow all this chow?”

In this context, anything that will get the average person cooking is a step in the right direction.

I mention all of this because tonight’s dinner would qualify as semi-homemade – an entree from the freezer with a side dish from the garden.  While the Tarte aux Champignons (um, fancy thin-crust mushroom tart with Emmentaler and other cheeses) from Trader Joe’s heated up in the toaster oven, I washed, chopped, boiled, and sauteed a bunch of kale with onions and smoked paprika.  While the kale could’ve used more paprika and/or garlic, it made an earthy counterpoint to the rich cheeses of the tart.  I enjoyed it, but it was all a bit rich for Shane.  A worthwhile experiment, though, and one that somewhat vindicates the semi-homemade style of cooking.  Somewhat.

Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika from Bon Appetit

0706 Pork and Kale Stir-fry

Tonight was the second time we’ve made this recipe – my cookbook notes tell me that it made a pleasantly spontaneous dinner back in the fall, when we just happened to have both kale and pork.  If it were cooler, I would’ve gone with the recipe on the facing page – a deliciously Portuguese dish of kale, sausages, and garlic-roasted potatoes – but it’s a million degrees here, and even turning on the stove was pushing our luck.

Instead – a delicious stir fry using a couple of  pork chops and a few handfuls of kale from the garden.  After a brief marinade in a salty-sweet sauce, the pork is quickly stir fried, then the kale steams for a bit, then it all gets tossed back together for a hearty, savory dinner.  It was too hot to make rice, so we piled our kale and pork on slices of bread and washed it all down with cold beer.

Pork and Kale Stir-fry
From Serving Up the Harvest

1 pound boneless pork tenderloin or chops, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce, but I prefer the former)
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or sherry (not Chinese)
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 pound kale, stems discarded and leaves shredded

Whisk together 2 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons wine, the oyster sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Add the pork and set aside to marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat.  Add the pork and marinade and stir fry until the pork is cooked through – about 5 minutes.  Remove the pork and sauce and keep warm.  Heat the remaining oil in the wok, then add the kale, 2 tablespoons tamari, and 1 tablespoon wine.  Stir fry for 1 minute, then cover and steam until the kale is tender, 3-5 minutes.  Return the pork and sauce to the wok and stir fry for 2-3 minutes longer.  Serve over sticky rice or with a fresh green salad on the side.  Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

0203 Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens

While we haven’t had anything quite like the snowpocalypses that our friends back in DC have experienced this winter, that doesn’t mean the cold isn’t wearing on us. I’ve basically decided it isn’t worth doing my hair until hat season is over, and can frequently be found under several layers of blankets and several layers of clothes complaining about how cold I am. Shane seems to be handling it a bit better – when the temps popped above freezing today, he commented that it would’ve been a good night to work on the moped.

This recipe, then, was just the thing for a cold night.  After about an hour of prep, simmering, and amazing smells, I ladled out big bowls of soft grains and cold weather veg – leeks, mushrooms, and kale, plus tomatoes canned last summer.  We both added salt at the table, which I think is probably the most appropriate point in this recipe – any earlier, and you’d risk over-salting in order to make the flavor pop.  The stew was warm and hearty, full of pleasing textures and varying veg flavors.   We made a full batch – about 6 generous servings at about 240 calories each – so a winner for calories, nutrition and enjoyment.

Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens from Bon Appetit

0106 Spaghetti with Braised Kale

I came to kale hesitantly, and rather late in life – at least for a person who loves food and spent several years as a vegetarian.  Like many Midwestern kids, I grew up eating the standard frozen vegetables – carrots, peas, broccoli, corn – and those that made a crunchy addition to a school lunch.  Greens – aside from salads and the occasional spinach – just weren’t on the menu.  That is, until a few years ago.

While we’ve wholeheartedly embraced rainbow chard, kale has yet to catch on.  We want to eat more of it, though, because of the tremendous health benefits.  A few weeks ago we made an excellent kale and sausage soup, and tonight I made Orangette’s Spaghetti with Braised Kale.  The lacinato kale was a bit droopy after a few days in the crisper, but it woke right up when braised with garlic and onions.  Tossed with the last of our spaghetti, the juice of half a lemon, and an excellent parmigiano-reggiano, the dish was simple and earthy.  I don’t know if this will be the kale recipe, the one that gets it into our diet on a regular basis, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Spaghetti with Braised Kale from Bon Appetit