Kale salad with lentils

I’m on a kale kick again after reading a new playful new cookbook, Fifty Shades of Kale.

Inspired, I wanted something massaged for softness with a sweet and spicy flavor. This recipe uses a spicy aioli combined with another superfood, sweet potato, for a touch of sweetness.

Before we get cooking, I like a bit of background. Today I thought I’d share exactly why kale is good for us. It’s a superfood, packed with a rich array of nutrients including:

  • Fiber which is filling, good for the gut and helps stabilize blood sugar.
  • A decent amount of protein (2.2 grams) to keep you going.
  • Vitamin K, A, C and Manganese which is good for bone health, anemia and nutrition absorption. 
  • A good source of omega 3 fatty acids that protect against disease for vegans.

Note: if you are on anti-blood clotting medication, please check with your pharmacist or doctor about eating kale.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of curly kale, organic if you can
  • 2 TBS spicy habanero aioli OR substitute 2 TBS mayonnaise and 1 tsp habenero hot sauce
  • 1 medium size sweet potato, baked
  • Optional: Moroccan lentils, cooked.

Directions:

1. Remove all of the stalks by pulling the leaves off the center stalk. Pull or chop the kale into small bits.

2. Add 2 TBS aioli or the substitution.

Kale salad with mayo spoon

3. As mentioned before, the trick to a raw kale salad is to massage the kale with a fat like mayonnaise or yogurt which breaks down the fibers into a richer, more flavorful dish. Massage the aioli into the kale with your hands. Really get in there until each leaf is coated and softened. You can see the difference in the image above and below.

massaging kale

4. Cut the sweet potato into half inch squares and toss into the salad.Optional: add 1 cup of cooked Moroccan Lentils. Recipe to come soon!

sweet potato sliced

5. Voila! Enjoy.

Kale salad with lentils

How to blend flavors when cooking from scratch

For anyone who wants to adapt recipes to your taste or play with layering flavors, this is my unique, unorthodox understanding of flavor creation. It won me a cooking competition, judged by top NYC chefs like Jacques Pépin and Alain Sailhac.

This piece covers what I see as the key elements, how to identify what is missing and how to bring a dish to the next level. Cliff notes version: its all about smell and balance.

By way of background, I am a “make it up as you go” cook. David calls me “MacGyver” in the kitchen because I can take 4 random things and cobble together a meal. It all started as a kid with a dairy allergy. Initially I taught myself to cook because I wanted chocolate cake. From there I kept trying new dishes and loved the artistry of creating a meal, figuring out the relationships between flavors.

There are 3 main elements I play with in food: flavor, texture and energy. This piece is about flavor.

Here’s the shocker: About 75% of what we think is taste is actually smell. This is why food seems tasteless when you are congested. Smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our other senses. Scent is powerful and primal. It activates the limbic system which influences emotions and memories. This is why a whiff of something can bring you back to your childhood.  For more click here and here.

Before we get to smell, let’s go over the basics of taste. There are 5 recognized tastes, excluding several new ones currently being researched in Japan. The conventional tastes are: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, savory (umami). Most foods are sweet, salty or savory or a blend, which is highly satisfying. Add sugar to create sweetness, salt to create salty and meat or spice to create savory. Pretty simple.

Beyond that, you may notice that some dishes work well, others have seem to be missing something or are overpowering. This is about the layering of spices and flavors, which I believe is “read” by our sense of smell.

Taking a step back to think how to blend spices to create the effect you want, I always think of fragrance training from my days developing beauty products. While I have never heard anyone else describe food in this way, this framework is what I use to identify what is missing and how to balance it.

There are 3 ranges of notes in any fragrance.

  1. The Top Note: This is what you sense immediately and passes quickly. It is usually a light, fresh scent that “brightens” the fragrance. Citrus is a common top note. Ginger or cilantro are common in food.
  2. The Middle Note: This is hits your senses after the top note has passed, bridging the top and base notes and harmonizing the fragrance. Middle notes are mellow such as lavender or other florals, or cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and vegetables.
  3. The Base Note: This is rich and earthy. It creeps up on you and then lingers. Think of wood scents like sandalwood or heavy spice like green coriander, chili, cayenne pepper, mustard, animal meat.

Here are two examples of this in practice:

  •  Kale Salad: A while back I was making a sesame kale salad with a few friends. We added massaged curly kale, sesame seeds and sesame oil, roasted carrots and onions, lemon and sea salt. But something was missing. There was no contrast, it was too light and zingy. The sesame and carrots were mellow with a hint of sweet. It needed a floor or a base note, something a bit heavy and earthy to ground the dish. Salt isn’t the answer, it just brings out the current flavor. Balsamic might be nice, except it would fight the sesame which is unique and brilliant here. So we tried a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Heavy, dark but plays well with sesame. I think it worked.
  • Fish Curry: Trying our hand at a South Indian Curry we used garlic, onion and ginger in a tomato coconut sauce with cayenne pepper. We added a generous amount of the basic Indian spice, garam masala, which is really a mix of spices, with this particular version being heavy on chili powder. The effect was an immediate hit of ginger and hot chili and a heavy lasting feel of the cayenne. But the two seemed separate, there was nothing in the middle. So I added some mid notes: turmeric, a mild, traditional Indian spice that is great for inflammation and a bit of cumin. I also added coriander reminds me of South India. This made it more connected and complete.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions!

Xo

A

South Indian Fish CurrySouth Indian Fish Curry

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15

I love Indian food. After spending a month in Indian, I returned to New York craving Indian food when all my travel companions wanted burgers. But I have always felt it was too complex for me. The layering of spices, slow cooking and the richness was intimidating. But when two friends, one of whom is married to a Indian guy, offered to host our next recipe group we decided to try our hand at a few classic Indian dishes.

We found a nice fish curry recipe online from Steamy Kitchen which we liked but I was hoping for something more like what I had tasted in the souther state of Kerala. We also realized (watch out for this!) that the garam masala mix we used was heavy on chili powder thus quite hot. So I stared experimenting with softer spices and wanted to add a few vegetables. For more on how to blend flavors, check out my unorthodox framework here, which is based on smell.

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen. Thank you!

Ingredients: 

Note – there are a lot of spices, but the dish itself is easy to make!

  • 1.5 lbs Swordfish, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 2 large green chilies
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Heat a deep frying pan to medium and add a swirl of vegetable oil.
  2. Chop the onion into ½ inch cubes or smaller if you prefer. Grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Remove the seeds from the chilies and slice them into slices ¼ inch wide.
  3. Add to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes or until clear. Stir occasionally
  4. While this is cooking, chop the red pepper into long thin strips about ½ inch wide and add as soon as they are ready.
  5. Add the tomato pure and the spices, stirring in for 3 minutes
  6. Add the coconut milk and the water. Stir in and cook for 2 minutes
  7. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the fish and the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with long basmati rice or nan.

Molten Chocolate BombeServes 8

Time: 1 hour (15 minutes prep, 30 minutes bake, 10 minutes to cool)

Calories: 356

Mamma’s gonna knock you out…. If you like flourless chocolate cake this takes it to a whole new level. A friend described it as a liquid mounds bar. By using coconut instead of butter, you get more flavor and less sugar.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (12 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a double boiler, turn the water on medium and melt the chocolate
  3. Add the coconut oil to the chocolate, stirring until smooth
  4. Move the mixture to a 10 inch round glass bowl or casserole dish. The deeper bowl, the gooier the cake.
  5. Wisk in the sugar, then the eggs.
  6. Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Ensure the top is hard. The middle will remain molten chocolate due to the depth of the bowl. Cool for 10 minutes.
  8. Serve the cake in this dish with a large spoon into mugs. Optional: add coconut ice cream.

Adapted from Epicurious Flourless Chocolate Cake 

Mussles in Tomato Coconut Sauce

Serves: 6 appetizers (~12 mussels per person)

Time: 15-20 minutes

Calories: 215

Mussels have quickly become one of my favorite easy winter meals. They seem fancy but are very easy to make and quite filling. The coconut milk makes this dish rich. To lighten it up, cut the quantity of coconut milk in half.

Nutritionally, mussels are good for those who avoid meat because they are high in B-vitamins (B12, Folate) and Iron which are hard to get without meat. They are also a good source of selenium for hypothyroid sufferers and Omega 3s, which reduce inflammation. For more nutrition info click here.

 

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs of fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 large can (28 oz) peeled, crushed tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Small bunch of Fresh oregano and basil
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Salt

Directions

  1. In a deep saucepan add a swirl of olive oil and the garlic, then heat to medium.
  2. Chop the onions and add to the pan, sautéing until they are clear.
  3. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and then add the coconut milk and herbs. Add about 5 grinds of black pepper and a 3 shakes of salt. Turn down to medium low (2 or 3 on the burner) and simmer for a few moments
  4. Rinse and check the mussels. Discard any cracked mussels. If any are open, tap them against the counter. If the shell does not close, throw it out.
  5. Taste the broth and add more pepper if you want more of a kick, or salt to bring out the flavor more.
  6. Add the mussels to the broth and cover, cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are open.
  7. Serve in bowls with a dump pot for the shells.

Sardinia Market

The secret to great marinara sauce, or so I am told not being Italian myself, is to slow cook it until it turns slightly orange, which takes between 2.5 and 3 hours. I tried it while on vacation in Italy and got rave reviews!

Serves: 4 to 6

Time: about 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • ¼ clove of garlic
  • 8 ripe roma tomatoes
  • 1 large tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bunch oregano
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • 3 pinches of Salt
  • 4 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 2 sprinkles of white pepper

Directions

  1. Mince the garlic and chop the onions into 1 inch squares for a chunky texture
  2. Place a deep sauce pot on medium high heat, add two swirls of olive oil and then the garlic and onion until they brown (3 to 4 minutes)
  3. Slice the tomatoes into about 4 slices, then halve or quarter them for a similarly chunky texture. Add the tomatoes & crushed tomatoes to the mixture, along with the herbs and spices.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for hours. Check periodically, adding a bit of water and more salt and pepper to your taste. Once the sauce begins to turn slightly orange, remove it. This should be around 2 hours and 45 minutes, give or take 15 minutes.

Enjoy with pasta or Sardinian Fregula with Sea Bass & Mussels

Xo

Adelma (that’s me cooking in a funny apron with a poofy black flower in Sarda)

Adelma Cooking

Marketing in Sardinia

Sardinia KitchenFor years I’ve been dreaming of a cooking vacation in Italy, so I was ecstatic when my dear friend Becca suggested renting a rustic Italian  “stazzu” in Sardinia.

We spent our afternoons ambling through local markets, tasting fresh local olives (at 13 Euro a pound), prosciutto, parmesan and the island specialty – cinghiale (wild boar). Cinghiale is gamey and quite nice if you like that sort of thing, which all did.

Each night we feasted in the slow southern Italian style with a magnificent meal. Men prepared meat and Beccs and I prepared cheese (her), pasta (me), fish and veggies (both of us).

Below is my interpretation of the traditional Sardinian Seafood Pasta dish. Imagine an Italian flavored paella with fregula, the local pasta which is a cross between risotto and a nutty cous cous. Pasta usually doesn’t satisfy me, but I found the earthiness of fregula exquisite.

Serves: 4

Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs Mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 lb Sea Bass fillet
  • 1.5 cups marinara sauce (try my recipe from scratch)
  • 2 cups fregula (on Amazon)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ¼ clove of garlic
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • ¼ cup Red Wine
  • ¼ cup White wine or stock (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic and chop the onion into small ¼ inch squares. Place a risotto pan or sautee pan with deep sides onto medium high heat and add two swirls of olive oil and then the garlic and onions. Cook until brown (about 3 to 4 minutes).
  2. Add the sea bass, skin side down and cook until it turns white (about 8 to 10 minutes).
  3. Add 2 cups of fregula with the red wine, 2 cups of water, sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir periodically and add more water if it all boils off.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the mussels.
    • If they have not already been cleaned, scrub them and debeard them by pulling the hair sticking out of the shell sharply down toward the hinge or point. Remove any opened mussels.
    • In a deep pot, add ¼ cup of white wine or stock and dump in the mussels. Steam on medium high heat, covered by a lid for 12 minutes or until all mussels are open.
  5. Returning to the pasta, add the 1.5 cups of marinara sauce, the bunch of rosemary and cook for another 10 minutes before adding the mussles for flavor. If you prefer your pasta a bit al dente or crunchy, it will probably need another 5 minutes or so. If you prefer it soft, add another 2 to 3 minutes

Serve and enjoy!

Sardinian Fregula with Sea Bass & Mussels

 

Chocolate SauceChocolate Sauce Pour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Sauce with Coconut Oil

Ok, I admit it. I am a sucker for chocolate sauce. My favorite kind is rich and thick with a hint of sweetness. As you can see, this one pours very slowly.

My grandma’s recipe is fabulous but loaded with butter and corn syrup so I adapted it with coconut oil.

Serves: 6 to 8

Time: 15 minutes + cooling time

Ingredients:

  •  16 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate (2 boxes)
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of coconut milk

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan or double boiler, melt the chocolate on medium heat.
  2. Stir in the coconut oil until it’s creamy.
  3. Then add the coconut milk and stir until it’s mixed in completely.
  4. Remove from the heat and cool.

Note: This chocolate sauce can be kept outside of the fridge for at least a week. It’s never lasted longer than that in my house! If you prefer to refrigerate, it will become solid so heat it for 30 seconds before serving.

xo

Adelma

IMG_1342Sometimes I like a bite of  something light and slightly sweet to finish off dinner. Sautéed peaches hit the spot in the summer.

They’re so easy you can put them on and let them cook while you eat dinner. Be ready for rave reviews.

Serves: 4

Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 6 soft white or yellow peaches
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 to 3 grinds of black pepper

Directions:

1. Rinse & slice the peaches into 1/2 inch slices.

2. Place a frying pan on medium high heat and add 2 swirls of olive oil and the peaches. Cook for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the (rinsed) basil, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the peaches soften as shown.

Enjoy!

Adelma

 

Chocolate O Balls These rich chocolate almond balls are so satisfying that I call them Chocolate O balls. The recipe takes a bit longer because the mixture needs to be just soft enough to mold into balls, so be sure you leave yourself enough time to make them. Time: ~3 hours Ingredients:

  • 16 oz (2 boxes) of bakers semi sweet chocolate
  • 5 TBS Almond butter (use Cashew butter if you are hypothyroid)
  • 6 oz shredded coconut flakes, ideally unsweetened

Directions

  1. In a pot, melt the chocolate on medium high.
  2. Once the chocolate is soft, turn off the heat and stir in the almond butter.
  3. Set it aside to cool until you can spoon out the mixture into small balls (~2-3 hours). Warning: You can also put them in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to speed cook, but watch out. If you forget and they harden (as has happened to me many times) you’ll need to melt the entire mixture and start over.
  4. With a spoon, scoop out the mixture and create soft balls about 1 inches thick.
  5. Roll each ball in the shredded coconut to cover the entire exterior.

Done! Enjoy Xo Adelma