Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

This is a delicious and fabulous winter salad...even for those who have never eaten kale or think they don't like kale.  How do I know that?  It was my one risky dish for Thanksgiving this year and it got rave reviews!  And this was from a group of 12, men an women, who aren't really into the whole healthy, superfood movement.  So this was a bit of an experiment and I was prepared for it to be snubbed next to all of those buttery and rich Thanksgiving stand-bys.  Imagine my surprise when I started hearing murmurings around the table about the salad....of all things!  I think almost everyone loved it (yes there were one or two holdouts...but I'm convinced they didn't even try it) and had seconds.  It was even one of the first leftovers to be finished off.  So, I stand by my assessment that this is a phenomenal salad!

Recipe: Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

It's actually quite simple when you look at the recipe...kale, brussels sprouts, almonds & pecorino dressed with a simple mixture of lemon juice, dijon mustard, shallot & garlic.  Voilà!  Delicious salad!  That being said, there are two steps that can take a bit of time if you don't have the right technique:

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Farroto

Holy good heavens, this is a winner!  I stumbled upon this recipe in a Bon Appétit a couple of years ago and it's been on my "to be cooked" list ever since and I'm kicking myself for not making it sooner.  Now that we've had it once, it will definitely become a winter staple in our household.

If you're not familiar with Farro, it's an Italian grain that has a mild nutty taste with a nice toothsome texture...similar in texture to risotto which is why it works so well as a substitute here.  If the labor-intensive stirring of risotto scares you off then this is the perfect alternative since you get a similar textured dish without standing by the stove stirring non-stop for 30 minutes.  Farro can be a bit harder to find than other grains, but specialty food and natural food stores tend to carry it.  Italian and Middle East grocers are another good place to look.  Of course, you could also order some online and save yourself some driving around.  Trust me, this dish is worth the hunt!  
Homemade Pici

I learned how to make this super simple, rustic & traditional Italian pasta at one of the 18 Reasons Noodle Labs (see my post on the class here) that I attended in the Mission here in San Francisco.  If you've never attended an 18 Reasons class, I strongly recommend doing so...super fun, laid back and informative! What I love about this particular pasta, though, is that it forces you to slow down, use your hands, and enjoy some quality time (and wine!) with friends while making it...don't try to make this pasta alone!  It wouldn't be nearly as fun and you'd end up stuck at a table rolling out the pasta for an hour to get enough for two by yourself.  But don't let that scare you off, I promise it's super easy, just a bit manual, but the resulting pasta (and traditional breadcrumb topping that goes along with it) is so worth it.  I know it's going to feel a bit odd for some to not have a sauce and instead just have the pasta with the breadcrumb topping...but trust me on this one, the Italians know what they're doing!
Perfect Homemade Gnocchi

We’ve tried our hand at making homemade gnocchi a few times now and I have to say that Mario Batali’s recipe and instructions are by far the best and most consistent.  The only change I would make is to add a bit more salt than the recipe calls for...so maybe 2 pinches, but otherwise perfect.  We used our gnocchi in one of our favorite Eating Well in Season summer recipes - Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter. Your first time making homemade gnocchi?  Here are a few step by step tips:
Stinging Nettle & Walnut Orecchiette

This is a SavoryGirl Original, but based on one of our favorite recipes (Braised Broccoli Rabe with Orecchiette). We randomly stumbled across Stinging Nettles at our local Farmers’ Market this weekend and decided to give them a try based on all the good things we’ve heard about them.

Once we got the stinging nettles home we (luckily) did some quick research and found out that there were some serious implications to working with them....so you have to really be careful and prep them properly or else feel a similar sting to that of fire ants due to the formic acid that the little spines all over the plant secrete. That’s right, formic acid. Yikes. Okay, don’t be scared off though, the prep is quite simple...here’s what you do:
Traditional Pad Thai

So, I hate to disappoint you, but the orange gooey mass of noodles that we call Pad Thai here in the U.S. is not true Pad Thai. Shocking, right? We sampled Pad Thai in almost every Thai city we visited (for about $1 on the street and seriously some of the best food you’ve ever had) and found it to be pretty consistent across the country. It is much milder in flavor than what we get here...mostly due to the fact that they don’t really use as much Tamarind in it, which is what makes ours orange.

The recipe is adapted from the one we received at Siam Rice Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Som Tam – Spicy Thai Green Papaya Salad

This is a super spicy dish...very deceiving too because it’s a cold salad and looks so refreshing, it makes you think that it’s purpose is to cool down your palate from all of the other spicy dishes your eating. Not so...this is one of the spiciest of them all! Of course, you can dial back on the chilis to make it less spicy, but then it wouldn’t be authentic ;)   The recipe is adapted from the one we received at Siam Rice Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Lentil Country Supper

Oh, this is one of our all-time favorites. I got it out of a magazine years ago but I've been making it so long I can't remember which magazine exactly...but I've adapted it a bit over the years I think.  You’ll see it on my menus at least once every couple of months...so simple but so very soul satisfying, healthy and good.  It’s one of those dishes that really allows simple clean flavors to shine and makes you remember that sometimes, less really is more! To make this a quick weeknight meal, plan it when your roasting butternut squash earlier in the week for a different meal and just roast up a second one ahead of time.  You can also cook the lentils the night before while your cooking a different meal and then this meal turns into just simple assembly.  Even if you do it all the night of, it’s very easy the squash and lentils just take ~40 minutes to cook...but you can be off doing something else while they’re cooking!
Root Vegetable Tagine with Spice Roasted Chickpeas

This was a new recipe for us (from Bon Appétit’s Oct, 2010 issue), but it sounded like a delicious and hearty vegetarian Sunday supper so we gave it a try.  I say it’s a Sunday supper, simply because it is labor intensive...about 2 hours from start to finish (including 35-40 minutes simmering time).  It’s the type of recipe that scares off a novice cook just based on the long list of ingredients and multiple steps, but in reality it is all very easy...just takes a bit of time to do all of the chopping and seasoning steps. Stay organized and prep everything (like your own little mise en place) before you start actually cooking and it will go just fine!

One shortcut is to use pre-ground spices...but for the ones it recommends toasting, feel free to still do that with the powder (just really keep an eye on it since it will burn super quickly) to really enhance the flavors.  Also, the spiced chickpeas are a must...do not skip those!  I found that they could use a bit more seasoning though so feel free to go heavy handed.  A dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt on top of this dish would be a nice addition as well. 
DIY Tofu & Veggie Stir-Fry

It’s funny, we used to make stir fry all the time when we were younger and had less money but they seem to have fallen out of our regular cooking rotation these days, which is crazy because they’re simple, healthy and delicious. So tonight’s dish has inspired me to bring them back into the rotation a bit more often!

Since this is a DIY night, no precise recipe, but my approach is below in case your curious: