Orzo salad with Kale Pesto

Orzo salad with Kale Pesto

I recommend serving this salad cold with a glass of Pinot Grigio on the side. In the winter, I foresee this dish warm with soft melted cheese and a glass of Pinot Noir. Orzo and kale pesto salad would make an excellent side dish for a weekend barbecue. Make this dish a couple of days in advance and enjoy it for lunch meals, or a quick snack while on the go.

Garlic Sauteed Kale and Mushroom Baguette

Sometimes I am truly amazed at how easy it is to throw a few simple ingredients together, and in turn, create something beautiful and inspiring. A few simple ingredients is all it took today, when I sat down to prepare this meal. Lately, I've been inspired by crunchy bright greens and rich oils. I'm also dreaming of Paris; baguettes, fresh pecorino cheese, and salt. Some days I really crave salty, creamy, rich foods. Days like today when I am finding myself overly critical and intolerant, and feeling as though I need to drown my sorrow and self pity in something rich, savory and intense.

Despite my feelings of self pity, my desire for kale started a few days ago after meeting up with a few friends to enjoy the sun, warm breeze, and listen to the birds chirp in excitement for Spring. We settled on a local patio, perfect spot for soaking up the rays, and people watching. A few cocktails, some edamame, popcorn shrimp, and sauteed kale should sufficiently fill our bellies, we thought. Feeling full and content, happy we were able to share stories and laughter, we settled up and made our way home. Despite a wonderful afternoon, there was just something that I  couldn't let go. My sheer disappointment with the kale.

Motivated to come home and create a recipe for kale that would put the prior to shame, I gathered a few ingredients around the kitchen and went downstairs to purchase the rest. I envisioned a twist on the traditional open faced sandwich. Something savory, warm, with a little crunch. I picked up a loaf of rustic baguette from Grand Central Bakery, my favorite bread, which can be enjoyed with pretty much anything. A crispy crust, perfectly browned with a sourdough-like texture on the inside. They key to this recipe is finding a nice crusty baguette and some smooth and creamy pecorino. A good olive oil will help, but honestly, less important. The flavors from the kale, mushrooms, and cheese should over-power the oil, which should be used only to intensify and enhance the other flavors. 

I am quite pleased with how this recipe turned out. Healthy, bright, and green, I feel like I am gaining super powers when I eat kale. I love how it holds the flavors from the garlic and oil so nicely in its tiny green pockets. The combination between the mushrooms, kale, oil, garlic and cheese is outstanding. Served on a beautiful baguette, or what I like to call an edible fork, it's the perfect meal for a lazy self-indulgent afternoon. 

makes 4 servings

4 cups kale, chopped
6 - 8 large Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil + extra for brushing on bread
1/4 tsp kosher salt (or too taste)
fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup or more of grated pecorino cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts
fresh baguette, sliced

Gently submerge the kale into a bowl of cold water to remove any dirt, and then dry with a towel. Remove the kale stalks with a knife, and discard. To slice the kale, roll each leaf as if you were rolling sushi. Cut vertically, 1/2 - 1 inch slices. Put in a bowl and set to the side.

Rub the Shiitake mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt, or gently rinse them in a colander. Whichever method you prefer. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch pieces.

Peel and finely chop the garlic.

In a wok, heat the garlic and olive oil. Once the garlic starts to heat up and sizzle, add the mushrooms. Fry on medium heat until they begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes.

Add the chopped kale, salt, pepper and stir. You want to cover the kale with the oil in the pan. Place a lid on the wok, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the kale has become soft. Remove the lid and fry for an additional 2 minutes, slightly crisping the kale.

Add the lemon juice, pecorino, and pine nuts and combine. Remove from the heat.

Slice the baguette lengthwise, and then into halves. Brush each half with olive oil and then top with a generous serving of kale and mushrooms. Serve warm.