Don’t you detest it when your great concepts fail? I’ve been in the kitchen all week, but I don’t really have much to show for it. I’m telling you, it’s annoying. But if anyone is going to have subpar home-cooked food, let it be me. In your kitchens, I don’t want any of my priceless avocados or maple syrup to go to waste.
Tuesday, after spending the afternoon exchanging pans and moaning over our respective recipes, Ali and I were both in foul moods. We were so angry that we almost made the decision to stay inside and continue watching The Blacklist on Netflix, but! and we remarked to one another that we were spending less nights in Austin. We left after I exchanged my yoga pants for slim jeans and my sandals for booties.
Dinner was not so bad. I just placed a salad order. A free dessert (griddled cornbread and bourbon ice cream) was a pleasant surprise from our server. the evening improved further after that.
Also read: Greek Broccoli Salad
Great live music was available. I placed another bourbon order. For the first time in my life, I genuinely danced like no one was looking in a crowded club when a stranger took me onto an empty dance floor. I wiggled in front of a crowded room, to be precise. I’m not good at dancing, but I’m great at free-form wiggling.
Then we proceeded downstairs to The Continental Club where we enjoyed a few songs sung by a beautiful woman with wild gray hair. There was Luke Wilson. We met a new friend and ran across Floyd, our bartender friend. I received more bourbon from one of them. For a post-awards party, the venue was packed with people from the country music industry, and I was astounded by how many men sporting very serious handlebar mustaches were wearing fringed button-up shirts. Excellentest people watching ever. Best Tuesday Night Ever, to be exact.
I leave off. I made the decision to make a simple bowl of my all-time favorite ingredients after the unsuccessful attempts. (It’s actually fantastic!) Here, we have kale that has been massaged, quinoa, hot sweet potatoes, and black beans served with feta, pepitas, and a dollop of creamy avocado sauce. If it weren’t for the need of variety, I would only use these ingredients when cooking. It’s a filling, nutritious salad with lots of texture that travels well.
Quinoa and kale
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped into very small, bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium lime, juiced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds), sliced into small, ¼-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 avocados, sliced into long strips
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium jalapeño, deseeded, membranes removed and roughly chopped
- 1 handful cilantro leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander, optional
- Salt, to taste
- 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta, omit for vegan/dairy-free salad
- ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To cook the sweet potatoes: In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and toss to coat, then add the cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Stir to combine. Once the pan is sizzling, add a scant ¼ cup water, then cover the pan and reduce heat to low to avoid burning the contents. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan, raise the heat back to medium and cook until the excess moisture has evaporated and the sweet potatoes are caramelizing on the edges, about 3 to 7 minutes (add another little splash of olive oil if the potatoes start sticking to the pan). Set aside to cool.
- To prepare the kale: Transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chopped kale with salt and use your hands to “massage” it, which improves the flavor. Just grab handfuls of kale in your hands and scrunch it up in your palms. Repeat until the kale is darker green in color and more fragrant. Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime and ½ teaspoon salt. Drizzle over the kale and toss to coat.
- To make the avocado sauce: Simply combine the ingredients as listed in a food processor or blender. Blend well and season with salt, to taste.
- To toast the pepitas: In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas, stirring frequently, until they are turning lightly golden on the edges and starting to make little popping noises, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Once the quinoa has cooled down a bit, pour it into the bowl of kale and toss to combine. Divide the kale and quinoa mixture into four large salad bowls. Top with sweet potatoes, black beans, a big dollop of avocado sauce, and a sprinkle of feta and pepitas.
STORAGE SUGGESTIONS: This salad keeps well, covered and refrigerated, for a few days. To keep the avocado sauce fresh, store it separately in a small bowl, with plastic wrap pressed against the top surface to prevent oxidation.
CHANGE IT UP: Butternut squash or carrots would be good substitutions for the sweet potatoes.