I wish I could say that I've been up to something, but I really haven't. I seemed to slip into that slow, quiet phase of winter. Worked a little extra, slept in a little longer. Didn't you? At first we were waiting for spring I guess, shut indoors while ice covered every surface outside our condo. In my house, we turned to Oscar movies and new recipes; matinees on weekends and quiet afternoons in the kitchen. We waded through Twelve Years a Slave and Nebraska, apple dumplings and hazelnut pudding, Gravity and American Hustle, cider braised pork roast and a few attempts at a homemade chai recipe that I'm still tinkering with. Peanut butter cookies and Captain Phillips. My god.
I guess you could call it a restorative phase at best, if you're generous. Thanks for being generous.
And just like that, here we are on the other side. On Sunday the sun brought the first breath of spring, then stayed out until after dinner and we came alive again. I went for a run that evening and every patio had a grill a-blazin'. The skating rink by our apartment has turned into a pond again.
Spring has continued to tease us all week now, so we've been carrying on the same way: taking evening walks and listening to music with the windows open. Oh, it feels so good to live a little lighter. A casual gin and tonic after work. Salads.
Like this one, my new absolute favorite: a raw kale salad with spicy peanut sauce.
I am crazy about this one. I know the picture doesn't look like much, so you'll do well to trust me here. My infatuation with this combination of raw kale doused with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce started when I had a very similar version local brewery a few weeks ago. This recipe lives up to the hype. The kale is first massaged (re: scrunched in your fists) until it's lost some of it's bitterness, and takes on a more delicate texture like leaf lettuce. Then you shake together a peanut sauce spiked with fresh ginger, soy and sesame sauces, and coat the kale generously. Top it off with some sliced red peppers and crushed peanuts - shredded rotisserie chicken if you've got it - and you've got my new favorite dinner.
The flavors of the spicy peanut sauce pair perfectly with the sharpness of the kale. And, I really love the texture of the massaged kale: it's like eating a super salad, more sturdy, filling and nutritious than any lettuce salad I've ever stirred together.
The only thing stopping me from making this salad every night this week are the pesky carrots, cabbage and celery knocking around my crisper drawer, needing to be used up (luckily: Chicken Soup with Chive Dumplings).
Come on already, winter veggies. Make way for kale!
Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Adapted from Food52
1 large bunch of lacinto (dinosaur) kale
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
Handful of roasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Optional: shredded rotisserie chicken, snap peas
Spicy peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, preferably all-natural
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
First, prep the kale: Wash and dry the kale, then pull the leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Massage the kale by grabbing it in handfuls and scrunching it in your fists; do this for about two minutes. The kale will decrease in volume by about half, and become a softer texture (like leaf lettuce).
For the peanut sauce: whisk all ingredients together in a bowl (or, alternatively, place all the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake until combined).
Toss the kale with a heavy coating of the peanut sauce - I used all of the peanut sauce from this recipe for one large batch of kale. Toss in the red pepper, peanuts, and chicken and snap peas if you are using them.