Kale Fattoush and Keeping it Mindful
The first days of March sneak in and I have the audacity to post a summer salad that makes us want to get our beach on. Back away from the sixth recipe for “the best mac and cheese ever”, we need to start practicing our solstice swing. It's not farewell forever (I've got a "mac pack" to prove it), I might just decide to make cheese sauce out of butternut squash for a change and figure out how to plant basil in our window boxes. Spring thinkin' folks.
Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad, and a personal favorite. It can be found in Middle Eastern cooking in many variations, from Israel to Egypt. I am very much in favor of adding bread to salad, where it can feel free to soak up a bit of dressing and keep its crunchy corners all the same. Traditionally, stale or leftover pita is used, torn into pieces, and maybe even thrown straight on top to beckon our beaming hearts. I used whole wheat naan and toasted it with olive oil before adding it to this salad. I do like to mix it throughout and let it sit in the dressing before eating, but this is just to suit my preference for mushy morsels cum crunchy veggies combo.
In this twist on a classic, I was inspired by my roommate to add kale- and, she has been making kale salads since before it was cool. I have to admit, I am a sucker for the trend. I want to add kale to everything, and I feel pretty swanky when I do so. Combined with fistfuls of parsley and fresh mint... well, this is as green garden as you get in New England at this point.
As a self-confessed “foodie”, I am often struggling and trying to balance my love of food with a pretty hefty concern for the earth. Our food celebrations and fixations do not always coincide with what is best for the plants or animals, often directly harming them. And oh! so many foods and food practices hurt us as well. Our passions are rarely uncomplicated. On this site I promise to grapple with these questions, presenting food that faces the reality of the not- so- easy choices we have to make everyday. It will also share the moments I have when things seem so simple and right - whether it be a vegan recipe, a sustainable fish, a meat-free alternative, or a cake with a story and a song.
I don’t just want to make delicious food, I want to make food that is nourishing on every level. Unthoughtful food doesn’t really fill our bellies long - and imagine for a second that the soul has a stomach. Or maybe four, like a cow! It certainly seems that hungry sometimes. I do believe there is a peace to be found in food that is good for us, and for the countless others in existence. I also think that strict rules and inflexible doctrines leave us feeling less than able and perhaps even indifferent. Instead of setting myself rules (tried that), I try to think of some “joyful undertakings” to embrace. No, I am not currently running through a field of daisies. I am slogging through lots of old, muddy attempts, and sometimes having a really great time of it. One thing I do think I have learned is that what is good for me, and I hope you, is attempting to be in harmony with the earth and its other beings. Defining what "natural" means and where we fit in the equation of compassionate food is really difficult, so it's also great exercise for your brain. Like chess or the crossword puzzles on past presidents, household appliances, and Napoleonic wars. So far, I don't think there has been one fix-it-all, absolutely right answer. Therefore, I am encouraged to keep cooking for the answers and the questions.
This week, I passed a sign outside a business that read, “It's a constant battle between our love for food and our fear of getting fat.” Wow. While this doesn’t sound terribly different from thoughts that occupy my brain sometimes, I was saddened to see once again the theme of war and strife where food is concerned.
Food has been the source of struggle in my life but it also has brought me immense joy and given me what I think is my own special medium of expression and creativity. I have to show up to this everyday, because there is a basic and beautiful truth in our need to be fed and to feed.
It is not just the ethics of eating that can get us in a tizzy, it is our own bodies too and how we feel about them. I have tried many ways of being and eating, even not eating, but the most life-giving ways have always been connected to a larger wisdom of mindfulness and compassion. Here are a few steps I have worked out over the years that might be helpful. I need to remind myself of them often, and forgive myself when I forget them.
- Keep moving ahead and educating yourself, there are many great sources through which to do so. Talk it out with friends and intellectual sparring partners. Even an opinion that comes from a loving place, might not be the right one for you.
- Learn when to tune out the sources (they can be overwhelming, too!). Try to listen to your body and its very unique story.
- Read the words of awe(some)- filled people. Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pantry staple in my life.
- Small steps are just as worthy as big life changes and, often times, more sustainable.
- Know that it is okay to change. Don't stick to a regimen that makes you miserable because you have announced that you will be the world's most staunch and stalwart vegan. All water flows down to the sea eventually they say, and you can head toward wholeness at your own pace all the time.
- Keep a supportive community around you and have supper with them if you can.
Now, on to fattoush!
Kale Fattoush, inspired by Ottelenghi's "Jerusalem" and my elegant roommate.
4 cups shredded kale, stems are welcome
3 tomatoes, cut into 2/3inch dice
2 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped into 2/3inch dice
31/2 oz. radishes, thinly sliced
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 oz. fresh mint
1oz. parsley, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed and minced
2-3 large flatbread or naan ( I used a whole wheat variety I found at Whole Foods)
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white balsamic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tahini
1 cup tzatziki or greek yogurt
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon sumac and more to garnish
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Tear naan into one-inch or so pieces, toss in olive oil and toast until lightly golden brown. In a large bowl begin to assemble chopped veggies and greens. It is a chopped salad with no necessary chopping order. Hurrah! Once I have my kale, onions, radishes, cucumbers, parsley, and mint, I drizzled the white balsamic vinegar and olive oil over them and added a dash of salt and pepper. In another smaller bowl I put my tzatziki, lemon juice, tahini, and minced garlic. I mix these together and try not to dip all of the naan in it before it reaches the salad. If the dressing seems too thick, you can thin it with water, a little more lemon juice or olive oil. The Ottelenghi recipe calls for 2 Tbs of whole milk or buttermilk, which is also a jazzy option. Begin to spoon the dressing on the salad and interchange with additions of crispy naan. Toss. I like a fair amount of dressing on the salad because it is all "great for you!" stuff and it makes the naan happy as can be. I let this salad hang tight in the fridge for an hour or two. All of it was eaten.
Thank you for listening to a few thoughts. I hope you too can feel the sun moving closer to the earth, and the days getting a tad more bright! Next up...a "figgy pudding" of surprising content.