The New Year began with the usual resolution to be healthier but this year I decided to get specific: eat a more plant based diet. I actually have been doing pretty well despite a few unavoidable transgressions (see last week's blog post). What I realized that despite all of the yummy pasta, pizza and charcuterie that is available in Italy, I do in fact eat a great deal more vegetables while I am there because they are so fresh and delicious. And with all of the farmer's markets around this area (even in the winter), there is no reason not to make veggies a main part of your diet. This weekend’s cooking plans include my new favorite salad, a twist on focaccia and a vegetarian and hearty pasta dish for Meatless Monday.
Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Pepitas and Avocado Lemon Dressing
Many thanks to my friend Debbie for introducing me to this absolutely addictive salad. Debbie follows a vegan diet and is the one to go to when seeking out fabulous and flavorful plant based dishes. She brought this to a New Year’s Eve brunch we attended (we like to start our celebrations early and keep it rolling). When I asked her for the recipe, she said she made it up but gave me some tips on how to make the salad. I followed her lead and it was awesome. I could seriously make this every day. The entire recipe below is about 800 calories. I calculated it because I really was convinced that I could eat the entire thing. I have restrained myself but I will tell you, it makes a delicious and filling lunch that is full of super foods and goodness.
1 large bunch of kale, washed, dried VERY well and ripped into little pieces.
½ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup pepitas (I get salted ones)
1 large avocado
3 Tbs. olive oil
juice of ½ lemon (or more to taste)
Salt & pepper to taste
Make Dressing: in a small processor (Oscar) mix avocado, olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper. Blend well. (it will be very thick)
Place kale in a large bowl. Scoop the dressing onto the kale and start to massage the dressing into the kale. This gets messy but the more you massage it and distribute it among the leaves, the better it will be. Add pomegranate seeds & pepitas. Debbie also adds a few shakes of nutritional yeast which tastes a bit like parmesan (you could also add parm if you are not vegan). Place the salad in the refrigerator (covered) for at least 2 hours before eating. If it seems dry, add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.
Focaccia with potatoes and rosemary
You all know how I love to make focaccia. I find the process therapeutic and as I have been on the run since we rang in the New Year, I could use a little baking time in the kitchen. I love to try variations and since it is not exactly tomato season, I am going to go the for the very Italian version of focaccia which is topped with thin slices of potato and rosemary. I know this almost seems obscene, a carb loading mess but believe me, it is delicious! I use my mandoline for the thinnest possible slices. They are practically see through and become just slightly crispy on top when they are cooked. Pictures to come later this weekend on our Facebook page.
Cacio e Pepe
When I am looking for real comfort food on a cold winter night, this Roman dish always comes to mind. It is really a glorified mac and cheese though not so much of a rock in your stomach. I have hunted for recipes and some are really so much more complicated than they need to be. They add butter, heavy cream , a variety of cheeses. No, no, no! Cacio e Pepe is: pasta, olive oil, salt, pepper and pecorino romano. Basta. Here is the recipe that I love.
Leave me a message below and let me know if you are adding more vegetables to your diet. Recipes are welcome!