One-Bowl Guacamole Greens

Guacamole Greens Salad  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Guacamole Greens Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

I have a theory that the Super Bowl is the late winter, sports-centric version of Thanksgiving. Roll with me for a minute – it’s a date established well in advance, guaranteed to inspire water cooler “What are you doing for X?” conversations, when people gather together over a buffet of decadent treats coupled with license to over-indulge in comfort foods we don’t eat the rest of the year, oh and by the way there’s a hotly anticipated football game.

Tell me that doesn’t sound exactly like Thanksgiving, and if I had to guess, whether you bleed neon turquoise or never heard of Peyton Manning before, you probably are coming out of a pigs in a blanket induced coma, or like me are wondering what possessed you to eat an avalanche of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Which brings me to the present moment, time to re-group and balance out with something bright, fresh, and (thank goodness) delicious. I continue to be obsessed with sweetgreen and I’m a huge fan of their Guacamole Greens salad, so of course I had to try to make it at home. At risk of sounding smug I think I nailed it.

The baby kale is both tender enough to eat right away and tough enough to be dressed in advance and still retain its crunch, while the red onion, avocado, and lime juice mingle to evoke all that’s awesome about guacamole. Super easy to ramp up the proportions for a group or make an individual serving. Keep this one in your back pocket.

Guacamole Greens Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Guacamole Greens Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

“Guacamole” Greens (serves 4 as an entrée)

Ingredients:
1  1/2 - 2 pounds chicken breast, bone-in skin-on
10 ounces baby kale leaves
2 ripe Haas avocados, large diced
8 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
5 tablespoons minced red onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 tablespoons (2 medium limes) freshly squeezed lime juice
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Coarse ground black pepper

Instructions:
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place skin side up on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the skin with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle both sides generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer.

When the chicken is done, set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and dice the meat in large pieces, about 1/2 inch. Set aside while you prep the vegetables.

Place the kale leaves in a large mixing bowl. Slice the cherry tomatoes in halves or quarters, finely mince the red onion, open the avocados and dice into large pieces placing each prepared ingredient in the bowl with the kale. Next, add the cilantro leaves and diced, cooled chicken to the salad.

Finally, squeeze the limes over the salad, then sprinkle with 3 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Toss all the ingredients together until evenly distributed and coated with the seasonings. The avocado will soften slightly and combine with the lime juice, salt and pepper to form the dressing.

Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Best if served immediately, but will also hold dressed in the refrigerator overnight.

Guacamole Greens Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Guacamole Greens Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a rimmed baking sheet, large mixing bowl, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring spoons, and a large wooden mixing spoon.

The Verdict:
As I was testing and fiddling with the final seasonings we ate this salad four times in less than a week. Normally grounds for complaint from my chief taste-tester who likes a bit more variety in his dinners, but this time not a peep even on the fourth night. We both love guacamole seasoned with plenty of zingy lime and a generous sprinkle of salt and this salad fits the bill 100% while still providing a healthy and satisfying meal. A definite go-to from now on.

Guacamole Greens Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Guacamole Greens Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin

Winter Greens Gratin  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin | Image: Laura Messersmith

It’s easy in the frenzy of holiday preparations to get caught up in more, more, more – more butter, more options on the sideboard, more going crazy trying to make everything perfect. I’ve been trying to resist being caught in that trap this year and focus instead on less. Not less care, just redirecting my effort into singular dishes that make a meal feel special. If it can be made ahead leaving more time on Thanksgiving Day for watching parades, playing board games and hanging with my family; even better.

This Winter Greens Gratin fills the bill on all accounts, but I won’t lie – it does take a voluminous amount of fresh kale and mustard greens, like possibly all the kale in Brooklyn. It’s a little intimidating at first, but slowly the mountain is tamed down to a manageable amount and then stirred together with cream steeped with garlic and thyme. Thankfully (intentional pun alert!) ninety percent of the prep can be done a day or two ahead and then layered in a baking dish to find it’s way into the oven at the appropriate moment. Mischief managed.

Winter Greens Gratin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin (serves 8-10)

Ingredients:
3 pounds (2 large bunches) lacinato kale
2 1/2 pounds (2 medium bunches) mustard greens
Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided, plus 7 sprigs thyme
1 cup (2 large) thickly sliced shallots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus more for dish
2 cups half and half
7 garlic cloves, smashed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes.

Wash the kale and mustard greens carefully to remove any sand. Strip the leaves from the stalks and roughly chop in large pieces keeping the two types of greens separate.

Working in batches, drop 3-4 generous handfuls of the chopped kale into the boiling water. Use tongs to stir the leaves and cook for about 3 minutes. Transfer the kale with the tongs into the bowl of ice water and let cool for 1 minute. Remove the leaves from the ice water with your hands and squeeze as much water as possible from the leaves. Set aside on a cutting board, and repeat the process until all the kale is cooked.

Repeat the same process with all the mustard greens, cooking in the boiling water for 2 minutes per batch. Coarsely chop all the greens; you should have 6 cups tightly packed leaves. Discard the ice water and combine the kale and mustard greens in the bowl by loosening with your fingers. Set aside, or refrigerate in a food storage container.

Next prep the bread crumbs and cheeses in a mini food processor. Heat oil in a deep, 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crispy, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl allow to cool for a few minutes, then stir in Parmesan and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves. Set aside, or store in an airtight food storage container at room temperature.

***Greens and breadcrumbs can be made up to 2 days ahead.

To prepare the sauce, wipe out the skillet and melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer shallots to the bowl with greens.

Add half and half, garlic cloves, and thyme sprigs to same skillet; bring to a simmer. Cook until mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10-12 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and garlic cloves; stir in nutmeg. Season the mixture with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over greens in bowl and toss with a fork to evenly coat the greens and shallots in the cream.

Lightly butter a 3 quart baking dish and spread the greens mixture into the dish. Sprinkle with the grated Gruyère, then top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Cover the dish with foil.

***Gratin can be assembled 1 day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until filling is hot, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-20 minutes until cheese is melted, edges are bubbling, and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Garnish with the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves.

Lightly adapted and re-written from Bon Appétit’s Winter Greens Gratin.

Winter Greens Gratin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
A challenge to your small kitchen cooking skills, but doable if you clear the decks before starting. I used a large sauce pan, a deep sauté pan, a mini-food processor, two large bowls, a medium baking dish, and a large cutting board. A pair of tongs, measuring spoons, a chef’s knife, microplane grater, a rubber spatula, and foil will round out the kit. Food storage containers will make life easier and save the need for both bowls.

The Verdict:
Winter Greens Gratin blends the best of creamed spinach with the crisp topping and sharp tang of homemade mac and cheese. The proportion of greens to dairy is perfect and as a result the herbaceous flavor of the kale and mustard greens is highlighted, not masked by the garlic-y cream sauce and cheeses. The toasted breadcrumbs add a little crunch and texture. I made this as a contribution to a Friendsgiving dinner last weekend and the emptiness of the baking dish told the tale. No one will have to be reminded to eat their greens with this gratin on the table.

Winter Greens Gratin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Winter Greens Gratin | Image: Laura Messersmith


Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan | Image: Laura Messersmith

The particular ingredients of this salad are inspired by one we had at The Walrus and the Carpenter on our trip to Seattle last fall when Mike and I found ourselves duking it out over the last bites at dinner. I truly never thought I’d see the day when we would have to evenly divide up a salad to ensure equal opportunity – chocolate cake, maybe; leafy greens, no. I took some notes of the ingredients in my phone thinking I’d try to make it for us after we returned to New York.

Alas, after the great iphone meltdown of 2015 with all notepads lost I had to rely on my memory and my own personal preferences to recreate at least the spirit of that dish. Something lemony, something hearty, a little cheese, toasted nuts for crunch and here we are. A salad that inspires second helpings and can be made in advance. Even assembled this salad can stay in the refrigerator for a day or two.

To be honest, I was never a huge fan of kale in salads until I had a marinated kale salad. Game changer. With arugula or spinach, limiting the time the delicate leaves are in contact with the dressing is essential to prevent wilting. Marinating kale in an acidic dressing takes what is normally a drawback of traditional salads and turns it into a virtue – using the dressing to break down the fibrous leaves, infusing them with flavor, and leaving them perfectly tender, but still crisp.

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan | Image: Laura Messersmith

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash and Parmesan (serves 4)

Ingredients:
3 cups (1 bunch) lacinato kale ribbons (aka black or Tuscan kale)
1 medium delicata squash
2 ounces parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pistachios
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)
1/4 cup (2-3 lemons) lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Wash and dry the kale leaves before removing the tough central rib by running a chef’s knife along either side. Cut the kale leaves into ribbons by stacking 3-4 leaves and rolling vertically, end to end, into a cigar shape. Cut horizontally across the roll to create long strips.

Once all of the kale is prepared, whisk together the freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper for the marinade/dressing. Toss the kale ribbons with the dressing in a medium mixing bowl and set aside at room temperature for 2-3 hours or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, stir occasionally.

To prepare the squash, wash the exterior and cut a thin slice from the top and bottom to remove the stem. Slice the remaining squash horizontally into 1/3” wide rounds (no need to peel!) Scoop out the seeds and pulp from each ring with a spoon and place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes turning every 7-10 minutes to ensure even caramelization.

While the squash is roasting, grate the Parmesan cheese, and toast the pistachios in a dry pan over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Watch the pistachios carefully and stir occasionally to prevent them from burning.

Layer the marinated kale, roasted squash, toasted pistachios, pepitas, and parmesan. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Inspired by The Walrus and the Carpenter and adapted from the Marinated Kale Salad in A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson and Jess Thomson.

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I used a medium mixing bowl, chef’s knife, medium cutting board, and liquid measuring cup. I also needed a rimmed baking sheet, tongs, box grater, and small sauté pan in addition to a regular spoon, measuring cups and spoons. Aluminum foil will help with clean up.

The Verdict:
I took a batch of this kale salad along with us on a weekend trip when I didn’t know what the kitchen situation would be and wanted to have a few items prepped for on the fly meals. Mike and I had this for a lighter soup & salad lunch and it was perfect. Simultaneously hearty and light, great flavor, and came straight from the refrigerator onto our plates ready to go. The brightness of the lemon and salty parmesan balances nicely against the richer squash, pistachios and pepitas with the now-tender kale providing a crunchy backdrop. This is a great fall salad for entertaining or lazy weekends at home.

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Marinated Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash & Parmesan | Image: Laura Messersmith


Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Let’s be honest, we’re at kind of an awkward stage these days – everyone is dying for spring, meanwhile it’s still cold enough for hats and gloves. I’ll admit that I’m beginning to give my puffer coat the stink-eye as I put it on for the 150th day in a row and I’ve grown a bit tired of the heavier braises and stews that feel appropriate on crystal clear winter days. What’s a beleaguered northeasterner to do when winter refuses to give up and all I really want is to cast off the cocoon?

I have zero control over the temperature, but at least I can decide what comes out of the kitchen so I’ve begun transitioning our menus to lighter flavors like this Tuscan White Bean Soup. It fits all in one pot and serves the dual purpose of providing a warming meal and packing in lots of fresh veggies. Perfect on a cold early spring day!

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup (yield: 8 servings)

Ingredients:
3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 cup (1 medium) diced onion
2 cups (2 medium) large diced carrots
1 cup (2 stalks) large diced celery
2 teaspoons (2-3 cloves) garlic minced on a microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 sprigs rosemary
1 (3-4 inch) chunk parmesan rind (optional)
2 dried bay leaves
3 to 4 cups roughly chopped kale
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions:
Sauté the diced bacon in a large French oven over medium heat until crisp, remove from the pot to a paper towel lined plate. Add the olive oil, diced onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook for 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally until softened but not browned.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic very finely using a microplane grater so that it forms a paste. Add the garlic paste and red pepper flakes to the vegetables and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant and mellow.

Next, use a sieve to drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Strip the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary reserving the stems and finely mince the leaves. Remove the tough center ribs of the kale and roughly chop the leaves into large pieces.

Add the chicken broth, cannellini beans, rosemary stems, parmesan rind, and bay leaves to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to a bare simmer, add chopped kale, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the kale wilts.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary stems. Ladle 2 cups of soup into a blender or food processor and process at low speed until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and stir to combine. Taste and add kosher salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the soup with a sprinkle of the reserved chopped rosemary leaves, diced bacon, grated parmesan cheese, and a final drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. A slice or two of rustic bread won’t go amiss either.

Adapted from 30 Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt via Serious Eats

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used my trusty 5.5 quart Le Creuset French oven, a large cutting board, a chef’s knife, microplane grater, vegetable peeler, wooden spatula, sieve and measuring cups. If you want to add some creaminess to the soup, then a stick blender, food processor, etc. will be helpful as will a large spoon or ladle.

The Verdict:
This soup successfully navigates the tricky waters of balancing kale’s fresh green bitterness with the light, creamy cannellini beans. Rosemary and bay leaves offer depth and there’s just a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes and garlic. A bit of salt from the bacon (when did bacon ever hurt anything?) and parmesan round out the mix. A great transitional meal that comes together quickly! 

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith