Affäre: Fabulous Food and Gluten-Free Done Right

Recently, I wrote about getting gluten bombed at a local establishment well known for serving gluten-free items on their menu. Suffice it to say I’ve been pretty skittish about eating out anywhere since then. However, Mr. Kitchen Diva took me out on a date to a restaurant I’ve been hearing great things about and dying to try-  Affäre, located at 1911 Main Street. God bless him, he called ahead ask if they could work with a gluten issue and to make sure there would be safe items for me to eat, and when I arrived, this was waiting for me at our table. I cried a little..

Affare Menu

In advance of our arrival, our server had starred the items on the menu that are naturally gluten-free, and underlined menu items I would need to leave off so that a plate could be gluten-free. She also assured me that the folks in her kitchen were aware of my issue and that I would be safe in their hands. I cried a little more… (just kidding, but I was blown away by their care and concern, and their desire that I have a positive experience)

Affäre is one of a handful of German restaurants that have popped up in Kansas City in the last few years. I can’t speak to the others, because in my experience there’s not alot on a German menu that is naturally gluten-free, and so I haven’t bothered to check them out. Clearly, at least where Affäre is concerned, I was very wrong.

Chef Martin Heuser (who was incidentally nominated for a James Beard award for his outstanding work here in 2013), and his wife Katrin- who’s also a Sommelier, have created a delicious and innovative menu that is based not only on German tradition, but on sourcing local and seasonal produce. Their philosophy of supporting their local food economy as much as they can is one that resonates deeply with me. And for me as a consumer, there’s something very gratifying about eating at a local restaurant that is committed to serving local food.

IMG_1273

The ambience at Affäre is also right up my alley. Low backed booths interspersed with wooden chairs and small tables covered in heavy white linens provide intimacy in a room with an industrial feel- exposed brick and ductwork. There are also farmhouse style tables for larger parties. A number of local artists are featured on the walls, and while we were there Metropolis was playing on the TV behind the bar. My own aesthetic is very much vintage meets industrial, and I think they’ve struck a great balance. The juxtaposition they’ve created visually compliments what’s happening on the plate too- Vintage German meets Modern meets Local Food… For instance- Bison is prominent on the menu, and beautifully executed- whether as carpaccio with truffles, or as hanger steak with kartoffelplätzchen (potato cakes).

Since we are the adventurous type and there were so many delicious sounding options we couldn’t decide between, we opted to put ourselves in their hands and ordered the 4 course tasting menu,  adding paired wines. Every course was perfectly balanced and a delight to our senses. We especially loved the pickled butternut squash..I mean really- who thinks to pickle butternut? And yet when we tasted it, we wondered why everyone isn’t doing it. Brilliant.

Affäre also cures and smokes all their charcuterie- hams, bacon, sausages- you name it. If you’re in love with their bratwurst (we are) you can even purchase a pack of 5 (fully cooked) to take home and grill.

We enjoyed a perfectly prepared salmon with perhaps one of the most innovative sauces I’ve ever encountered: oyster-marzipan sauce… I really can’t even begin to describe the way the flavors unveiled themselves in my mouth… So good I wanted to lick the plate. Again, I kept thinking- HOW do people think this stuff up? And for the first time ever, I drank a German Pinot.

Duck & Quail Plate Affare

For me, wine pairing is the other half of what makes a great meal taste great. I love wine- but I love wine more with food. Recently, and for obvious reasons, I’ve spent most of my time learning French wines. I know next to nothing about German wines. Katrin introduced me to the wines of her favorite region in Germany, Bavaria to be exact- Franconia, where they’ve been making wines for over 1200 years, and a German red called Trölinger.

Affäre also has regular happy hour specials and no corkage Wednesday nights if you’d like to try your own hand at pairing a bottle. Frankly, I prefer to put myself in Katrin’s extremely capable and creative hands. Be sure to visit their website so you can ogle their beautiful food photography. My attempts at discreet photography don’t do their food justice.

Parking was also not an issue for us. I know many folks have been avoiding Downtown and the Crossroads because of the street car construction, but there’s a lot just a few doors down, and the parking instructions on Affäre’s site are very clear. Don’t let your aversion to a bit of construction deter you from an incredible dining experience.

I would like to thank Katrin and Martin and their outstanding staff. We had a beautiful experience and will be back as soon as we can for more!

 

Make Your Reservations: Justus Drugstore, Smithville, MO

Christopher Elbow Chocolate and Gruet Rose ChampagneMr. Kitchen Diva and I celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary last weekend. Which means we were also celebrating 15 years of no gluten (I got diagnosed with Celiac immediately after our honeymoon). Lots has changed since then- not only for us personally, but for the gluten free world.

Fifteen years ago, servers would look at me like I was from another planet when I asked if their sauces contained gluten. Now, most people are aware enough that if they don’t know themselves, they can at least go check with the chef. But- eating out is still tricky. Possibility for cross contamination is a real risk- even in the finest establishments. And- when your date is planning a fancy dinner- advance calls and questions are just part of the package. Which brings me to Justus Drugstore, just north of Kansas City in Smithville, MO.

I started hearing about Justus from fellow foodies a handful of years ago, but had never had the opportunity to go. We typically stay closer to home when we dine out, and Smithville- although only 18 minutes North of the Broadway Bridge- seems like Minnesota. After 15 years of marriage I’ve apparently turned into a homebody!

But last week, to celebrate, we made the journey. Not only was it a journey worth making, I’ll happily go back as soon as I can. I would easily rank my experience last week in the top 5 if not top 3 best meals of my life. Why?

Justus DrugstoreJustus Drugstore Interior

Justus Drugstore is a unique mix of haute cuisine and casual, come as you are dining. The juxtaposition of formal and informal is right up my alley, because that’s what’s important at our house. Good food is a must, shined shoes- not so much. We were dressed up for the occasion, but there were families in shorts and flip-flops, and folks stopping by the bar for a round on their way home from work. I absolutely LOVED the welcoming friendly atmosphere.

The bar is filled with bottles and jars of homemade infusions, and vases filled with freshly gathered herbs. And while I watched the bartender work, I was reminded of an old-time apothecary crafting the perfect recipe for his patients.

The kitchen is also open- there are no mysteries about the magic made in Chef Jonathan Justus’ kitchen- although it is magic. As a passionate cook myself, I felt like I had the best view in the house, watching the sous fire 3 pans at once, taste and adjust, while another person in the back broke down fresh rabbit.. I could have watched all night.

The Food

amuse buche justus drugstoreLeft me utterly speechless. Giggly, actually. When was the last time food made you giggly?? As in best sex in your life giggly?

From the amuse buche of egg salad with seabass, broccoli and a pinch of cayenne & paprika, to the bacon wrapped chicken livers, or the arugula salad with bleu cheese ice-cream– it has been years since I have enjoyed food this delicious, this playful, this imaginative… I mean really- who dreams up bleu cheese ice-cream??? And the rabbit…most rabbit I’ve had in my life is a bit on the gamey side and a little stringy. Not this- it melted in your mouth. Seriously, melted. What can I say?

Better still, the food is local. It represents the best of what I love about living in Kansas City. Three farms fully support the restaurant, in addition to an array of other local growers. And- this is the best part- they also harvest wild food- be they mushrooms, asparagus, or greens. You will not find food like this anywhere else- because no where else is quite like here.

bleu cheese ice creamI also loved the suggested pairings that accompanied each selection. They were spot on and the two together enhanced the experience of both food and wine. My only suggestion might be to offer a flight of 3-4 smaller pours for people who love to experience wine and food pairings.

Chef Jonathan stopped by our table for a brief chat, and I immediately felt like we were kindred spirits when it came to food philosophy and creativity: For him- it’s all about respect. Respect for the life of the animals, respect for the butchery process, respect for the growing and the harvest- respect for the land. This shines through in his cooking- but not in a pretentious or precious way. It’s down to earth, yet wildly imaginative. I love it. It’s the kind of place you can visit again and again, and still be surprised by something new each time you visit. You can also enjoy some of Chef Jonathan’s artwork which adorns the walls of the restaurant!

Gluten Free

Chef Jonathan’s menu is very much influenced by the time he spent in Southern France. Because of this, there’s plenty on the menu that is naturally gluten-free. And while substitutions are not possible they know their ingredients and preparation processes, and are very willing to leave something off the menu if you are concerned. For me- that meant leaving a few items off that had been fried. At this point there is only one dedicated fryer, and I so I opted to not risk possible cross contamination. It did not diminish my experience in the least.

Make Your Reservations

Wednesday – Thursday 5:30pm to 10pm,
Friday and Saturday 5:30pm to 11pm,
Sunday 5:30pm to 9pm
Phone: 816-532-2300

106 West Main Street
Smithville, MO 64089

 

Parsleyed Potatoes

Bonjour! It is SO nice to be back writing again! My deepest and sincerest thanks to  all of you who have sent me notes of encouragement over the last 11 (yikes!) months. For those of you who are new readers, or who have wondered why I dropped off the face of the earth last summer, here’s a little re-cap:

Last year I embarked on the most rewarding and challenging adventure of my life- homeschooling my two beautiful daughters. After a year, we’ve all agreed it’s been the best thing we’ve ever done as a family; but the Kitchen Divas in Training were not the only ones to learn. I learned too…. a lot! I’ve had the hardest lesson ever in the realization that I cannot do it all. I’ve had to prioritize, take on, let go of, develop a sense of humor about, look the other way, worry about, and not worry about pretty much every aspect of my life.

Through it all, food has been the constant. We’re obviously still eating. And quite well, I might add. It was this realization that led me back to writing again: I cannot be the only Gluten-Free Food obsessed foodie who struggles with balancing all the demands of parenting, self-care, house-care, significant other-care, career-care (whatever that looks like), with food discovery, styling, photography and recipe development.  However, just looking at that list gives me an anxiety attack!

And so, for the last 11 months, I have ruminated, struggled, and made some significant changes:

  • Recipe development, which I love, pretty much flew out the window. Most of my creative time and energy now goes into teaching, although I do have the occasional flash of creative kitchen inspiration.
  • Food styling- I no longer have time for hours of styling and photo editing. I want to get a big flood light for my kitchen- light boxes and I do not do well.
  • The crock-pot and leftovers have become my best friends.
  • The Kitchen Divas in Training, and my awesome husband have cooked more this year, and come up with some delicious originals on their own.
  • We have eaten more simply, using herbs and spices over techniques, and eaten more locally/seasonally than ever.

I think, in my efforts to maintain a creative and original blog- and because I had lots of time on my hands, I’d forgotten that many folks eat simply prepared fare as a matter of necessity. Simple food in no way equals ‘blah’ food, and in fact, it is often the simplest preparations that highlight the inherent beauty and flavor of the food presented.

So, moving forward, most of the recipes featured here will be simple, delicious, easy to prepare, and ideal for families who, like us, find themselves scrambling for dinner at 6:30pm. I also plan to highlight many of the wonderful new gluten-free eating opportunities that have sprung up around Kansas City, and in other areas across the Continent as we travel regionally and nationally in the coming months.

I’d like to claim I’ll be regular about blogging- but I refuse to make an empty promise. However,  I will state it’s my goal to post something at least monthly, if not more frequently. For now, it’s good to be back. Please do stop by and say hello, or share what easy fare is simmering on your stove-top or growing in your garden. Life is a celebration and meant to be enjoyed around a table!

Easy Asparagus & Spring Parsleyed Potatoes

Spring arrived early here in Kansas City, after a non-existent winter. The farmer’s markets never closed this year, and thanks to the hoop houses, we’re already seeing early summer fare . My May and June flowers started blooming before Easter, and we’ve already had one 90-degree day! We even pulled out the patio furniture in March this year- a first. Easter took me by surprise this year. The week before Easter was filled with filming a music video for my daughter’s robotics team (more to come on that front!), planning a surprise party for my husband (more to come on that front too!) and a multitude of Holy Week rehearsals and services to sing.

By the time I staggered home after my last service on Easter Sunday, I was greeted with a mimosa and the smell of locally raised and cured ham in the oven!  While the ham was finishing, we whipped up a batch of asparagus, and spring potatoes with parsley- all locally grown, and a fabulous al-fresco Easter feast was borne in less than 30 minutes!

Easy Asparagus

This new way of cooking asparagus happened quite by accident several weeks ago when I turned on the burner, but forgot to watch the heat in the pan, and made it too hot. I threw in the butter which sizzled and browned, tossed in the asparagus, covered it,  and immediately pulled it off the heat. I shook the pan a few times to coat the asparagus, and when we were ready to eat, discovered perfectly cooked, al-dente asparagus inside! Yes, necessity is the mother of invention!

Directions:

Slice (or snap) the woody ends of 1 or 2 bunches of asparagus, and set aside. Place a medium saute pan that has a lid on a burner and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is good and hot, add 2 tbs butter and one tbs extra virgin olive oil –this is not an exact science- just add a blob of butter that is sized to your liking, and a swish of olive oil. The olive oil helps prevent the butter from burning.

Add the asparagus, cover and turn off the burner. Shake the pan vigorously to help coat the asparagus. Remove the pan from the burner after 2-3 minutes.If you have a gas burner, you can leave the pan in its place.When you are ready to eat, plate the asparagus and season with truffle salt, fleur de sel, lemon pepper, or a squeeze of lemon.

Spring Parsleyed Potatoes

These aren’t really mashed potatoes, they are more rustic, and some of the pieces are larger. The point is to taste the fresh flavor of the new potatoes and the parsley, not to drown them in butter and salt.

1-2 lbs small new potatoes (usually about 12-16) 

1 cup chopped parsley – more or less if you prefer

2 tbs butter- or more to taste

salt to taste

Directions

Boil potatoes until the skins split-about 20 minutes. Drain, remove to a bowl. Break the potatoes apart with a large fork. Add parsley and stir to incorporate. Add butter. Season with your favorite salt. We used truffle salt.

Baked Zucchini (gluten free)

When I was a little girl, I always looked forward to August. Not for the obvious return to school, but for the zucchini harvest. In my house that meant days of shredding and freezing zucchini, treats like zucchini cookies (mmm- I may have to work on a gf version of those!) zucchini bread, and of course, baked zucchini.

Baked stuffed zucchini was a favorite meal only reserved for those ‘clunkers’ which invariably hid under a large leaf and got away from us. In fact, I actually made baked zucchini the night my husband proposed to me…. I think it was the zucchini that put him over the top! Or maybe the opera music we had playing…

This recipe takes the idea of stuffed baked zucchini and simplifies it- you get all the delicious flavors, but it takes 1/2 as long. My kind of cooking. It’s also good with eggplant. Next time you’re at your local farmer’s market or CSA pick-up, grab some of those great summer veggies and enjoy!

Baked Zucchini & Tomato Cilantro Quinoa

serves 4- depending on the size of the zucchini

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini

1 small jar of tomato sauce- your choice of flavor

1 cup shredded parmesan (any cheese will do if you’re in a pinch)

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

1/2 red onion

1-2 chopped tomatoes

4 tbs freshly chopped cilantro

1 lime

1 tsp sugar

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the zucchini in 1/2 lengthwise, then widthwise so that you have 4 long sections that are flat on one side and rounded (skin side) on the other. Lightly brush with olive oil and place in an oven proof dish. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and place in a small bowl. Add the sugar and juice from 1/2 the lime. Stir and let sit. The onion should be mostly covered by the lime juice. Use the rest of the lime if you need. The combination of sugar and acid is working to ‘pickle’ the onion.

Place quinoa and water in a pan on the stove. Turn heat to medium and cover. When the lid jiggles- just as the water starts to boil- turn the heat down to low and leave covered. Quinoa will be ready in about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered.

After the zucchini has cooked for 30 minutes, remove from the oven. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Pour tomato sauce over the zucchini pieces and cover with cheese. Return to the oven and bake until cheese is bubbly- about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop tomatoes and cilantro and add to the quinoa. Toss, then add the onion. Toss again. Serve next to the zucchini. For a complete vegetarian meal, serve with 6 1/2 minute kale.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

Well, there it is folks….my one tomato…. I fancy myself a gardener, but in reality- at least at this point in my life- I’m a fantasy farmer. Thank God for Farmer Jill and my local farmer’s market. At one point in my life, I was a fairly successful vegetable gardener. I could routinely grow bumper crops of all those summer favorites: cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, zucchini- you name it- I could grow it. Of course, that was when I was young, single, and living in a temperate climate. Not this midwest craziness where you have 6 weeks of cool, followed by 8 weeks of unbearable….Maybe that’s my problem- I am simply a fair weather gardener.

I still plant a few tomatoes every year- so my children understand and respect the effort it takes to produce food. And this lovely- if you can even call it that- was my one success. I planted 2 bushes, watered faithfully, watched the blooms….and then no fruit. It’s not the first time it’s happened. Chalk it up to soil, blight, I don’t know…. I did however, enjoy my one luscious orb with a little fresh pesto and mozzarella. Delicious. Keep it simple- let the flavors of those beautiful tomatoes- wherever they come from- shine through. Mine was an heirloom brandywine. While I may not have success with tomatoes- I can still cultivate a mean basil plant. It’s almost basil harvest time, which means lots of pesto making and freezing for a little taste of summer all winter… Enjoy your summer harvest- more harvest recipes to come!

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Beets with Honey and Orange

Beets scream for honey, citrus and mint. They work well with fennel, with potatoes, in salads in the summer. And they love, love, love being paired with carrots. My favorite combination, beets with honey and orange, makes for a zesty, sweet side dish that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.

With the right care and preparation the natural sweetness of beets and their gorgeous color can eclipse any poor feelings about their taste. And, isn’t that just the most beautiful color nature has ever created?  I personally, am in love with the color of beets, and their earthy taste has grown on me over time. My husband and children still cringe when they see beets on the table, mostly because they associate beets with dirt.

But this simple preparation is sure to be a hit at your table- it will do away with any idea that beets taste like dirt and therefore need to be overlooked.

And, if you’re feeling a little bit sassy- add a tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice to the leftover liquid and color your next batch of hard-boiled eggs hot-pink! It’s OK- it doesn’t have to be Easter to enjoy pretty colored eggs- do it for the pure whimsy and fun of it- we could all use an extra smile these days!

Easy Beets with Honey and Orange

4 servings as a side dish

Ingredients

2 cups beets, scrubbed & chopped into small sections

juice from 1/2 an orange

2 tbs honey

4 tbs fresh mint, finely diced

Directions

Scrubb and chop beets into bite-sized pieces. Place in a small pan and add the honey and orange juice. Cook on low heat until beets are soft- about 20 minutes. Add chopped mint and stir, combining thoroughly. Serve.

For coloring eggs: reserve the cooking juice, add 1 tbs cider vinegar or lemon juice. Add hardboiled eggs and leave in to desired color- the longer the egg rests in the color the darker it will be.

Gluten Free Popcorn Okra

Gluten free popcorn okra is a great crunchy summer snack, and a great way to use up all the okra you may get in a summer CSA bag. These cute little disks remind me of popcorn shrimp, and they’re just as addictive.

The first time I ever cooked okra was last summer when I received a bag in my CSA share from Farmer Jill. I knew they appeared in gumbo, but since I grew up out west where we don’t eat food like okra, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Enter my friend Georgeann, who is a great cook, and a native of these parts. She said that gluten free popcorn okra  is her husband’s favorite, and it has certainly become one of ours. Seriously, you can’t eat just one. Besides, they just look cute!

Georgeann recommends pan-frying, but I deep-fried these- really it’s up to you. The recipe is very simple, and doesn’t even require a binder- the gooey insides (mucilage in botany lingo) hold the cornmeal just fine. If you’re feeling ambitious, try stirring the disks in a few eggs and see how it goes. This works well as a snack, or as an accompaniment to a burger. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Popcorn Okra

serves 4 as a small side, or 1 person on a snacking rampage

Ingredients

1/2 lb okra

2 cups cornmeal, cornflour, or masa harina

1/2-1 lb vegetable shortening

salt (to taste)

chipotle seasoning or cayenne pepper (to taste)

Directions

Scrub the okra and remove the tops. Chop into disks about 1/3 inch wide. Set aside. Place cornmeal in a wide shallow bowl or large plate with a little lip. Place shortening in saute pan or cast iron fryer, and turn burner to medium.

If you’re pan frying, use 3-4 tbs to start and add more as you need it. The okra does absorb a lot of shortening, so you will have to add more as you cook. If you’re deep-frying, add enough shortening to make 1 1/2-2 inches in the pan, and heat until oil is 350 degrees.

When the pan is ready, take a large spoonful of the okra and place it in the cornmeal. Stir the pieces around until they are evenly coated. You could also use the paper-bag-shakey-bakey trick here by placing the cornmeal in a bag, placing all the okra in the bag, shaking vigorously, and then pouring everything out onto a wire cooling rack- allowing the extra cornmeal to fall between the wires.

Fry until golden brown- about 3-4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel and drain. Season with a little salt, and a little spice. We like chipotle seasoning or a little bit of cayenne to give them an extra ‘pop’. Experiment with your own seasoning, and see what excites you! Happy Eating!

Sautéed Kale – only 6 1/2 minutes!

Seriously, this sautéed kale only takes 6 1/2 minutes!! Kale is one of my favorite greens, packed with more calcium than broccoli, rich in iron, fiber, vitamins A,C, & K, not to mention those amazing anti-cancer agents, it’s considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense veggies on the planet. And it tastes good too!

While kale is typically a cool-weather plant, newer varieties make it possible to grow virtually year-round. In the winter, I buy kale and put it fresh in the bottom of my soup bowl as a way to sneak in a little fresh greens. This time of year when it shows up in my CSA bag, I add it to burgers or sauté it as in this easy recipe that literally only takes 6 1/2 minutes. The thing to remember when sautéing kale is to turn off the heat as soon as it turns brilliant green. It may seem too soon, but the heat of the pan will continue cooking it. If you wait until it’s done, then you will have cooked the best nutrients and taste right out of it. And, heaven forbid you don’t like kale, this preparation would work with any green- mustard, spinach, collards, even that funky hon-tsai-tai. Super-quick, super-delicious!

6 1/2 Minute Kale

serves 4 as a side dish- if you like kale and want seconds, then double the recipe! We do.

Ingredients

3 tbs bacon fat (extra-virgin olive oil or butter will work too)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch of Kale (4-5 leaves) diced- this should equal about 4 cups uncooked

1 small tomato, or 1/2 large tomato diced

2 tbs champagne vinegar (red wine vinegar would also work- just don’t use a heavy vinegar like balsamic)

pinch of fleur de sel (regular sea salt will also work)

Directions

In a large sauté pan, place the bacon fat and turn the burner to medium. While the fat is warming, quickly peel and dice garlic. When the pan is warm, add the garlic and quickly chop the kale. When the garlic has softened and become fragrant, about 1 minute (do not let the garlic turn brown- this will make it bitter), add the kale. Stir gently, moving the pieces around the sauté pan so that the pieces heat evenly. As soon as the kale turns bright green, about 2 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Add the chopped tomato and vinegar and gently combine. Sprinkle the salt to taste and serve. See- told you it didn’t take long!

Purple Potato Salad

This purple potato salad satisfies my love of colorful food. I’m obsessed with colorful food. Why have a regular colored food item when you can have an exotically colored one? Think blood oranges, chocolate peppers, blue corn, green eggs and ham, purple potatoes….you get the idea…

My favorite potatoes ever are these little purple guys- they are indigo on the inside and royal purple on the outside. My locally grown variety is called “Inca Blue”. Potatoes are a New World food. They are native to South America, and come in over 100 varieties. A far cry from that Idaho Russet you’re used to seeing in the grocery aisle. Not that Idaho or Russets are bad- I actually love both…but there’s something so..cute about a purple potato. And whimsical…and when you mash them- they are really fun to eat- right out of a Dr. Seuss story! So when I saw these purple baby potatoes at my farmer’s market the other week, they were too cute to resist.

We created this salad for our annual 4th of July foodie picnic and backyard barbeque. The combination of bacon, potatoes, kale, mustard, mayo, & chives, makes this salad easy to prepare and delicious to eat. Typically kale isn’t an ingredient in potato salad, but we love the flavor and color it adds, as well as the nutrient value. Typically, there’s not much nutrition happening in a potato salad, so by adding kale, you can sneak something healthy onto your picnic table. And the taste? No worries there,  I’ve never seen potato salad disappear so fast.

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3 Ways to Prepare Napa Cabbage

This gorgeous specimen was sitting on the table at my CSA pickup this last week. It was so beautiful I just had to grab it. At first glance it looks like romaine lettuce, but it’s actually chinese cabbage. Once you peel away the outer layers the stalks get whiter, leaving a ruffled edge of brilliant green at the top. It has a faintly cabbage-y taste, but in my estimation, it’s far too delicate and lovely to be resigned to coleslaw. This green needs to be lifted up and its slightly bitter flavor complimented by fruits, acid, mint and aromatics. We enjoyed three distinctive and delicious salads from this one head. Each version serves 4-6 people and makes for a refreshing meal on a hot day. Bring on the summer!

Cabbage Salad: Version 1, Raspberries, Goat cheese & Toasted Pecans

 

Ingredients

4 cups julienned cabbage (about 7 large leaves)

2 pts fresh organic raspberries, about 3 cups

1 cup crushed pecans, toasted

4 oz goat cheese

Dressing

1/3 cup mint, chopped finely

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

2 tsp agave nectar

3 tbs olive oil (optional)

Directions

Place crushed pecans on a cookie sheet and lightly toast at 350 for 10 minutes, or until you start to smell the nuts. We did this in our toaster oven and it worked beautifully.

Meanwhile, julienne (slice in thin strips) cabbage leaves until you have approximately 4 cups. Place leaves in the serving bowl.

Place lime juice (preferably squeezed fresh) in a small bowl or 2 cup liquid measuring cup. Finely chop the mint, add to the lime juice and whisk vigorously. Add agave nectar and keep whisking. If you want to make a thicker dressing, drizzle 3 tbs of olive oil into the mixture while whisking vigorously. This is optional- we enjoyed the dressing both ways this past week.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage leaves and toss. Add the toasted pecans to the bowl, crumble the goat cheese into the bowl and top with fresh raspberries. I recommend organic because raspberries, like strawberries, tend to be a fruit that contains numerous traces of pesticides. I personally don’t want that yucky stuff in my body, so I always get organic. For a prettier presentation, plate individually or toss at the table.

Cabbage Salad: Version 2, Raspberries, Blueberries and Mint Dressing

 

Ingredients

4 cups julienned cabbage leaves

1 pt fresh organic raspberries

1 pt fresh organic blueberries

Dressing (Compliments of Auntie Alex!)

1/2 cup finely chopped mint

4 tbs fresh lime juice

2 tbs red wine vinegar

2 tbs scallions (green parts only)

1 tbs finely chopped basil

3 tbs olive oil

Directions

Julienne cabbage and place in a bowl with the raspberries and blueberries. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients vigorously until thoroughly emulsified. Pour over the cabbage and toss until all the leaves are coated.

Cabbage Salad: Version 3, Shrimp, Mango and Jalapeño

Ingredients          

4-6 cups julienned cabbage (figure on 1 cup per person)

1 lb cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp

1 mango, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped (seeded if you want it milder- the seeds have the heat)

8 oz tomato, chopped (about 2 cups)

1/4 lime (for squeezing)

sprinkle of lemon pepper seasoning

Dressing

1/2 cup mint, finely chopped

1/2 cup lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

 

Julienne the cabbage leaves and place in a serving bowl. Make the dressing by adding freshly chopped mint to lime juice and whisking. While still whisking, drizzle in olive oil until mixture has thickened slightly. Pour half of the mixture over the cabbage. Toss the cabbage to coat with the dressing and set aside.

In a separate bowl add the shrimp, garlic, jalapeño and toss gently. Squeeze the lime over the mixture and gently toss again. Add chopped tomato and give another gentle stir. Peel and chop the mango. I learned to peel and eat mangoes from my grandparents who lived in southeast asia for 20 years. If you’ve never peeled a mango, follow this link for a quick how-to: http://www.mango.org/en/about-mangos/how-to-cut-a-mango.aspx

Add the diced mango and toss gently. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so that the flavors have a chance to marry. When you’re ready to serve, make a circle (like a donut hole) in the center of your cabbage and place the shrimp mixture in the center. Pour the remaining dressing over the shrimp mixture, sprinkle a little lemon pepper over the bowl, and serve.

May these flavor combinations inspire you to experiment with what’s in your kitchen! Happy Adventuring!