I had a WOAH moment the other day that has me slightly laughing at my current situation. I was trying to brainstorm recipes for this year’s Thanksgiving, i.e. blending sauces, roasting vegetables, and making way too many gratins and things flavored with sage. There I was, standing in the kitchen looking at all of my Thanksgiving dishes either completed, half done, or still in the early stages, and thinking I really don’t want to eat any of this food. I asked myself what kind of Thanksgiving food I would like to eat, and it was none. What did this new realization mean? Had I always disliked Thanksgiving food? Was it only the nostalgia that has kept me going all of these years? I thought back to what I enjoyed about previous holiday dinners, realizing all I did was load up on veggies and save room for several slices of pie (priorities). Basically this holiday is the kickoff for Christmas season, was that maybe what got me excited all of these years? Maybe it will pass, maybe I will fall in love with a bite of some unknown holiday dish in the future that will rekindle my love for T-Day food. But for now all I want is a plate of tamales or a really good veggie burger or something. Now to the situation that has me laughing, I am (for the first time ever) hosting Thanksgiving this year.
Dramatic introduction aside, it is really only my mom and dad who are driving out from Phoenix to our home here in Costa Mesa for Thanksgiving. Plus Scott and I, that makes it a pretty easy four mouths to feed – which I’m grateful for on my first attempt to host something other than a casual soup and bread dinner party. Scott isn’t a huge fan of Thanksgiving food either, and my parents are really laid back, so I have those two things thankfully working in my favor. But that still leaves me with what do I make? What would you recommend to someone who doesn’t want any stuffing, cranberry sauce, or overcooked vegetables on the table? Please leave notes with recommendations if you have any, otherwise we may end up making pizza. Which wouldn’t be entirely terrible. (Don’t worry mom and dad, if you’re reading this, we won’t have pizza.)
One dish that might be able to hang at the table would be this salad, but I plan on eating it every day from now until next Thursday ;) so I may need a break. I dove head first into bowls of hot food the second the temps dipped below seventy five degrees last month, and have been missing by summer-veggie-laden bowls of greens. So I decided to hunt for a combination that would have me feeling cozy and fall-y while still resembling a nice big green salad. Torn curly kale leaves that have been lightly steamed and tossed with quinoa form the base of this recipe. I added chopped almonds for crunch, and tart dried cherries for some sweetness and tang. The apple cider tempeh is my new favorite to make in a big batch and keep in the fridge for adding to salads, sandwiches, and veggie bowls during the week. Total fall vibes with it’s sweet and tart apple marinade. I didn’t want to create a dressing that would take away from or burry the flavors of these ingredients too much, and almost told you to just drizzle the dish in olive oil and lemon juice (which still wouldn’t be terrible). But I felt like something a little more sweet and spiced would help bring out a lot of the flavor in the tempeh and dried cherries. I even think the nutty chopped almonds benefit from it a bit too! Cinnamon. It’s heat and spice bring this entire dish together.
I hope if any of you are in salad ruts as well that this recipe brings you some variety and inspiration. I love eating it freshly prepped, while still warm, but equally love it cold out of the fridge the following day for an easy lunch too. So now tell me, what are you all planning on making for Thanksgiving? Or eating ;) maybe you aren’t the one cooking! Either way, I’d love to hear. And if you have any tips for my aforementioned issue above, I (and Scott, and my parents) would be so grateful!
One more week until it’s socially appropriate to blair “Deck the Halls” all day long and wear oddly decorated fuzzy socks and put chocolate and peppermint in everything! Eeeee! -xx
CRUNCHY KALE & QUINOA SALAD W/ APPLE CIDER TEMPEH & CINNAMON VINAIGRETTE
Makes 2 salad servings, with extra tempeh.
1 large bunch of curly kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 tablespoons raw almonds
3 tablespoons tart dried cherries, unsweetened
1 8-ounce block of plain tempeh
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons peppery olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt & pepper
Prepare the tempeh: Slice the block of tempeh into quarters. Then slice those quarters in half width-wise, and then into triangles (there should be 16 triangles total). Place in a single layer in a ceramic/glass baking dish (oven safe). Whisk the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and dijon mustard together in bowl. Pour over the tempeh and let marinate for 30 minutes, flipping the tempeh halfway through.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly sprinkle the top of the tempeh with sea salt and place the dish of tempeh in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the marinade has been fully absorbed. Set aside to cool slightly before plating, and store fully cooled leftover tempeh in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to four days.
Prepare the dressing: Combine all of the dressing ingredients, except for the salt and pepper, in a small jar. Seal shut and shake until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside (can be made in advance and refrigerated).
Prepare the salad: Tear the curly leaves from the stalks of kale, making sure to tear them into bite size pieces. Compost the thick stems. Place the leaves in a steamer basket in a pot on the stove, filled with a half inch of water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and steam for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot immediately and place in a large bowl for tossing the salad. Add the cooked quinoa (can be cold from the fridge, prepped ahead of time). Finely chop the almonds, and roughly chop the dried cherries. Add these to the bowl as well, and get your dressing jar handy.
Using your hands, toss the salad together. Drizzle the dressing on top, and toss again with your hands until everything is evenly coated. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Toss one last time, and (still using your hands) scoop even amounts of the salad into two bowls. Top with a few triangles of the apple cider tempeh, and any extra chopped almonds and cherries if you’d like. Serve right away.
Note: If storing one of the salads for later, place in an airtight glass container in the fridge and enjoy the following day. A half an avocado on top of the chilled version isn’t half bad either.
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