Honey Balsamic, Kale & Sirloin Salad

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We decorated her hair with kale and magnolia blossoms outside Shari’s restaurant on a lovely spring day, a group of barely teenage 4-H girls, excited to be traveling, and poking fun at a friend with the restaurant’s “plate decor.”  That moment, in the late 90’s, I learned about kale.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and the sounds of elementary kids in a school cafeteria during summer camp overtakes me.  I walk in the breezy doors and set down my supplies.  My co-workers are already mid-spiel, whipping up banana, almond milk, blueberry, and kale smoothies.  “Hulk smoothies”, all the young minds call them, and they have never been so excited to eat their greens.  “We love Hulk smoothies,” they clamor.

My husband, W, asking me, what is that big green stuff?  “Kale”, I say, “all the kids love it.”  Skeptical, but open to what he now knows is more likely tasty than not, he tries it.  “If restaurants would make these sort of salads,” he says, “more people would eat them.”  I couldn’t agree more.

In the past year and a half, we’ve gone from just knowing about kale– that there was some hype in that area of the vegetable world– to eating it all the time.  Growing it on the patio, even.  Growing it at school, where even the high school students like the idea of crunchy spinach, as they have nicknamed it.

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While we love kale in pasta, this salad, with honey and balsamic vinegar, raisins, and grilled sirloin, is perfect for this January season, when after the holidays we crave both fresh and clean, comforting and filling.  Even more so if tossed in with a bit of caramelized onion, this salad accomplishes both.

Honey Balsamic Kale & Sirloin Salad, adapted from Bon Appetit 
1 Tbs. raisins
4 Tbs. white or dark balsamic vinegar, divided
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. raw honey
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 bunch Kale, preferable Tuscan, center ribs removed, and leaves diced
8-12 ounces sirloin steak
caramelized onions, if desired
  • Place raisins in a small bowl; drizzle 2 Tbs. balsamic over them and let them soak while you’re prepping the kale.
  • Whisk remaining 2 Tbs. balsamic, rice vinegar, honey, oil and salt in a large serving bowl.
  • Add kale and raisin mixture to bowl.  Toss to coat, and let marinate for 20-30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, as needed.
  • Season steak with salt and pepper, and grill until cooked to desired doneness.  Let settle for a few minutes, and then slice into long strips.
  • Dish kale onto plates, and add steak to the top.  Toss with caramelized onions, if using and serve.

Summer Slowness- and SimpleTaco Salad Bar

 

Growing up, I always thought of summer in terms of its slowness.  Sure there were the numerable fairs, 4-H meetings and camps, and horse shows.  But what I thought of summer were the long stretches of hours and days in between. These implied camping with the grandparents, playing barbie and build-a-fort with the neighbor children, having a chance to “catch up” with the television, and having hours to while away the time with a good book.  Summer implied stress-free, no obligations, fun.

For me, this is the first summer of having a “real-job” out of school. Disappointingly, despite the frequent Saturday trips to the beach or to visit home and old friends, or the impromptu beer and pizza nights or barbecue and backyard fire pit nights with friends, summer has lost its slowness.  Gone are the glory hours in between, where the ultimate result of deep thinking was to have intelligent conversations.

Now summer seems to want a juxtaposition with adult obligations–as all we truly desire is to have those lost hours back.  As I consider this; as I steal back a few lost hours of summer,  I’m left wondering if those times ever really left?  Or if those hours in between are still there, waiting to be used?

 
 

In my recent use of those lost summer hours, I theorized that the best taco salad needs the right dressing–a hint of spicy, infused with lime and a bit of sweet.  After experimenting a few times, I gained the perfect combination of cumin and paprika, honey, and lime, tamed with a small dab of cool yogurt.  Armed with this new dressing as the final accompaniment, this simple taco salad bar truly delivers.

 
 
Taco Salad
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 Tbs. cilantro
3 scallion tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup corn
4-5 cups spinach mixture
beef taco filling (see below)
dressing of honey, cumin, and lime (see below)
tortilla chips
lime wedges
  • Prepare beef taco filling and salad dressing.
  • Assemble each ingredient in individual jars and serve as a taco salad bar.
  • Enjoy summer.  And its slowness!
 
Dressing of Honey, Cumin, and Lime 
1 Tbs. honey
juice from half a lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
1 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, and pour or spoon over prepared salad.
 
Beef taco filling, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tbs. chili powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. coriander
1 Tbs. diced fresh oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until softened and golden.
  • Add spices and salt; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant.
  • Add ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up into small pieces.
  • Add chicken broth, tomato paste, and vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes.  About halfway through, add sliced scallions and stir in.