Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Simple Salad -- When It's Too Hot To Cook

I know I've posted about it before, but here in Virginia it can get too hot to even think about turning on the stove or oven.  On those nights, I like to do a salad, but it has to be filling enough for my husband and pre-teen (I can't believe I have one of those already!) so they don't feel like they need to eat again an hour later, so making sure there is protein is key. Also, the kale and beans serve to really fill you up!

Here is a salad that hits all the right notes:

Trendy superfood (kale) -- check
Protein (tuna) -- check
Fiber (veggies and beans) -- check
Flavor (Dijon dressing and roasted red pepper) -- check

It's chewy, crunchy, creamy, and tangy, hitting even more of the tastes and textures that make eating enjoyable.  Also, to take a little of the chew and (sometimes) bitterness out of the kale, I have a little trick that you might find useful.  After ripping it into bite-sized pieces, I massage a little olive oil into the leaves and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for a few minutes.  It changes the texture just enough to make the leaves a little more tender -- no heat involved!

The tuna and the Dijon dressing reminds me of my student days when I studies in the South of France, so I will call it:

Provencal Tuna Salad

1 bunch kale
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1 can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar (6.7 oz) good quality tuna packed in olive oil (I got mine at the Fresh Market)
1 stalk celery, chopped into a small dice
1 roasted red pepper, chopped into a small dice

First, clean and pull the leafy part of the kale off the the stalk, discard the stalks (or save them -- I keep a bag in the freezer and put kale stalks, carrot peels, celery ends and such to make vegetable stock once the bag is full). Tear the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces, put in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Using your hands (cooking can get messy, my friends), rub the olive oil on to the leaves, kind of like giving the kale a massage. I'm not kidding.  After the oil has been (more or less) evenly distributed on the kale leaves, set the bowl aside while you put together the rest of the salad.

In a separate, medium-sized bowl, put the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, Dijon mustard and vinegar. Using a fork, whisk the dressing ingredients together until completely combined.  Taste, then add salt and/or pepper to your liking.

[TIP: for a general vinaigrette, the oil to acid ratio is about 3:1, but you can also adjust that ratio to your liking as well -- start with three parts oil to one part vinegar, combine and taste. If it's too acid or sharp tasting, add more oil.  If it's too oily, add a little more acid, which can be vinegar, lemon juice, etc.]

Then, just dump the rest of the ingredients (beans, tuna, chopped celery, chopped bell pepper) into the dressing and carefully combine.

To serve, put some kale in a bowl, then top with some of the tuna-bean mixture:

This makes 4-6 servings, depending on how hungry your family is.  I had enough kale left over to make kale chips and have some of the tuna-bean mixture for lunch the next day.  :-) Let me tell you, that even my picky eater liked some of this (he ate the tuna-bean mixture, but didn't like the red bell pepper). He probably would have eaten it if I had used raw bell pepper...and my oldest, who eats almost anything, ate all of his kale first.  I almost cried, I was so proud!

Which brings me to my next point -- this is a really flexible dish.  If you don't have roasted red bell pepper, then don't use it. Sub in an extra stalk of celery, or a raw bell pepper, red onion, whatever.  If you can't find tuna fillets packed in oil (I used Tonnino brand), then use regular tuna, but add a little bit more seasoning (herbes de provence would be good, or oregano). It's your salad; these are just guidelines.  Have fun with it!

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