kale salad with lemon-tahini dressing

I know everyone and their mothers love kale. It's so good for you (truth) and it's so versatile (truth) and it's easy to prepare (half-truth).

But I really hated kale for awhile. I hated how chewy it was. I hated cutting the leaves off their stems, or buying the pre-cut kind and still having to deal with tons of stems anyway. I hated how long kale took to wilt while sauteing. I just hated how high-maintenance and presumptuous it was. Like 

oh hey I'm kale and I'm one of the best possible things you could feed yourself and I'm green and green is good and look at me now...look at me now...

I was getting a farm-fresh-to-you box for a month or two, and I got kale every single week. And every single week I would have high hopes for redeeming this leafy green and doing something creative with it, and every week I would end up throwing it out. It would sit in the back of my fridge, waiting to be used, waiting to be loved, but I would neglect it and neglect it and neglect it until it couldn't be neglected no mo'.

Then I went to dinner with friends + boyfriend on a Saturday night, and the place we went to specialized in their 50/50 burger...half of the patty was beef, half of the patty was bacon. (I know everyone and their mothers also love bacon, I am just not one of those people). So besides wanting to vomit, I felt helpless.

I browsed the menu for awhile, nervous I'd have to order something that would make me feel sick, and then I saw it:

kale salad with lemon-tahini dressing.

Kale was suddenly my best friend and saving grace and there was no way I would turn my back on her now.

The verdict was pretty clear after that; I had been wrong, kale had been right, and it was time to give our strained relationship some much-needed TLC.

I started craving the salad I ate that night, and decided I should recreate it plus add a whole bunch of stuff it didn't have. The original salad was very simple: kale, chopped parsely, and the lemon-tahini dressing. If I'm going to eat salad as a meal, it better fill me up, so I added chicken, herbed quinoa, chickpeas (protein on protein on protein, am I right), plus some shallots for a little zing.

And let me tell you, it was good. It was real good. Still chewy as ever, but worth it. I'd say don't skimp on the toppings, too. They really make it. And distract from all that dang chewing.

Kale Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Herbed Quinoa:

2 cups chicken stock (or water if you have none)

1 cup quinoa

juice from 1/3 a lemon + its zest

Dressing: (adapted from here)

1/4 c. olive oil

juice from 1/3 a (large) lemon + its zest

splash of apple cider vinegar (or red)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

pinch of dried thyme

pepper + coarse salt to taste

In a small pot over high heat, combine liquid, quinoa, and lemon juice/zest. Bring to boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing by mixing all ingredients together and giving it a good shake or swirl or two.

When the quinoa is done, add dressing, stir, and set aside.

Salad:

1 pkg prepped kale or 1 bunch kale, stems and ribs removed

1 14.5 oz can chickpeas

2 shallots, quartered and sliced vertically

chopped fresh parsley to taste

cooked chicken

quinoa mixture

2 tablespoons tahini dressing (I used the stuff from Trader Joe's and diluted it a bit with water for a thinner consistency)

Assemble the salad to your liking! How much kale you use will determine how much of everything else you use. As I ate mine, I noticed I really loved the chickpeas and quinoa...the quinoa is a lot of the flavor and the chickpeas really complement the dressing. It'd be good with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, too.

Basically, do what you want. And eat kale.

mediterranean chicken spinach salad

Things have been weird.

I went and saw the movie Noah last week (and despite what you think, that's not the weird part...I thought the movie was incredible), but since then my dreams have been all out of whack.

You know when you wake up and feel like you only dreamt ONE dream ALL night and it was weird and terrifying and never-ending? That's how my Noah dream was. Basically, all of humanity was dying in a grocery store because they contracted a disease caused by a popular prescription drug 8 years prior.

Of course there are a million details to go with that, but there's the reader's digest version. You're welcome.

When I woke up from the dream I didn't know where I was, and then later when I had a bad headache I obviously thought I must be dying. Dreams, man.

What else is weird, though, is this whole writing and blogging thing. I've been battling the biggest bout of laziness ever. No cooking, no writing, no creating, no nothing. Convenience has been the name of the game and it's won time and time again (read: eggs and toast for breakfast every night, which I'm still totally okay with).

Last week I started readingThe Defining Decade, though, and decided it was time to make meals and be a person again. The book is about redefining and reclaiming your twenties, which doesn't involve putting everything off until you're a "real adult" at 30. No sir. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but considering it's motivated me to be here right now, I'd say I like it so far.

This salad is one I made in September and really liked. It's super easy (win), super quick (unless you're me and cooking is never quick), and super flavorful (yay)! I adapted the recipe just a wee bit (because again, still fighting laziness over here), but honestly it's an adaptation I'll probably do consistently.

I turned the chicken marinade into a salad dressing and then put everything over spinach. This is especially good after it sits in the fridge for a day or two, because, well, yeah...I guess that's the point of it being a marinade. 

I found Mediterranean feta cheese at Trader Joe's, too, so clearly I picked that instead of the boring stuff. Who doesn't love a good theme, am I right?

Since we started with weird we'll end with weird: I didn't dress the salad for the picture (there's a pun in there somewhere...) because I didn't want to eat it until later...so then I took everything off the plate and put each item back where it belonged. Weeeiiiiirrrddo.

You shouldn't do that, though. You should just eat it.

Mediterranean Chicken Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half

3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

10z spinach (one bag)

lemon pepper (or black pepper and salt)

1 + 1/4 pound thin chicken cutlets (about 4-5)

Optional Marinade (or salad dressing for my adaptation):

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 27 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees and juices run clear. 

2. While the chicken bakes, prepare the dressing and refrigerate until use.

3. Mix the tomatoes, olives, and cheese in a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Once the chicken is done, let it sit until it's cool to the touch. Tear (or cut, if you want the non-lazy version) the meat into chunks and add to the tomato mixture. 

5. Pour as much or as little dressing as you want over the mixture, toss to coat, and serve over a handful or two of spinach

Notes:

*I like to use the frozen chicken cutlets from Trader Joe's, bake them for half the amount of time, season them with lemon pepper, then stick 'em back in the oven). And if you have some leftover lemon juice from the dressing, you may as well squirt some on the chicken too.

*The original recipe calls for basil/mint. Feel free to add that at the end as well. I also imagine you couldn't go wrong with adding some cucumbers. Whatever floats your boat.

*Like I mentioned, the flavors are best after they sit. I recommend putting most (about half to three-quarters) of the remaining dressing over the leftover tomato mixture and storing it that way. It will be even better the next day.

original recipe martha stewart

and blogger adaptation here