Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kale and Jicama Stir-Fry

Two nights before our wedding, DFJ and I made dinner for his parents and our friends. We wanted to make some lemon chicken that is a favorite of DFJ’s family and a vegetable stir-fry, which is my cooking signature, and some rice to go with the whole meal. I didn’t really have a set plan for what vegetable dish I wanted to make. As far as I’m concerned, all vegetables, when thrown together in some olive oil, salt, and pepper over heat, pretty much turns out wonderful.

Since our wedding was pretty much a one-week affair at the charming, Lake Chelan, we didn’t want leftover produce to go to waste in our fridge at home. So, we took what we had in a cooler and brought it to the lake. The veggie dish that I made turned out so good that I knew I had to remake it at home and share it with you all. So, here it is almost three months later.

You will need the standard garlic and onion. To me, these two ingredients are the essential bases for any stir-fry. Throw in some mushrooms for some earthy flavoring, carrots for some nice crunch, and bell pepper slices for some sweet and juicy bites. In my first dish, I didn’t add any corn because it wasn’t in season. For this one, however, I couldn’t resist tossing in some kernels, they’re too sweet and pretty to be excluded. Of course, the main actors of the dish are the kale and jicama. What can I say? I LOVE KALE. I used Italian kale (otherwise known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale, Cavolo nero, Lacinato kale, etc.) for this one, but really you can use any kale variety. The regular variety can be slightly bitter and earthy, which I love and which I used the first time I made this recipe. Italian kale, however, is milder in flavor but is in no way less delicious. Either kind is good, promise! The other main star, jicama, is an ingredient that I have recently gotten to know and love. Jicama is like a tougher and less sweet version of an Asian pear. It tends to be starchy when raw, but it renders its true flavors when cooked.

This dish is simply seasoned with salt and pepper… fresh ingredients need nothing more than that. Although, a little splash of soy sauce and/or rice wine vinegar wouldn’t hurt either, if you do this, just cut back on the salt. This is a truly vibrant stir-fry that embodies the taste of summer, health, and goodness!     

Kale and Jicama Stir-Fry

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion (about 13 oz), diced
a couple of cremini mushrooms (5 oz), chopped
1 jicama (13 oz), chopped into ½ inch sticks
2 carrots (oz), chopped into half moons
corn kernels from 1 ear of corn
1 bunch Italian kale (13 oz), chopped into thin ribbons
1 large bell pepper (8.5 oz), sliced into 1 inch sticks
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. When the oil is hot but not smoking, sauté the garlic for about a minute, until golden brown and fragrant. Add the onions and let cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until shiny and translucent. Toss in the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes, until soft and spongy. Add the jicama and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add ½ teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper to flavor the first couple of ingredients.

Stir in the corn kernels and let cook for about 2 minutes until they become plump. Add the kale in two batches. Stir in the first batch with the other hot ingredients until they are slightly wilted, then season with ¼ teaspoon salt.  Add the rest of the kale and cook until they wilt. The total cooking time for all the kale should be about 4 minutes. Toss in the bell pepper sticks and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Season with another ¼ teaspoon salt and some freshly cracked black pepper to taste.


I recommend serving this warm over brown rice (or any rice you prefer). This dish serves well as a main entrée or a side. It also makes for a great fried rice leftover. Simply cook leftover cooked rice in garlic and olive oil, toss in the leftover stir-fry, scramble in an egg or two, splash with some soy sauce or rice wine vinegar, some frozen peas, and perhaps some minced chives or spring onions.      


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Vacation Has Begun!

We got back from our ten-day East Coast trip on Sunday night. The trip was a mixture of joyful reunions, fun, relaxation, and work all in one. Somehow, it left me feeling happy, anxious, and exhausted. These jumble of emotions are still cycling inside me but somehow I find one particular emotion that keeps coming up, anticipation of the unknown. Not knowing if I can find a teaching job after we move to Maryland opens up a world of possibilities… I could blog full time, go through yoga teacher training, become a baker, become an apprentice at Les Petits Bisous! (seriously, I'm in love), find a boring 9-5 job, what have you!        

salted caramel macaron from Les Petits Bisous!,
 after I gobbled the green tea white chocolate one (no picture)

Today, I am taking some time off from contemplating about my future and just reliving our whirlwind trip. We went to a lovely wedding in Pennsylvania where I got to meet DFJ’s friends from high school and danced until my feet hurt. Two days were spent area scoping and house hunting in Maryland. After a dinner of sushi and spicy Korean noodle soup in Baltimore, we got soaked from head to toe during a torrential downpour on our way back to the hotel. I clutched DFJ’s waist like my life depended on it and ducked under our broken umbrella, squealing and laughing the whole time. DFJ, on the other hand, didn’t revel as much in the comedy of the situation. At the end of house hunting, day two, we gave up on the conquest and drove to Long Beach Island in New Jersey instead to enjoy some peace and much needed rest.


A family friend of DFJ’s offered to let us stay at her family’s LBI beach house as a wedding present and we gratefully took her up on that. Her house was lovely and only a hundred footsteps away from the beach. Wednesday was DFJ’s birthday and we spent the day eating a leisurely breakfast, drinking coffee and reading books in the back patio, and sun bathing. We lay on the beach, sunk our toes in the hot sand, walked along the seashore, and dipped in the cold water when we got too hot. Sun kissing my skin + taste of salt water on my lips = pure bliss! That night, we celebrated DFJ’s birthday with a delicious dinner at Pinzimminio’s (if you happen to be in Long Beach Island, do yourselves a favor and dine there, they know how to make food!). Then we went home and played Risk for hours. The next day was stormy, so we burrowed in the house with our books, pastries, and tea until the sun came out again. We explored the southern part of the island until the rain forced us to take shelter in a coffee shop with some decadent cake and hot coffee. We eventually drove back to the beach house, where we had a dinner of leftovers, asparagus, and corn, and capped the night with another round of Risk.

We headed back to Pennsylvania on Friday for some family time with DFJ’s family and then to New Jersey to see my Aunt and her family. Living closer to our families is definitely one of the best things about moving to the East Coast. When we said our goodbyes, there was not a hint of sadness on both sides, only excitement about being in the same time zone and a mere hundred or so miles of distance between one another.

Now that we’re back home, I’m slowly trying to get into the swing of things. On my first free day, I was feeling indolent, but somehow mustered up the strength to go to a yoga class and do a bit of grocery shopping. I cooked again after days of not making my own food and it felt so good… it felt like home. More on that in the next post!