Sneaky Tacos


Our CSA gives us lots of greens: Swiss chard, collards, spinach, several varieties of kale. But the people who live in my house do not love greens unconditionally the way I do. Fortunately, we agree on tacos (and taco toppings). Last summer, I found a  recipe on that cleverly sneaks Tuscan kale into bean tacos. This recipe also works with chard, and I will probably try it with collards at some point. The beans and spices tame the assertive flavor of the greens. Wrap the filling and toppings inside flour tortillas with cooked rice to make burritos instead.

Black Bean and Greens Tacos


3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups Tuscan kale or Swiss chard, stems removed, sliced into ribbons (remove the stems and ribs first)
2 cups cooked black beans (or a 15 oz can)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 corn tortillas

For the toppings: Sliced scallions or diced red onions, avocado slices, chopped cilantro, hot sauce or salsa, grated cheese.

Heat the oil in a pan over low heat. Add garlic and greens. Stir briefly to combine.

Cover the pan for 1-3 minutes, or until the greens wilt and turn bright green  (Swiss chard will take less time than kale).

Add beans, spices, 1/2 cup water, and sea salt. Turn up the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the moisture has mostly evaporated and the beans are soft and sizzling.

While the filling is cooking, warm the tortillas: wrap them in a clean, damp towel and microwave on high for 20-30  seconds. Keep wrapped until ready to serve.

When the filling is cooked, put it in a bowl next to the tortillas and toppings so people can fix their own.



We did not get a regular grocery shopping trip in last weekend. Our refrigerator is smallish, and our daughter had a seven girls sleeping over on Saturday night. Only enough room in the fridge for party food. We never got back to the store once the party was over, so this week has been a bit of a scavenger hunt: what do I already have, and what on earth can I do with it?

Fortunately, along with the chips, three kinds of salsa, five kinds of ice cream and three kinds of sundae toppings that my husband came home with, he also bought salmon. So we had Salmon Roasted in Butter on Sunday night, with sides of steamed green beans and some broccoli left over from a couple of days earlier, when I made quesadillas.

Monday night, I made penne with meatballs. Had a box of penne. Had the ground beef, because we’d picked up our month’s meat share on Thursday. And had a can of crushed tomatoes that I’d opened by mistake a couple of days earlier. Plus most of a carton of fresh basil, which I bought too much of, because it seemed like a good deal (the recipe, as I made it, is below)

Since it’s a school vacation week here, we took the kids out for dinner on Tuesday. Last night (Wednesday), I fried some tofu slices seasoned with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper, and served with brown rice and kale (what I didn’t use in last week’s sweet potato and kale stew). I  sautéed the kale with some chopped garlic and a very imprecise splash of soy sauce. And threw the whole thing together in a bit of a rush, because we were trying to get out to Les Miserables. You can cook the tofu as is in grapeseed oil, heated on high in a wok, or dredge it in some rice flour, or arrowroot powder, to give it a crust. I usually have some arrowroot powder around for this purpose, but I was out of it. Tried cornstarch instead, but it took on a flavor that masked the seasonings. I don’t think I’ll do that again.

Tonight, veggie chili from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Tomorrow, I’m going to roast a chicken, potatoes and carrots.

 Scavenger Meatballs, Pasta and Tomato Sauce (serves 4)

I know some people have a real recipe for meatballs. Alice Waters has a great one in The Art of Simple Food which I follow sometimes (hers uses fresh bread crumbs soaked in milk, and some grated Parmesan cheese in the mix). But in fact, pasta and meatballs is a sort of perfect meal to make when you’re in a hurry and you need to make something that’s forgiving of ingredients.

 1 box penne, or some other pasta, cooked al dente

1 tbl olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, or, to taste, finely chopped
1/2 a green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp oregano or, to taste
some chopped basil leaves (about 1/4 cup. Parsley is good, too)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the bell pepper and saute until it starts to soften. Stir in the can of tomatoes and oregano, and simmer until the meatballs are done. Add the fresh basil right before serving.


1 lb or so ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs (homemade, from stale bread. I keep a container in the freezer)
1 tsp dried oregano
some chopped fresh basil (about 2 tbl)
salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put the meatball ingredients together in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Shape into meatballs of a size that appeals to you. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, using tongs to turn them halfway through so they brown sort of evenly (we’re getting dinner on the table quickly here).

I know many people cook their meatballs at least partially in sauce, but I’ve got into the habit of serving them separately because different family members have different sauce preferences. I do, however, stir the sauce into the pasta before serving. Top it all with Parmesan cheese.

Complete the meal with a salad and/or a green vegetable. I like green beans. But then again, I’ll eat green beans with nearly anything.

If You Give a Kid a Cookbook


When we renovated our kitchen a few years ago, one critical question was where to store the cookbooks. We ended up building a shelf into the island, where we do most of our prep when we cook. In practice, this means there are always cookbooks (and also cooking magazines) on the counter. This morning, when my daughter came downstairs for breakfast, the binder where I keep magazine clippings was there, open to the recipe for the sweet potato and kale stew we had last night.

She doesn’t like kale. Her brother doesn’t like sweet potatoes. But my husband and I do, and so sometimes, they have to eat what we like, even if it comes with a side of complaining. Especially when it’s food that we think they should love. It’s not so important to me that they like the turkey liver mousse I make on Thanksgiving.

She started flipping pages. Pointed to a recipe for cucumber soup. “How come you’ve never made this?”  A couple of pages later: “Can you make orange chicken? How come there are all these things here you’ve never made?”

This is a change, from asking for what’s familiar. Better run with it.

What we’re eating this week:

Sunday night we broiled some steaks rubbed with salt and pepper, which we served with skin-on mashed potatoes. I also tried a saute of chickpeas and spinach, tweaking the seasonings in a recipe I have. I’d never made it the prescribed way, though, so didn’t really know exactly what I was doing to it. You know how some experiments go. On Monday we went out for Greek food. And last night, I made the sweet potato and kale stew, but with mixed olives and served over brown rice and topped with feta.

For tonight, to thread the needle between late afternoon and early evening lessons, appointments and sports practice, I’m defrosting some chili left over from a couple of weeks ago (recipe soon, I promise) and will serve that with a green salad and some bread.

On Thursday, it’ll be cheese quesadillas with refried beans, rice and, I’m thinking, steamed broccoli. ‘Cause we like broccoli. And it’s easy. And I need easy right now.

Friday, we’ll have chicken soup. Last weekend my daughter had to cook a meal to earn a Girl Scout badge. She chose sweet and sour chicken. The CSA packages chicken legs whole, and we only used the thighs, so I had six drumsticks and nothing to do with them. I baked them and put them in the freezer. There may not be quite enough meat for four servings, though, so I think soup is the best option. I’m having a sudden craving for Thai, but I would need to get lemongrass and some other ingredients.

Saturday we’re hosting a sleepover. Stay tuned.