Warm Kale & Lentil Salad w/ Maple Sesame Ginger Sauce

Each week that I’m able to grab vegetables from the garden, I’m grateful for having the tiny space. If you’ve been around here, then you know that it’s not always this way. Some mornings I’m rushing to get to work and struggling to find time to water the plants and make sure I’m staying on top of the weeds. Tonight, I came home to an empty apartment and went to the garden to grab a few pieces of kale for tonight’s dinner.

I was stooping over the plants the other day and had my forearm resting on my knee while the other hand was pulling out the weeds – just like my granddad. There was dirt under my fingernails and everything smelled like a mixture of metal and cilantro. I called my sister and asked her if she remembers him this way: stooped over in the garden with his forearm resting on his knee, eating half the strawberries he picked for dinner. I could hear her laughing on the phone, she knew the image well – could smell the warm dirt and sweat in the hot sun. I’m glad that I have her to tether my memories and make real the things that exist in my head.

Tonight, I came home to an empty apartment. It was just me, the plants, and a heaping mound of kale. I took my camera to the garden and snapped a few shots of the plants. Believe it or not, this has been painful for me. Stepping outside the box and doing something unexpected – answering the questions of other gardeners and neighbors as I’m standing in the garden with my camera.

I know that otherness is so much more pronounced from different vantage points, but I can feel it creeping up in my body like an old ghost. When you grow up gay in the forest, otherness becomes the thing that defines you, but at some point in your life you have to settle into your skin and make friends with the things that make you, you. That’s what I’ve been trying to do these days – to get out of my own way.

Sometimes I settle into my old ways, thinking all my ego work is done. Not long after that, I’ll find myself comparing, seeking external validation, and looking outside myself for happiness. Seeing our delusions is one of our greatest challenges. The garden helps me cut through the things that make me feel small and it helps me focus on the process. After all, isn’t all of this process.

Warm Kale & Lentil Salad w/ Maple Sesame Ginger Sauce

Last-imageI find that summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads. The greens are fresh from the garden and I can have endless cold or warm salads, depending on the temperature for the night. The Tuscan kale has been growing like wild in our garden, so this recipe was inspired bywhat’s in-season – or by what is taking over the garden. This warm salad is perfect for stormy New England days when you feel the mix of summer fever and winter nesting. The fresh greens are light, but the sweet carrots and smoky shiitake mushrooms provide this recipe with some heartiness that can be enjoyed with a glass of wine – or your favorite summer drink.

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 30 min | Serves: 2-3

2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots, peeled + chopped
½ sweet yellow onion
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, coarsely chopped
1 cup lentils
3 cloves garlic
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tbs toasted sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs maple syrup
½ lemon, juiced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled + grated977_988

  1. In a large cast iron skillet or saucepan, warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion is lightly brown and caramelized, roughly 12-15 minutes. Add chopped kale and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until leaves are tender. Remove the ingredients from the cast iron skillet and saucepan. Set aside.
  2. In the same cast iron skillet or saucepan, mix lentils, garlic, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate small saucepan, warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add shiitake mushrooms and heat for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, or until crispy and brown on one side. Flip the mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes, crisping the other side.
  4. Drain the lentils in a colander. Return to the cast iron skillet or saucepan with kale mixture.
  5. To prepare the dressing mix together sesame oil, soy sauce, tahini, maple syrup, lemon, and ginger. Pour over the warm salad before serving.