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green curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh

green curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh // the first messgreen curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh // the first messgreen curry kale prep // the first mess
My phone number has a Toronto area code. Still. This general handyman sorta guy that’s been working on my house pointed it out to me the other day. I left the city over three years ago and I’ve been saying that I’ll change the number forever, but this might have to be the week that I actually do it. I used to have this underlying idea that some day I would go back, and for no real reason other than the possibility of it. After an emphatic conversation with a friend last weekend, I know that over time I’ve been embracing the quieter aspects of my home here. Way beyond being just okay with it.

I used to take the bus between there and home with frequency. It’s a 2 hour ride on a bad day. The start of the trip would be all herky-jerky stop + go lurches and glaring headlights if you sat on the wrong side. Somebody would have inevitably brought street meat on board and, yes inevitably, that unmistakable aroma of boiled off cuts with mustard would just hang. Headphones on, shoulders hunched toward the window, phone and a book within reach, chamomile with honey in a paper cup firmly grasped, and always a long scarf in my lap just in case the next passenger over blasted the A/C. I could never just fall asleep.

Half an hour into the trip, the stop and go fades and you see the tight tetris-like bedroom communities from the highway. A defunct auto plant, at least 3 Costco stores with jammed parking lots, a shallow river, fuel-efficient cars with one person in them in all the lanes over, commuter trains, mega-churches, these things flapping in the wind outside of storage units. The chatter on board begins to fade and my tea cup is almost empty.

A generous hour goes by and the ditches that pass below, even faster now, are deep with tall grass and weeds. You can see the lake, vineyards, greenhouses, the made-to-look-folksy-but-they’re-actually-brand-new road stops, the giant glowing cross that tells us we’re almost home, the shades of green and depth of space. It’s a sense of relief that creeps up slow, but is felt hard when it arrives. I hadn’t taken this trip in a good long while, but found myself on that bus last week, going through all of the same postures after a day about town. I have my home and tiny new roots that are starting to take, but that relief came through just as strong.

Our kitchen is renovated to the point of serviceable now and this is the first thing I made in it. Kale, go figure. (except we totally had pizza + Ashlae’s sea salt chocolate chip cookies too) I massaged it with lime juice and olive oil (this one–so good) to soften and then added cilantro leaves to the point where they became part of the salad itself. The dressing is coconut milk based, so, very fatty on the palate and completely satisfying in all of the obvious ways. I bash up lemongrass, green onions, ginger, lime peels, coriander and green chili in a mortar + pestle until I get a bit of a paste going. This gets stirred into the coconut milk with an extra hit of lime and even more cilantro (cilantro haters, this salad ain’t for you). The leaves are bathed in that spicy, sharp, and luxe mix. The last touch is small dices of tempeh crisped up in coconut oil. Mark said they were kind of like meaty croutons and I’m inclined to agree. This is a really easy and  tasty way to prepare tempeh if you’ve been feeling hesitant (which I totally understand because it’s a fermented soy cake that looks like brains). I’m going to try it crisped with garlic and smoked paprika for a kale/hearty greens caesar-ish salad topper next time.

So yeah, kind of a quick and easy one today with equally breezy photos. But! A few little notes before I go.

This feels so silly to say, but BuzzFeed asked me to be their “Spring Vegetable Correspondent” for the next few months and I happily obliged. I’ll be sharing really easy, vegan recipes that let the vegetables do the talking. The first post is here. Respond with YAAASS or a GIF if you’re a bit freaky.

I lean on chickpeas a lot here, so when the The Guardian asked to use one of my recipes in their “10 Best” column, I was delighted. Lots of good (omnivorous + veg) recipes here.

An interview and some very kind words over at Modern Thought (link).

My friend Kasey, along with her partner Matt, runs the incredible site and subscription service Turntable Kitchen (as I’m sure you’re all aware of at this point–pretty legendary!). They pair music and food in a way that’s thoughtful, accessible and fun. And cool thing? They’re releasing a cookbook of sorts! It’s a selection of 80 recipes from their Parings Box subscription service in, yep, a beautiful wooden box that allows you to add new bits and physically separate your faves–something that a traditional book doesn’t necessarily make room for. You can check it out here.

Happy weekend to you all. I’ll be back with some (raaaw!) dessert next week :)

kale // the first messgreen curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh // the first messgreen curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh // the first messgreen curry kale + crispy coconut tempeh // the first mess
green curry kale w/ crispy coconut tempeh
serves: 4-6
notes: For the dressing component, I got real physical and just bashed everything up in a mortar and pestle. This may be sufficient for some, but depending on the intensity/freshness of your ginger and lemongrass, you may want to blend all of the dressing components instead, or do the whole thing up in a mini food processor and do yourself a little strain afterwards. Taste as you go and judge from there.

1 bunch of kale, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, sliced + divided
3 big handfuls of cilantro leaves, divided
2 limes
olive oil
salt + pepper
2 inch piece of lemongrass (the bulb-ish part at the bottom of the stalk)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2-1 thai green chili (depending on your tolerance)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2-1 tsp tamari soy sauce
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, stirred
1-2 tbsp coconut oil
1 standard package of tempeh, cut into small pieces
sesame + hemp seeds

In a large bowl, toss the kale leaves, green parts of the sliced green onions (you’ll be reserving the white parts for the tempeh + dressing) and two handfuls of cilantro leaves. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the salad, add a bit of olive oil, some salt, and pepper. Toss everything together to combine, massaging the oil/lime juice into the kale leaves in order to soften them. Set this portion of the salad aside.

Cut 3 little strips of zest off of the remaining lime and cut them up rough. Throw them into a mortar and pestle. Add in about half of the leftover green onion whites. Slice the piece of lemongrass, ginger, and chili and add those too. Finally, add the coriander and a bit of salt. Start bashing the ingredients together until you have a chunky paste. I like to squeeze a bit of lime into the mortar to help aid this process along. Once you have a decent paste, scrape it into a measuring cup and stir in the coconut milk along with the tamari. Chop up the remaining cilantro and and stir it into the mix as well. Check the dressing for salt, pepper and acidity level at this point. Adjust to your liking and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan over medium. Add the remaining green onions and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pieces of tempeh + some salt and pepper. Toss/stir the pieces of tempeh around here and there until all sides are browned and lightly crisp, about 8 minutes. It should sizzle and pop. Add a squeeze of lime at the end and toss them to coat.

Spoon the coconut dressing over the salad and finish with the crispy tempeh pieces. Garnish the salad with sesame/hemp seeds and serve.

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Abby @ The Frosted Vegan28/03/2014 - 8:40 am

Your words are always so lovely (along with your photos!). Congrats on the Buzz Feed gig!

molly yeh28/03/2014 - 10:33 am

these photos are gorgeous! yay for new kitchens :) i’ve also had that area code thought, it’s quite scary… but isn’t the quiet life SO NICE AND WORTH IT?!

happy weekend to you, miss laura!

mich28/03/2014 - 10:33 am

First photos in the new house! I recognize that porch :)

Here’s to many more meals and celebrations there. I can’t wait to share one with you!

Kathryn28/03/2014 - 10:48 am

Spring vegetable correspondent = best title ever.

Ashlae28/03/2014 - 11:24 am

We moved out of Ohio six years ago, but I have yet to change my Ohio phone number – and I’m not sure I ever will. Like my last name that I won’t be changing when Thom and I officially seal the deal, I have a weird attachment to it that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.

In other news, I can’t think of anyone better to be a Spring Vegetable Correspondent than the Queen of Cruciferous Veg, herself. Fist bumps to you, lady! And you broke in your kitchen with the sea salt chippas? *blushing* Wanna see more of that kitchen.

Jo from yummyvege28/03/2014 - 11:54 am

This is just what I was looking for! I have a packet of tempeh in the fridge and was trying to think of ways to jazz it up!

[…] still my vegan heart … This green curry kale salad looks […]

[…] green curry kale and crispy coconut tempeh. […]

Sini | my blue&white kitchen29/03/2014 - 9:23 am

This salad calls my name. It looks so unbelievably good! Can’t wait to have a bowl of it…Maybe next week? And congrats for all the accomplishments: a new kitchen, BuzzFeed, the Guardian, etc. Wow!!

Have a lovely weekend,
Sini

Ami@naivecookcooks29/03/2014 - 10:43 pm

Lovely salad and I liked the way you described your journey!

SouthernSpoon30/03/2014 - 7:03 am

This looks incredible– green curry salad, love it. Congrats on all the press opportunities, and a working kitchen!

Hilary30/03/2014 - 6:27 pm

I read your interview with modern thought – just thought I would point out that if you ever find some large property to put your kitchen/barn/farm area – SIGN ME UP! I’m in the area and would be all in. :)

Kiran30/03/2014 - 7:50 pm

I’m so happy I ran across your website!! I’ve tried three recipes so far and they were hugely successful with my whole family. Thank you!!

Katie @ Produce on Parade31/03/2014 - 1:00 pm

“Spring Vegetable Correspondent”?! Whoa, that’s pretty freaking awesome for a title. I think you should make a name tag and wear it about. I would. ;) Congratulations!

ATasteOfMadness31/03/2014 - 3:59 pm

YuM! I’ve got to start buying more kale. This looks SO good!

Hannah31/03/2014 - 6:44 pm

This was delicious! I love everything coconut and this was no exception :) can’t wait for the Caesar salad. Love you Laura!

Heather01/04/2014 - 3:00 pm

I made this over the weekend and it was a hit! Crunchy and warm. It did all sorts of good things for me.

Michelle01/04/2014 - 5:16 pm

This was timely! I’m looking for delicious kale recipes!

phi01/04/2014 - 8:24 pm

i love the green on blue! and tempeh on kale! sooo good.

xoxo

[…] EAT. Trying out my cooking skills with this delicious looking curry kale recipe […]

Kimberley04/04/2014 - 8:59 pm

Hi, also this. I have this thing where I want to love tempeh but it has to be made just so. And bringing the words coconut and crispy into the mix will surely take it there.

Dee04/06/2014 - 11:40 pm

I’m a huge fan of The First Mess and have successfully made many of your recipes, but I have to question the use of raw lemongrass and ginger in this dressing? Even after pounding and running through the food processor, I was left with tough, fibrous and aggressive pieces of lemongrass as well as the overwhelming spice of raw ginger!

I ended up straining the dressing through cheesecloth, though, and this dish was scarfed up just like the others!

Laura Wright05/06/2014 - 7:54 am

Hi Dee! Bummer that your first interaction with this recipe was kind of on the underwhelming/weird side. I find ginger and lemongrass have varying degrees of intensity every time I go to use them. Maybe yours were super hot and mine were a bit tired? Either way, I found really pounding the living crap out of both in the mortar and pestle was sufficient, but I like your straining idea. I’m going to make a note in the recipe because I think some people might run into the same problem. Thanks for your helpful feedback!
-L

Kasey09/06/2014 - 11:41 pm

How did I miss this beautiful post?! Thank you so much for the kind words about the Cookbook in a Box my friend. We so appreciate it, and I apologize for not seeing it sooner (ah, life). This place you’ve created is beyond inspiring. Whenever I visit, I want to just spend days and days here. xoxo

Larissa22/06/2014 - 10:47 pm

This is the first recipe I’ve made from The First Mess and I had to restrain myself from devouring the entire bowl!

Thanks for the fabulous recipe, looking forward to many more!

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[…] Green Curry Kale and Crispy Coconut Tempeh from The First Mess […]

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