A recent bout with the flu gave me a bit of a wake-up call about my ongoing winter diet — which should have ended long before I got sick. At the crossroads of deciding whether to use the three-day fast as a stepping stone to better eating or just go back to my bad habits, Hetty McKinnon’s newest cookbook, Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day, helped me make a healthier choice. Easing into the transition with her Supercharged Kale Panzanella with Polenta Croutons that we are featuring today was a fail-proof step. I love the mix of using fresh and pre-prepared items (polenta) as well as the addition of the kale and basil pesto (another batch item to keep on hand to use in other dishes). Of course I won’t be giving up all of my treats, nor will I convert to a vegetarian diet, but Hetty has inspired me to revisit my eating habits leftover from winter and explore new meal options better suited for spring and summer! For more salad ideas, you can see Hetty’s very popular Lovely Kinda-Nicoise Salad in our archives. —Kristina
Hetty McKinnon is a cook and food writer with a passion for vegetables. In 2011, she established Arthur Street Kitchen, a local salad-delivery business run from her inner-city terrace in Surry Hills, Sydney. In 2015, Hetty, with her family and Arthur Street Kitchen in tow, relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about food and runs pop-up food events and workshops out of her co-owned creative space, Neighborhood Studio. She is the author of two bestselling cookbooks: Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen (2014) and Neighborhood: Salad, Sweets, and Stories from Home and Abroad (2016). In 2017, she launched her independent multicultural food journal, Peddler. Find Hetty on Instagram at @arthurstreetkitchen.
For a chance to win a copy of Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day, respond in the comments section below by May 1, 5PM EST to the following question: Have you ever made a wholesale change to your eating habits? What inspired the change? A documentary? A book? A course? Let us know the details, we may need to make the same changes! We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!
Image above: Family; Photography by Luisa Brimble
Image above: Hetty McKinnon
Image above: Some of the vegetables featured in Family
Image above: Supercharged Kale Panzanella with Polenta Croutons
- 1/2 bunch kale, stems removed
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 ounces (100g) tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 9 ounces (250g) fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, roughly torn
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
- sea salt and black pepper
- Kale and Basil Pesto
- 1/2 bunch of kale, stems removed
- 1/4 cup (6g) basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup (50g) grated Parmesan
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- sea salt
- Polenta Croutons
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound (450g) store-bought pre-cooked polenta, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
- sea salt
- Substitute polenta with bread croutons, if preferred
For the polenta croutons, heat a large frying pan over a high heat. When hot, drizzle with a big glug of oil and add the polenta cubes. Fry for 5-6 minutes, until golden and crispy on all sides. Season with sea salt and set aside to cool completely.
For the salad, tear up the kale leaves and place them in a large bowl. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and massage them into the leaves. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the leaves to soften.
To make the pesto, place the kale and basil in a food processor or blender. Pulse to break up the leaves. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse again, then add the oil and blend together until you get a thick yet slightly chunky paste. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan and vinegar. Season well with sea salt.
Combine the softened kale leaves with the tomato, mozzarella or bocconcini, sunflower seeds, and Parmesan. Add a few spoonfuls of the pesto and toss well to coat the leaves. To serve, season with sea salt and black pepper and scatter over the polenta croutons.
You won’t need all the pesto. Place the remaining pesto in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.