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An Easy, Earthy Salad

24 Nov

FullSizeRenderNeed a super easy salad that’s as seasonally appropriate as it is delicious? Here’s one adapted from a Hello Fresh recipe.

  • 1/2 c French lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp liquid stock concentrate (or, enough regular stock to cover lentils by 2 inches, ~3 cups)
  • 1-2 c brussels sprouts, chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Whisk together olive oil, honey, and Italian herb seasoning. Put the sweet potato cubes in a medium bowl and toss with the olive oil mixture until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, tossing half way.
  2. Heat 1 TBS oliv oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper (to taste). Cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, stock concentrate, and enough water to cover the lentils by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Once they’re cooked, drain and return lentils to the pot. Cover to keep warm.
  3. In a medium sautee pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the shredded brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3-minutes, until soft and a little crispy.
  4. In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in 1 TBS olive oil. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sprouts, and lentils. Toss with the balsamic dressing. Serve warm or room temp.

Tips for a Yummy Salad and a Basil Sort-of Salad Dressing Recipe

12 Aug


Anyone know why restaurant salads always come out better than made-at-home salads? I really wish I were a bring-salad-to-work kind of gal, but whenever I do that I find myself wishing I had just sucked up the eight bucks and gone to Sweetgreen. Come to think of it–pretty much no matter what I bring for lunch, I am still wishing I had Sweetgreen. Some things can’t be helped, I guess.

Yesterday I had all the fixings for salads and figured I might as well give it a go. Mary over at Minutes Per Mile makes an amazing Sweetgreen-caliber salad pretty much every day and after a few minutes drooling over some of her best work I decided it was the day I’d make my own damn delicious salad.

I am so pleased to report that it was a successful mission! I am going to chalk up yesterday’s victory to two new methods: 1) I cut the kale with kitchen scissors instead of shredding it with my hands–maybe kale is more delicate than originally thought and cutting it helps maintain crispness? I’m gonna go with that. 2) I didn’t make a dressing, per se–instead, I made a sort-of pesto that had a tabbouleh consistency. I really preferred this to other, wetter dressings. Who knew?

So today our recipe is for the basil sort-of salad dressing, pictured above in the bottom right corner. If you prefer to pour your salad dressing rather than scoop it, just add more oil. The salad above is a bed of kale, shredded carrots, 1/2 a sliced avocado, 1/2 sliced tomato, and sauteed brussels sprouts.

Basil Sort-of Salad Dressing


  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced into food-processor-friendly chunks
  • oil, to taste– I used about 1/8 c, which gave me tabbouleh-like texture. Use more for more liquidy dressing.
  • 1/4 c hard cheese (I used mizithra–parmesan would work, too)
  • maple syrup, to taste (1/2 tsp was all I needed to cut the lemon’s tangyness just enough)


1. Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired texture.

Green Apple Truffle Slaw

11 Jun

A few weekends ago when I was in NY for Mother’s Day, I took two awesome classes with ZenCombatKef (aka the AMAZING Violet Zaki— seriously NYC people, seek her out!).  A few weekends after THAT JetSet and I met up with her and some friends in Central Park for a pot luck picnic and ZenCombat Kef brought this amazing Green Apple Truffle Slaw. Y’all already know I love a slaw, so I have not stopped thinking about this delicious side dish perfect for any summer meal. The people at the Food Network are my new favorites for coming up with this salad.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a picture I love:


Green Apple Truffle Slaw


  • 4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 c grapeseed oil
  • 5 Granny Smith apples, chopped as fine as you can (or julienned)
  • 1/2 small head green cabbage, very thinly sliced (about 4 c)
  • 1/3 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3 TBS chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBS black truffle oil


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then squeeze the garlic from its skin.

2. Combine 2 teaspoons water, the roasted garlic, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste in a blender or mini food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup each olive and grapeseed oils through the feed tube, blending until emulsified.

3. Toss the apples, cabbage, walnuts, parsley and truffle oil in a medium bowl. Add the dressing and toss; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the slaw until chilled, about 45 minutes.

Greek Easter 2014: Part II

23 Apr

Previously, on Cooking Up Kefi…

JetSet and I were at Grandpa Joe’s house, and the situation was this:

The kitchen was a disaster

IMG_0110My brother and I were getting into all kinds of nose-picking-selfie shenanigans

IMG_0115the Mets were losing, and Grandpa Joe was napping. So… it was pretty much business as usual.           IMG_0120 Somehow, all of this pulled itself together and some Easter miracles occured. Namely:

the spanakopita (recipe later this week), which is always the very first thing we make,

IMG_0117some new lamb keftedes WITH DRIED APRICOTS (recipe also coming this week),

IMG_0121 - Copythe gluten-free picnic pie that was so good I ate it with my non-driving hand the whole way home,

IMG_0122JetSet’s painstaking, time consuming labor of love: eggplant keftedes-cum-casserole,

IMG_0119gluten-free/sugar-free koulourakia,

IMG_0124tsoureki that didn’t quite make it through MixMonster Kef’s crash course + eggs made by my Godmother,

2014-04-20 13.17.47the beet salad to end all beet salads (and finally pictured half-way decently here!),

2014-04-20 13.17.53Francesca’s Orange-Dijon potatoes,

2014-04-20 13.36.15

and Paulatimi’s Five-Ingredient Wonder.2014-04-20 12.58.50

Not bad for two days work, eh?

MamaKef put the finishing touches on her salad

2014-04-20 13.03.34while JetSet poured us mugs of wine.

2014-04-20 13.42.01And then ANOTHER Easter miracle happened– my Aunt said that JetSet “always looks like Justin Timberlake.” Indeed, he has risen.


2014-04-19 17.58.08  IMG_0130Okay so baklava is pretty much always good–it’s flaky dough painted with butter and butter and butter (and then some more butter) and layered with sugar, spices and nuts. How is it possible to improve on such a good thing?

2014-04-20 14.38.52Well, if you use this awesome, creamy honey and finally heed the advice of every Greek on the face of the planet, your results will improve. What advice, you ask? The hot-to-cold principle, which states that if you have hot baklava you must have cold syrup, or vice versa. We did cold syrup to hot baklava (instead of hot syrup AND hot baklava) and the results were stupendous.

How good, you ask?

In case that testimonial isn’t good enough for you, my phenomenal Grandma Rita put it best:

2014-04-20 14.59.52“That’s baklava so good you have to eat the crumbs off your boob!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just TRY and tell me your grandma is better than mine. You’re fighting a losing battle there.

We had a stupendous meal full of the two major food groups: laughs and carbs. Grandma Rita made stuffed peppers (very sadly not pictured here) and Aunt Tina supplied the hardboiled eggs. A GREAT time was had by all.

No family gathering is complete with out a selfie– Ellen, you and Lupita have nothing on us!

IMG_0132 - CopySadly, the weekend had to end and I had to leave the la-la land of my family’s loving glow.

JetSet and I took one last photo (this one remiss of spinach and flour) and then I headed off into the sunset.

IMG_0134 - Copy

This is a record-setting post, so I’ll cut it off here– I had the most delightful weekend with my family. Our Greekness is so very, very much your weakness.

Shitake, Fig and Halloumi Salad

16 Aug

For years, I have described August as a month of Sundays.  The days are still long, the pools are still open, the occasional vacation-message-bounce-back email still makes its way to our inboxes but, like the workweek on the  last day of the weekend, the proverbial “other shoe” of summer’s end hangs over our heads. The jig is about to be up.


There’s a lot to be said for the first two-thirds of summer–white linen pants, sunset at 9 PM, berries, berries, and more berries–but August is no shrinking violet.  The white linen pants are all 50% off,   it’s finally cool enough to run

at 9 PM, and just when the berries become overpriced and underwhelming THE FIGS COME IN!

FIGS! I was like Frodo hypnotized by The Ring in the produce section this week– I could not take my eyes off the perfectly-ripened sacs of sweetness. Despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what to do with them, they  looked so good that I bought them (Impulse Buy, Aisle 3!).  Just when I thought my $3.99 had gone to waste, I stumbled across this brilliant salad and decided the only thing that could possibly make spinach, shitake and halloumi more awesome would be FIGS! (Also I think I have a new Chef Kefi Cooking Principle: when discussing FIGS, one ought always to capitalize. They are just THAT good.)

In the hopes that your August is a little more enjoyable and a little less dread-inducing, I bring you: a shitake, fig, and halloumi salad.

Shitake, Fig and Halloumi Salad



  • 8 oz of shitake mushrooms
  • 8 oz of regular mushrooms (or another 8 oz of shitake if you’re inclined)
  • 1 bunch of spinach (approximately 2 c)
  • 1/2 block of halloumi cheese (best is to cut in half lengthwise so you have thin pieces)
  • olive oil
  • 8-10 figs, stemmed and halved
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1-2 TBS honey


1. Over medium heat, melt honey and butter in a small saute pan. Add halved figs, cut side down. Saute until soft and fragrant, which took me about 12 minutes. Some fig juice should ooze out into pan, turning honey/butter mixture a pinky-purple. This is what you want and it is awesome. Spoon honey/butter sauce over skin sides three or four times throughout cooking.

2. While figs are cooking, scantily grease with olive oil a large saute pan with olive oil and add medium heat. Saute mushrooms for 5 minutes or so, until soft. Add spinach, mix in with mushrooms and saute until just wilted.

3. Remove mushrooms and spinach. DO NOT CLEAN THE PAN. Add the cheese and saute over medium heat until softened– 4-5 minutes on each side. Cheese should be soft and hot throughout but not melting all over the pan.

4. Cut halloumi into smaller pieces. Assemble salad by putting it all together (yep- it’s just that easy), adding figs last and using remaining fig/honey/butter juice as a scant dressing.  EAT IMMEDIATELY, as halloumi gets squeaky and gross if it cools back down.

Paulatimi’s Five-Ingredient Wonder

20 May



I can’t remember when we started eating this salad–but once we started, we couldn’t get enough.

This pretty mama right here combines everything that’s great about spring: ripe tomatoes, fragrant basil, awesome onions, tangy balsamic and–what else?– creamy feta. MamaKef loves to whip one up before any gathering of two or more people… and I’ve been known to scarf down enough for four or more people. As one does.

Paulatimi’s Spring Salad


  • 10 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 very large red onion, chopped or diced
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 6-8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2-4 TBS white balsamic vinegar, to taste (reg balsamic fine too)


1. Combine prepped ingredients. Sprinkle with balsamic, one TBS at a time, tasting in between to make sure salad doesn’t get too tangy or soggy for your taste.

2. That’s it! Enjoy!

Occupy the Grocery Store: Not-So-Giant Gigantes

24 Apr

Let’s play Family Feud. Except in this version, Steve Harvey won’t survey 100 people; he’ll survey just two people. Chef Kefi, RN and her brother, JetSet Kef.

Reasons for a Late-Night International Phone Call

5. Major holiday spent apart and What’sApp not working
4. Conference-call-style advice for a friend trying to recreate scenes from Love Actually to win over his one true love
3. Cooking advice
2. TIE: To find out an easily-googled phone number for drunk pizza delivery/ An update on FARAH’S life

And the number one reason to make a late-night international phone call for the SiblingsKef is:
1. TO INFORM THE OTHER THAT WE HAVE A NEW GREEK FRIEND AND THAT HE IS FROM THE SAME SMALL VILLAGE AS o παππούς μας (translation: our grandfather. And sorry — I don’t know how to use caps in the Greek alphabet yet).

So picture this. Good ol’ Chef Kef is having the time of her little life at the Zaytinya agorá, talking about this delicious Greek honey and rubbing shoulders (literally) with Chef Jose Andres. The Greek Table stand is right next to the Manoli Canoli stand, and I overhear that the oil comes from Sparti, birthplace of the FamilyKef.  This is the classic Greek-American Choose Your Own Adventure scenario: I could FREAK OUT AND DEMAND TO KNOW EXACTLY WHERE IN THE

IMG_0274SPARTA AREA THIS OIL IS FROM (obnoxiously classic Greek-American reaction), or I could play it cool and try to strike up conversation naturally with my new countryman (favored by the nouveau-cool caste of dual citizens everywhere). Bet you won’t need three guesses to figure out which I did.

For once, it turns out that choosing the former worked out–turns out that Manoli Canoli’s owner has a dear friend from the exact same teeeeeeeeeensy village that my family is from. Naturally, I took this as a reason to wake up my very hard-working brother from a dead sleep  half-way across the world and tell him that I know someone who knows someone who is from Potomiá. And there you have it, sports fans. The global village of Greeks strikes again.

In honor of all the excitement, I thought I’d whip up a version of Gigantes, a salad of giant beans and tomatoes that is popular in mezzeria and delis everywhere. I was very sad to find that gigantes are extremely hard to find in the Mid-Atlantic region (seriously–if neither Trader Joe’s nor Whole Foods has them, we’re talking about a rare find), so I subbed the traditional fasiola bean for something called the Great Northern bean, which comes in a can and cost a whopping $0.89. I also switched out the usual flat-leaf parsley for fresh dill, as I find parsley to be a complete and utter waste of an herb. All in all, a delish dish that doesn’t require much of you–just the way we like it.




  • 1 can of Great Northern beans (available at Trader Joe’s) or 14 oz fasiola gigantes beans–if you find them, please tell me where
  • 6 TBS olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 14 oz (1 can) diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is the best)
  • 2 TBS tomato paste, dilute in 1 c hot water
  • fresh dill, to taste (I used about 1/5 a large bunch)
  • black pepper, to taste


1. If you are lucky enough to have gigantes proper, soak the beans in cold water overnight. Then drain them, rinse them again with cold water, and drain again. Cover the beans with cold water in a big pot. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook for about 30 minutes, until they are almost tender.

2. For the rest of us: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, add the onion and cook until the onions become soft, a little golden, and fragrant–probably about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, and thyme. Stir with a wooden spoon until a delicious garlic smell is wafting from the pan (2-3 min).

3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, cover the pan and let cook on medium for 10 minutes. Add the diluted tomato paste, then add the beans. Add black pepper and dill to taste.

4. Transfer the bean/tomato mixture from the pan and into a glass baking dish. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until beans are tender and moisture has reduced (but mixture is not dry). The tomato sauce will look slightly burnt–this means it’s done!

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