A Twenty-Something’s Journey To Become An Amateur Chef

A Twenty-Something’s Journey To Become An Amateur Chef

I mentioned this in my column about going wild in a grocery store, but I used to cook. Like, a lot. I worked in a restaurant for two years and tried my hardest to keep that skill once I left. Well, it’s been almost 3 years, and whatever I had was gone.

This is my attempt to get it back.

Ground Beef And Kale “Almost” Salad

To get in the right mindset for this meal, picture yourself walking home at 8:00 p.m. after a decent jog and a hard day at work. Your morning started off by you accidentally sending a link to an image of your bitmoji saying, “Haters Gonna Hate” instead of the survey that you need results on to determine your success at work. You put on this kind of music to set the mood:

There we go. Now we’re chillin’. On the menu tonight, we have an attempt at a kale salad, the main protein being ground beef. I know ground beef doesn’t sound like the ideal option when pairing it with kale, but honestly I set it out to thaw before I left for work in the morning and it was too late to turn back. Now let’s get cooking!

Here’s what you’ll need:

-1/3 lb. ground beef
-4 or 5 big mushroom slices
-Roughly a half of a handful of red onion, chopped
-Roughly a handful of tomatoes, also chopped
-A handful of chopped kale
-Salt, pepper, cumin for spice

Typically I’ll use frozen beef that has been thawing out for most of the day when I cook. I know Wendy’s is all about fresh, never frozen, but I simply do not have the same output or expectations to meet as Wendy’s. I’m not really sure what kind of tomatoes I’m using if we’re being honest. They’re kind of shaped like avocados, so they aren’t, like, the traditional tomato, but I definitely know they’re tomatoes. If you were to use a traditional tomato, though, I don’t think that would change the outcome.

Finally, my kale is coming from a bag. If you buy full heads of kale and chop it manually, you think too highly of yourself.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Take a big pan—I’m not good on exact sizes, but definitely not one that you would fry an egg in—and start putting the beef in it. Don’t turn the heat on until all the beef has been broken apart and dropped in the pan. Once you do that, turn the heat on to about medium. Then, go wash your hands. You can never be too clean.

2. While the beef is heating up, start slicing up your mushrooms. I don’t think the size really matters, I mean, it’s all going to the same place, right? So, yeah. You can be as consistent or inconsistent as you want, just as long as they’re relatively thin slices. I think they cook faster that way but I could be completely blowing smoke on that.

3. Once the beef starts to sizzle, start sprinkling your spices in there to add flavor and allow the heat from the pan to infuse it into the meat. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. During this step, feel free to add your mushrooms to the mix so that they can cook with the beef and seasoning.

4. After adding mushrooms, chop your onions. I like to do this by slicing a whole section of the onion off as though I were making onion rings, and then dicing it up. Again, I don’t really think it matters the size at which the outcome is, only that you have, like, half a handful of them. The idea here is to add the onion flavor, but not go overboard.

5. Add your chopped onions to the pan and mix up the ingredients. You can do this in a number of ways, but my favorite is by picking up the pan and doing that thing where you flick your wrist and toss the ingredients back into each other. You can also get one of those wooden stirrer things that look like a really big spoon and just stir them together, but that looks way less cool. Let the ingredients cook together until the onions are translucent.

6. While your ingredients are cooking, turn back to your cutting board and start dicing up your tomatoes. If you can’t tell by now, I’m not much of a stickler for the size of your tomato pieces, only that they look like little cubes.

7. Open your bag of chopped kale and pull a handful of it onto a plate. I like kale a lot because it’s crunchy and people tell me it’s a superfood. I don’t really know what that means, but I hear that avocados are also superfoods, and avocados are fucking delicious. Anyway, the handful of kale should cover pretty much the entire spread of your plate, which is good! That’s what we want.

8. By this point, the beef/onions/mushrooms concoction on the stove should be about done. We’re going to take that and pour it over the kale on the plate. Be careful! We don’t want too much grease on that plate, but if you get some on there it’s okay. It can be our little secret. Once the mix is on top of the kale, we can add our diced tomatoes on top to add that nice red color.

As far as dressings go, honestly, I’ve never really been a big dressing guy. Call me pretentious but I always thought the ingredients should speak for themselves. That being said, kale tastes like what I always thought caterpillars would taste like, so if you want to toss some dressing on there, be my guest. I definitely gave mine a once-over with some Tobasco that I stole from Chipotle because that’s all I had in my fridge.

Overall, I give this meal a 6/10. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s relatively healthy. But it kind of missed the mark on taste. Maybe next time I’ll think it through a little more.

If you decide to try and replicate this meal—which I think would be awesome—feel free to send me pics and tips for what you did that might make it better!

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Using sarcasm as a defense mechanism since 1993. At any given moment I'm either tired, drunk, or stressed out. Get at me at or whatever.

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