Posts tagged salad

Tossed

Just like that: It’s salad weather again. Oh, we had a few months of hunker-down comfort foods, of roasted root-y things and spontaneous “It’s raining!” chilis.

But here comes the sun, pulsing down on our xeriscaped yards, our bumpy piles of granite and scatters of muted desert green. We’re not to the harsh part yet, the searing, unrelenting heat. Instead, it feels almost nice, in the bright way the sun is supposed to feel when the clouds part. So far, it’s the kind of sun that makes you want to take all your meals outside, then lounge in the lounger after with a lounge-worthy read.

So, even though I know we’ll be trying to innovate salad for what will seem like a forever set of months, salad is indeed on the menu. It just seems right somehow. Right to coat baby spinach in a spoonful of walnut oil and a splash of red wine vinegar, to top the perky greens with a heap of sliced avocado and figs and dripping chunks of tangerine, with more than a suggestion of chèvre.

No, it’s not still “winter.” But the food’s good anyway.

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Top this (salad)

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Like anyone who loves to cook, I’m an enthusiastic proponent of a well put-together salad. A good one’s all about the right balance of crunchy and creamy, earthy and sweet — and that’s just for starters. Even what goes on top of the salad doesn’t need to be a scattered afterthought.

Check out my latest salad-related article published at one of my favorite food-related sites, Culinate.com, for some fun salad topping ideas. Happy salad days, to you!

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Is it any wonder?

[Recipe: Tomato Vinaigrette]

My dad is famous for saying things like, “This banana is a wonder food!” or “Isn’t this apple a miracle?” Some daughters might roll their eyes at this constant display of exuberance over fresh produce, but not me.

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I feel much the same way. How amazing it really is that we can be so nourished by these products of nature. Often foods that are grown require nurturing, a little help from the hand of man. But none of that downplays the miracle.

Part of the wonder is the idea of taking fresh produce and whirring it into something a lot of people think they can only buy in a bottle. I’m talking about vinaigrette. This one comes from a bulgur and portabello sandwich recipe featured in Gourmet, but its facility goes way beyond. I’ll be expanding its repertoire by marinating salmon with it, serving it atop salads, maybe mixing a little with some hummus for a veggie sandwich.

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Endless possibilities from a couple handfuls of tomatoes and some fresh herbs – that’s a miracle worthy of all kinds of fatherly enthusiasm.

Tomato Vinaigrette

Adapted from Gourmet

1 large garlic clove

1 pint grape tomatoes

½ C mint or basil leaves

¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/8 tsp red-pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the garlic in a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined and the tomatoes are just shy of puree.

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This salad inspired by…

We’ve been here before, right? This territory looks strikingly familiar: the long, hot days; the stretching blue sky; the kids — their stuff, their noise — everywhere. And for dinner? Salad. Salad, salad, and once again, salad.

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Salad because it’s so easy. Salad because it’s fast. Salad because the weather seems to call for it and you feel like gathering around the table and eating. But you may not feel like eating a whole lot.

Enter one of summer’s greatest challenges. Yes, there’s the challenge of getting the kids to keep their flip flops out of the entryway and to hang up their swimsuits rather than just dropping sopping spandex onto the bathroom tile. I can’t help you with that. But there’s also the challenge of keeping those fresh greens feeling fresh. And that, friends, I’m more than willing to help with.

Let’s start with this one. This thrown-together specimen of a few nights ago that was, I daresay, inspired. That’s right, salad can be both thrown together and inspired.

This chopped salmon salad was inspired by a fateful combination of factors.

One, a freezer full of wild Alaskan salmon.

Two, the desire to create a salad that my six-year-old wouldn’t balk at because its appearance was less suspiciously salad and more a la carte.

Three, a similar salad on the menu at Wildflower Bread Company that I was tempted to try on a recent outing, but instead just made a mental note of the concept so I could make it at home.

Now, your turn: Do try this at home. With a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

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High achieving

Sometimes a fit of ambition hits just as you’re about to get dinner to the table — and on a weeknight, no less.

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I’m not sure what possessed me to plunk the large frying pan on the stovetop, grate some seriously sharp, crumbly cheddar and toss it with a whisper of flour, but these cheese croutons were the resulting salad topper.

It made me feel like a superstar. Because it was a Wednesday. Because we were busy and dinner was sandwiched between classes and meetings and we didn’t have time for the frivolity of salad toppers.

I’d quick sautéed the pears and arrayed them on the greens. My favorite cider balsamic was already mingling with my best extra virgin. Walnuts were chopped, at the ready.

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But it was all just so… comme d’hab. Not above and beyond. Not worth much mention, really. Oh, it was going to be tasty and satisfying, that whole bit. But then I shredded the cheddar that I’d planned on shaving over the salads, and the frying pan was hot, and well, you know the rest.

They were lacey, but snappable, and they reminded me of two things.

One: a typical after school snack, fourth grade, when I’d place a slice of confetti cheese (that Monterey Jack-cheddar combo) in the middle of a saucer and microwave it until it was melted and bubbly and slid, hot, down my throat.

Two: of snowflakes, each one remarkably different, each one so necessary to my happiness at the particular moment I’m surrounded by their flurry.

Cheddar Crisps
adapted from Domino
The flour acts to bind the shreds of cheese, and adds to the crispness. Parmesan works nicely, here, too.

1 C grated sharp white cheddar
1 tsp flour

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine cheddar with flour.  Sprinkle a thin layer of the cheese mixture into 2″ to 3″ circles in the pan. Cook as many as will fit, in batches. When the underside is golden, flip gently to other side. Remove from pan and let cool on a plate layered with paper towels.

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Weeds

[Recipe: Apple & Quinoa Salad with Purslane]

I’d like to go on record as a weed eater.

We hit our greenmarket and picked up a couple of previously unknown-to-us specimens. There was a certain mystery item that I can’t remember the name of, but I do remember the grower told me to eat it raw or prepare it however I like zucchini. Its circumference was that of a large zucchini, in fact, but its color was exactly Honeydew. White flesh. Mild taste. Seeds that were large like watermelon seeds, but thicker, pure white and slightly chewy.

And it was a spectacle of length and form: It was so long we halved it with a market neighbor, so long that it looped around in on itself and my girls could grasp it at the same time in the center and still have ends curling up and around on either side. (I took photos to share with you — of course I did. But we had Emmie’s camera and I’m not getting my devices to play nice.)

It’s either a summer squash, or a variety of melon. How’s that for ambivalence? The word melon came into play somewhere during the conversation — I remember that much — but I don’t know at what point or why, enamored as I was of the heady experience of picking out produce in the open air.

So: who of you can enlighten me, based on my fumbled attempt at description?

And then there was this tangled curiosity. This weed. This weed that’s not only edible, but healthful, a wild mess of Omega-3s. Allow me to introduce you to purslane.

Maybe you’re more weed-savvy than I am and you’re already well acquainted. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear what you like to do with the stuff. It tastes, well, green: earthy with a leafy, chewy succulence and peppery bite. The grower recommended tossing it willy nilly into salads or sautéing it with garlic.

This time, I chose to stir it into this autumn salad (which I created for this month’s No Croutons Required, hosted by Holler at Tinned Tomates). I think it’s a concoction that would’ve made my new grower friend proud.

Apple & Quinoa Salad with Purslane

This is marvelously simple and full of Omega-3s, protein and fiber. It’s crisp and tangy, and the cinnamon gives it a touch of complexity.

For the salad:
1 C quinoa
1 med. to large apple (go for a tart variety)
2 tbsp chopped dates
¼ C coarsely chopped walnuts
A couple handfuls of purslane, leaves pulled from stems (if you don’t find purslane, throw in some baby spinach leaves or another green you like)

For the dressing:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tbsp white wine vinegar
Zest of one lemon
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Prepare quinoa according to package directions (don’t forget to rinse it first). When it’s cooked, put it into a medium bowl and allow to come to room temperature. While the quinoa cooks, mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Prepare the apple by slicing thinly, cutting each slice in half width-wise, if you wish. Assemble all ingredients with the quinoa, tossing lightly. Serve immediately.

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Hope in a bottle

Ok, friends, bear with me. I know there’ve been a lot of salads around here lately. A perfect, basic vinaigrette here. Greens and eggs here. Nostalgia and avocado and citrus here.

But it’s hot. Ridiculously, multiple-showers-a-day hot. So, you see, salads are the thing. The ticket to maintaining sanity at this point in the season.

Here, we are so over summer. I know there are those of you in places where summer is fleeting, blink-and-it’s-gone brief, finished before it really got underway in the first place. But we’ve been experiencing summer weather for five full months, and the murmurs are starting. September is coming and, even though we know the heat won’t go the way of August, we still have hope. We know September is supposed to mean fall, even if the reality isn’t that.

I mentioned the other day to my friend, Dawn, that I wish I could experience chilly weather for just one day. Just one day with an umbrella and a long cardigan and zero reason to put on my sunglasses. Just one day so that I could justify those knee-high, gray-as-winter Frye boots that I’m positively mad for, but that, given current temperatures, what would be the point?

Just one day with a Honeycrisp apple. That’s all I want.

Barring the apple, I do have this French balsamic apple cider vinegar to help me wait for fall and its attendant apples. This vinegar has a sweetness, but there’s body to temper it. I could lick it off a spoon (ok, so I have). So far I’ve only used it to dress salad, but it’s so luscious I imagine I’ll try reducing it with sugar and drizzling it over caramel ice cream. Or berries.

Or maybe I’ll just reach for a spoon.

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