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Archive for the ‘Salad’ Category

I made this for lunch for my mom when she visited in August.  We had saved a hunk of pancetta for her visit but after calculating the meals we had planned out, using the pancetta was looking unlikely–until I realized our need for a light lunch.  Ironic but true, pancetta would be the star of this light meal.

The dressing has a strong, smoky flavor (even though pancetta is not smoked).  Sturdy romaine is ideal, both for its texture and its light flavor.  Adding croutons or caramelized onions might put this salad over the top, but the simple recipe is enough on its own.

Pancetta Vinaigrette
~2oz pancetta, cubed tiny
~1 tsp mustard
~1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Over medium heat cook pancetta.  When cooked, turn heat to low to continue to render the fat.  Transfer pancetta and fat to a heat-safe bowl.  Whisk in mustard and vinegar.  Thin with oil if necessary.  Of course, you can be creative with what you add to the pancetta.

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Happy August, everyone! We’ve had a very full and good weekend so far here in “the Hav”, with a few friends visiting from out-of-town to partake in some lechon. The unfortunate things about lechon are: 1) it’s so enormous it really takes a full party to eat, and 2) it’s time-consuming and therefore requires a real occasion to make it worth making. 7 hours on the grill means we can’t make this baby on a normal weeknight!

The occasion for celebration this time around is that three of our favorite former roommates (MT, AT, and LL) were in town visiting. Perhaps the next time you come to visit, we’ll make that an excuse to fire up the grill for some lechon again!

Lechon

As far as the pork goes, this time around we tried something a little different.  First, just because it was easier to get, we used a bone-in, skin-on shoulder (instead of the boneless, skinless shoulders sold at Costco).  Perhaps the bone added flavor, but not that we could tell.  It did, however, add difficulty to carving.  The second change was that the first three hours we cooked the shoulder directly on the grill and finished the last four hours wrapped in foil.  This created a smokey, crunchy crust without drying it out.  This is a change we definitely recommend.

One additional recommendation — do overestimate the amount of meat you’ll need. We bought a 7.5 lb. bone-in shoulder for a party of 8 adults and 1 baby with a healthy appetite for meat, and ended up with barely an ounce of leftover lechon. A big part of the reason we had no leftovers is that the bone really took up a lot of the 7 lb. We spent too much time cooking for us to not end up with leftovers, so we are definitely going to overestimate in the future.

Cheese Plate

This bit is pretty exciting. Greg and I have taken to eating cheese plates pretty regularly as a pre-dinner snack, usually just a small sliver of 3-year Vermont cheddar with a few slices of peach. Cheese plates are a great way to start a party, since they’re a very low-maintenance, prep-ahead appetizer that keeps guests entertained until the main meal is served.

This cheese plate pictured above has the following: 1) toasted almonds dusted in salt, sugar, and cinnamon; 2) a small wedge of pecorino romano with a drizzle of agave; 3) hand-picked peaches from Lyman’s; 4) 3-year old Vermont cheddar.

Cabbage-Fennel-Celery Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch celery, thinly sliced
sesame oil, agave, salt to taste

This is a pretty different slaw from the type we usually make. This includes cabbage, fennel, and celery, and very minimal dressings to allow the vegetable flavors really stand out on their own. (Also, I’m suffering from a bad case of strep throat so am a bit timid about extra seasonings these days, especially anything acidic or spicy. Under normal circumstances, we would have added some apple cider vinegar or habanero salt in a heart beat!)

Slice all vegetables extremely thin, ~1/8″ thick. We used a fabulous mandoline that we had received from our two good friends on the other side of the pond (we know you’re reading this, M&A!). Salt the vegetables, and let sit, refrigerated, for at least two hours. This step helps to tenderize the cabbage.

Gently whisk together agave and sesame oil, and drizzle over the slaw. Toss all vegetables until well-combined, and taste. Add additional seasoning, if needed.

Peas-Feta-Avocado Salad (not pictured)

3 c frozen shelled peas
6 oz. feta, cubed
1 avocado, cubed
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Defrost frozen peas in microwave or by running under hot water for 30 seconds. Toss with cubed feta and cubed avocado. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

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Upon returning from our trip to China/Taiwan, we’ve turned over a new leaf and have decided to start eating healthier than ever. We’ve cut out processed sugar (fruit is fine), and have stuck to whole grains, lots of vegetables, and very limited sweets (save the very occasional baked treat with maple sugar or fruit as sweetener). Keeping to this new healthy lifestyle, we have collectively lost about ten pounds in the last six weeks!

We’ve recently received a cookbook written by one of my favorite bloggers — Super Natural Every Day. This book emphasizes whole grains and vegetables, keeping pantries stocked with whole, natural foods made with as little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives as possible. It’s really a fabulous read, and the blog is one of my long-standing favorites. The salad featured here is largely based on her kale salad with toasted coconut.

We made this for lunch with a bit of leftover short grain brown rice, but really any grain will do (quinoa, wheat berries, etc.). For a more substantial meal, you may want to consider adding some protein (tofu, any kind of white bean, or chicken) or a sprinkle of toasted nuts.

One important note — do be sure to wash your kale carefully. Though kale is not one of the dirty dozen, it is a “special mention” on the list of vegetables that are commonly contaminated with toxic insecticides. Also, it drives us crazy when people tell recommend discarding the ribs of kale! Yes, they are tougher than the leaves are, but full of fiber and should not pose a problem to young healthy teeth. If you’re an 80-year old with dentures, you may want to be a bit more careful, but otherwise, keep the ribs.

Coconut Kale and Caramelized Leek Salad

1/2 bunch of kale, finely chopped
1 leek
1/4 c coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 c cooked brown rice
a few sprigs of fresh herbs (we used basil)
sesame oil to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the kale and coconut flakes evenly on two cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Do check on these and toss a few times during baking, as they are prone to burning.

On low heat, saute chopped leeks until soft and caramelized (brown). Alternatively, you can slice these lengthwise into halves and grill, then chop after grilling, as we did.

Once the kale and coconut are finished, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with a bit of sesame oil or good olive oil, add some chopped herbs (basil, in our case), and a grinding or two of black pepper.

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Summer’s Bounty

One of the best things about summer is the sheer amount of produce available! Here in Connecticut, summer squash, leafy greens, and berries are flooding our markets with color and flavor and fragrance. A recent trip to Edge of the Woods yielded a bounty of summer’s finest — kale, rainbow chard, eggplant, and tomatoes.

It’s these tomatoes that inspired our dinner tonight. Beautiful, bright Jersey grown yellow and red tomatoes were the star. The key to taking simple salads like this truly over the top is to use all good ingredients. When you’re only using a few ingredients, use the best you can get your hands on. Every ingredient will stand out, so every ingredient should shine. (Keep in mind that good ingredients don’t have to break the bank; these tomatoes were only $2/lb!)

We tossed these tomatoes gently with some crumbled feta cheese, then heaped onto a bed of spinach. We used a pinch of New Zealand salt, a drizzle of Modena balsamic vinegar, and finished it off with a 2011 Spanish olive oil and a grinding of black pepper. (Again, as fancy as all of these ingredients may sound, they don’t have to be expensive. We buy our olive oil and balsamic vinegar at Costco, which has excellent, affordable Kirkland brand ingredients.)

Tomato Feta Spinach Salad

Two tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. feta, crumbled
Two handfuls of spinach, washed
good olive oil, good balsamic vinegar, good salt

Gently toss tomatoes and feta. Spread spinach onto serving plate. Heap with tomato-feta mixture. Top with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

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Hello readers! Our Fourth of July week was a whirlwind of fun, resulting in 4 parties, 2-3 house guests, and minimal blogging. We kicked off the week with a dinner party for some new friends, capped it off with a celebration at Caseus, and filled the rest of the week with baking and cooking galore!

Our Fourth of July menu included the following:

  • Lechon roasted on the grill
  • Thai-inspired summer slaw
  • Grilled bread
  • Corn on the cob
  • Strawberry-blueberry pie
Lechon
Lechon is a traditional pork dish in Spain and in former Spanish colonial possessions (including Venezuela). It’s typically a whole suckling pig roasted over charcoal for several hours, until it’s deliciously tender and smoky. Somehow, we couldn’t find a whole pig to buy (darn you, New Haven!) so we settled for a shoulder instead.
10-lb. pork shoulder, lean (for 15 people, with leftovers)
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
2 onions, sliced thinly
dry rub, enough to cover surface of pork
Advance preparation: 24 hours before cooking, rub the pork liberally with your favorite dry rub. Ours was a homemade concoction of paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, cracked black pepper, salt, and coffee. Wrap tightly and refrigerate. (If you fail to wrap tightly, your refrigerator may smell like pork for days!)
Day of: Light up the grill by placing hot coals on one side only of the grill. Place pork, onions, jalapeno in a grill-safe container. We used a disposable aluminum foil tray. Cover pork with two sheets of foil, leaving a bit of a crack at the top. The foil ensures that the pork will not dry out in its 8-hour sauna session, and the crack at the top ensures a wonderfully smoky flavor to circulate.  Place the pork on the other side of the grill where there are no coals. This ensures that the pork will cook with indirect heat. Do something else for the next eight hours and you might need to add more coals after 4 hours. Return, and remove pork from grill. Let it sit for one hour before serving. Pull apart gently with two forks.

Thai-Inspired Summer Slaw

Half head of red cabbage, shredded finely (on mandoline preferred)
Half head of green cabbage, shredded finely
6 scallions, diced
Fish sauce, to taste
Sesame oil, to taste
Habanero pepper, chopped

Advance preparation: Once the cabbage has been shredded, place in a large bowl and salt heavily. Refrigerate for 24 hours at least. This steps breaks down the toughness and bitterness of the cabbage.

Day of: Squeeze the excess water out of the shredded cabbage. There should be a pool of salted water sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Discard water. The cabbage should be nicely tender and slightly salty. Add scallions and habenero pepper, and mix well. Add fish sauce and sesame oil to taste, and mix well. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry-Blueberry Pie with Mark Bittman’s Crust

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t sugar
1/2 c butter, cold
3 T ice water, plus more as needed
3 c berries
1 T cornstarch
2 T sugar

Advance preparation: The pie crust can be prepared up to two days before baking. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the container of a food processor; pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.

Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gradually gather the mixture into a ball; if the mixture seems dry, add another ½ tablespoon ice water. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a small disk, and freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. (You can also refrigerate the dough for a day or two, or freeze it almost indefinitely.)

Day of:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Ensconce the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. (If the dough seems very sticky at first, add flour liberally; but if it becomes sticky only after you roll it for a few minutes, return it to the refrigerator for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Continue to roll, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, rotating the dough occasionally, and turning it over once or twice during the process. (Use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place.) When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter (it will be less than ¼-inch thick), place your pie plate upside down over it to check the size.

Move the dough into the pie pan by removing the first sheet of plastic wrap. Place the pie pan upside down on the uncovered side of the dough. Slide your hand underneath the pie crust, then flip both the pan and the dough right side up. Remove the second sheet of plastic wrap. When the dough is in the plate, press it firmly into the bottom and sides.. Trim the excess dough to about ½ inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes.

Toss berries in cornstarch and sugar until well mixed. Fill pie with berries. Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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We wouldn’t have guessed it until this weekend, but Labor Day marks the completion of quite a year.  Okay, I suppose it’s a little bit arbitrary where we start counting (like, maybe our wedding day is slightly more appropriate) but Labor Day coincides well, too.

One year ago this weekend we had our first housewarming party as a couple, in our very own apartment, our very own home together.  It was somewhat of an eclectic soiree, combining a number of our old New York, yuppy (“young urban professional”–with no judgment attached) friends and a number of our new New Haven friends (decidedly less yuppy).  We made black beans and arepas (back in the pre-grill days) and four (or five?) desserts (can’t blame this one on not having a grill).

It was also the first time all of us met Andy.  In this last year, Andy and his now wife Marcella have been featured guests at many meals; they also received a homemade wedding cake from us in May.  Then, he was a stranger from a foreign land–Mozambique to be exact.  Now, he’s off to England for studies, leaving a gaping hole stateside.  New Haven has suffered quite a bit this summer: First an earthquake, then a hurricane, and now Andy leaving.

Well, enough maudlin rehashing of developments in our relationship and our friends’.  What says summer better than a backyard barbecue with potato salad?  We had grilled burgers with fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, and goat cheese (and the burgers were so thick they nearly passed for meatballs), a grilled corn salad with red pepper, celery, and sun dried tomatoes, and a bit of a twist on a potato salad.  Enjoy the recipes, and the extra day of rest (we sure did).

Grilled Burgers

Use 1/4 lb of meat for each burger, but do not make them as thin as you get them at the store.  Sprinkle with spices–Montreal Steak seasoning is a good mix–then roll into a ball, indent dimples in the center on both sides and maybe flatten just slightly.  The reason to keep them thick is so that you can have burgers that are medium (or more, or less) on the inside while also developing a good sear on the outside.  Too thin, and there will be no char by the time the burgers are cooked all the way through–or worse, you’ll get the char and dried out hockey pucks for burgers.

Cook over a high flame, flipping only once.  5 minutes per side should do it.  Do not fiddle around!  Fiddling keeps the burgers from developing a nice crust, which ensures an easy flip and a sturdy burger.  Top to your delight.

Mostly Green Potato Salad

2 lb potatoes (red-skinned fingerlings would be beautiful, though we used Idahos)
1 heaping T of capers
2 scallions, pickled (soaked in vinegar, salt, sugar)
1/2 cup peas
feta cheese, crumbled/chopped to taste

Cube potatoes and boil until tender (a fork should go in and out easily).  Drain.  Combine all ingredients with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy. And don’t use mayo.

Grilled Corn Salad

6 ears of corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
10 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
3 stalks diced celery
1 T ground cumin
lemon juice, salt, and olive oil to taste

As has been stated, there are a million ways to grill corn.  The easies and quickest: husk the corn and grill directly over the fire, flipping every few minutes.  Cut kernels off of corn.  Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Of course, you could do this sans grill using frozen corn or oven roasted corn.  And a microwave is a great way to cook corn–one of us thinks so.

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…the fishmongers at US1 Farm Market are not to be trusted. We went in search of fresh cod to fry up in some beer batter last night and received word from Mr. Fishmonger that “this fish is so fresh, you’ll be back tonight for more!” Now, we brought the fish home, opened the bag, and instantly, our apartment was saturated with a very fishy smell… you know, the fishy smell that comes from fish that is not fresh, the kind that take two fans blowing full power for hours to dissipate. So we fried up the fish, ate it, and resolved to never get fish from US1 Farm Market ever again. That’s what we get for not smelling before buying.

So if you’re going in search of bulk spices or 99 cent coconut milk, A1 is definitely the place to go. It’s also the place to go if you need a variety of less common meat items (tripe, goat feet, octopus in a bag), harina pan, or beautiful habanero peppers.

So though the fish was not a wondrous success, we did make a lovely accompanying pan-Asian slaw with aforementioned habaneros. The slaw we made had a half a head of Napa cabbage, chopped scallions, one habanero, fish sauce*, lemon juice, and sesame oil. The fish sauce gave it a very pungent Thai/Vietnamese spin, and the sesame oil always helps to mellow things out. I can envision this being equally delicious with some chopped cilantro, halved tomatoes, shallots, maybe topped with some crispy chicken for a full meal. (I can envision this because we just made this last week — pictures above.)

Note on slaws: They can be extremely versatile and very delicious, so do not be restricted to the standard store-bought mayonnaise based variety. See below for three very different, but equally simple, types of slaw that are fit for any backyard barbecue. Be adventurous with other vegetables (red cabbage, carrots, cucumbers) and fresh herbs (dill, cilantro, mint). For the versions below, mix together the suggested ingredients to taste, and liberally dress the vegetables. The slaw should be prepared at least a half hour before serving in order to allow for enough time for the ingredients to meld together.

Pan-Asian

Fish sauce
Sesame oil
Lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
Scallions

Maple Mustard-Based

Whole-grain mustard
Lemon juice
Maple syrup
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Creamy

Plain yogurt
White distilled or cider vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

* By the way, small plug for randomized control trials as poverty intervention and Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo: “…there are some ways to improve nutrition even for adults that will much more than pay for themselves. The [WISE Indonesian] study found that the iron supplements made the men able to work harder, and the resulting increase in their income was many times the cost of a yearly supply of iron-fortified fish sauce. A year’s supply of the fish sauce cost $7 USD PPP, and for a self-employed male, the yearly gain in earnings was $46 USD PPP — an excellent investment.”

If you’re interested in more of this type of research, check out Innovations for Poverty Action!

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