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Posts Tagged ‘Salad’

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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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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…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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Cold, wet, rainy spring!

Spring! It’s here! Perky buds on the trees! Galoshes galore! Spring is finally here! Admittedly, this is a bit of a feeble attempt at enthusiasm, because frankly, I don’t know why Greg prefers spring to winter so much. Winter comes along with beautiful snow-blown landscapes and the potential of days off due to unplowed streets and grocery stores full of squash and tubers and root vegetables, perfect for hearty slow-cooked meals, stews and roasts and the like… Spring brings rain, and lots of it.

It is true that on my trot through the park last night, I saw a pair of ducks hanging out in what had previously been dry ground, now flooded into a legitimate pond, perfect for the happy couple to frolic in. And walking into one of the Yale buildings today, there was a beautiful flowering tree, so fragrant I thought the undergrad who had just walked past drenched herself in too much perfume. But with more rain on the forecast and a tired Lily Pulitzer trench, there are really few things I look forward to about spring… but then there are green beans.

Green beans are just about at their peak right now, $1.19 and vibrant at Edge of the Woods today. Radishes are on their way to the market also, and thus, a salad was born:

Green Bean Radish Salad

bunch of green beans, trimmed
bunch of radishes, sliced paper thin
good-quality mustard to taste
olive oil, salt, pepper

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the green beans briefly, 2-3 minutes, then soak immediately in cold water to keep the beans from continuing to cook. If you miss this step, the beans will be a bit mushy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Spoon this dressing over the green beans and radishes, and toss to cover completely. Finish with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Equally delightful modifications:

Top with toasted, salted almonds. Or prosciutto. Or pancetta. Or a grate or two of Pecorino Romano. Instead of radishes, use thinly sliced red cabbage and lemon juice in place of mustard. The cabbage soaks up the dressing and develops a fabulous crunch of a texture that complements the suppleness of green beans quite well.

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Salad!

Yikes, where did this blog go?!  Well, that’s what we get with the end of the semester (semesters) closing in for one part-time student with a full-time job and one full-time student with a part-time job.  Whew.  But, you know, even though something like 5 weeks have elapsed since our last post, we still have over 40 views just two days ago.  I guess we have a dedicated and hopeful following.

This post is about salad!  And it’s about social constructs, too, because lately our salads are salads only in name, I guess.  What makes a salad?  Romeo by any other name would still smell like a rose, but does a salad have to be cold leafy greens, or a starch smothered in a cold sauce?  Whatever you want to call this, it at least began as a salad.

Before I go on, my wife makes the most delightful salads, and in particular she is a salad dressing master.  I’ve heard those scoffers, those unbelievers who think homemade salad dressing is for people who don’t live in the real world, for people obsessed about purity, and for people with have too much time–real people just don’t have the means to make their own salad dressing–from scratch!!  But, um, this is crazy talk.  These fools have never watched my Joann whip together a dressing, in a snap, with no planning, and reckless abandon.

I’ve tried to replicate.  After all, Joann makes it look so easy!  It’s just some oil, something acidic, salt, pepper, and MAYBE something for flavor.  That’s it.  Well, it’s only a little more complicated.  Classic mistake (which I made, of course): not enough oil.  You’re going to use ingredients that are very flavorful in their own right, so mellow it out with enough oil, which will also ensure that everything in the salad gets nicely coated.  And use good oil.  Come on, there are like three ingredients here, they need to matter.  But “good” oil doesn’t mean black truffle infused olive oil hand squeezed from olives that were massaged every night.  It means olive oil, extra virgin–and it doesn’t need to be fancy.  Or it means sesame oil (actually, it means only 1/3 sesame oil because a little goes a long way).  Or peanut oil.  The point is that the oil add some flavor of its own.  Is that so much to ask?

As far as acid goes: vinegar of any nearly any kind, lemon juice or some other citrus, maybe even pomegranate or cranberry juice (though those are probably more of a “flavoring” than the acid base we’re looking for).  And for flavorings: just about anything.  Herbs are good, as is honey or mustard.  It’s hard to go wrong here.  Just be thoughtful about matching the oil, acid, and flavoring.

Back to this salad.  We started with a bed of spinach.  To that we added caramelized onions, sauteed rutabaga, sliced radishes, toasted almonds (“toast” them in some oil just until they smoke–they are incredible), dried cranberries, and chicken.  More than half the ingredients are cooked!   And the warm ingredients caused the spinach to wilt just slightly, which was very nice.  We didn’t even need croutons or cheese!  For other additions: sauteed mushrooms, summer squash, sliced cheese (we’ve been using a vegetable peeler on romano and cheddar), toasted croutons (can be made using left-over bread and some oil–just pop under the broiler).  Also, caramelized onions make everything better.

Well, after all that, I realized we don’t even have a picture of this epic salad.  Fine.  I’ll leave you with a totally unrelated picture: still life, in April.

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Beloved Brussels

Sometimes I marvel that there are people in the world who don’t like brussel sprouts. Now it’s true that neither Greg nor I had experienced brussel sprouts until later in life, when our palates were a bit more mature, and we didn’t have haunting memories of badly-made brussels to overcome. And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that the first brussels recipe we tried was from 101cookbooks and involved lovely shavings of Parmesan dappling beautifully tender brussels with golden-brown crusts. All that to say, what’s not to love about brussel sprouts? Aesthetically, they are adorable — with their tightly wrapped leaves, they look like little baby mini-cabbages. And in flavor and texture, they are perfect — savory and tender with a hint of bitter adultness.
Brussel Sprout Salad
~14 brussel sprouts, sliced thinly (~4 cut per brussel)
1 fennel bulb, sliced
6 baby portabellas, sliced
handful of cashews, chopped (can be substituted with other nuts)
handful of currants (can be substituted with raisins or dried cranberries)
Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt on fennel before roasting. Roast fennel slices at 400F for 25 minutes. The fennel should be slightly charred and tender when done.
Saute brussel sprouts over medium heat in olive oil. Remove brussels from pan and plate. Saute mushrooms. Remove from pan and layer on top of burssels. Top with fennel. Top with cashews and currants. Drizzle with pomegranate dressing.Pomegranate Dressing

1 T pomegranate molasses
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
Emulsify pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

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