Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salad Days Fin

I apologize for the lateness of this weeks post. I've been digging through recipes, experimenting, and then had a doctor's appointment.

The nice thing about the doctor's appointment is it takes me near Whole Paycheck, and I come away with wonderful things like nice fresh strawberries.  I had them for dessert the first night, with some Greek yogurt and a spoonful of Nutella. Then I started thinking of various recipes I've seen and tasted and put the following together:

Mix of baby lettuces
fresh sliced strawberries
slivers of chevre (soft goat cheese)
freshly ground black pepper
touch of light oil (not flavored)
balsamic vinegar.

This blend is fun, sophisticated and has a great mix of textures. I've seen recipes for strawberries with pepper and balsamic over ice cream or by themselves, but I thought the tartness of the goat cheese would make a good counterpoint.

And one more with protein! 

Toasted pine nuts
fresh basil (though I often make it with dried in the winter)
a crushed garlic clove or two
chopped cold chicken
just enough mayo to moisten
salt and pepper to taste

a scoop over salad greens makes a nice low-carb lunch, and the nuts help make it filling. If you have a nice multi-grain bread, it makes a fabulous sandwich. With some good parmesan or provolone and said bread, you can grill it (or press it) for a hearty lunch that won't leave you feeling heavy.

I hope you've enjoyed July's salad days. I had a lot of fun putting these recipes together. 

Next week starts a couple of weeks of spice rubs. Stay tuned!

As always, comments, questions, et cetera are welcome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Toss it! (Salad Days Part 3)

This week's salad is another one from the college of Winging It (I also graduated from the Wing-it School of Computer Science in the late nineties. It's an offshoot of the CYA School of Business, but I digress). I developed this a long time ago for use at Pot Lucks when I couldn't afford to bring much. It makes a great side or a great meal or a great sandwich stuffed in a pita, depending on how you decide to serve it:

Tossed Chef's Salad

1/2 pound deli ham sliced thin 
1/2 pound sliced turkey
1/2 pound sliced swiss
1/2 pound of cheddar, in thin slices

Optional ingredients:
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 pound roast beef

1 head iceberg lettuce torn (since we're feeding people and not rabbits)
1 package spring mix to vary texture and taste.
1 cucumber sliced
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Cut meats and cheeses into roughly 3/4" square pieces. Toss all ingredients together, top with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve. It's that easy.

This was always a hit at parties I brought it to. It's crunchy, full of interesting tastes and textures, and full of protein, so even big macho guys who never eat veggies will eat it.

If you can get your veggies at a farmer's market or a health food store, you won't have to worry about washing the wax off your cucumbers. (this applies to English hothouse cucumbers as well). Peels should be left on cucumbers to help you avoid gas.

Questions? Comments? Critiques?  I haven't heard from anyone in a while, all comments are welcome!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Salad Days Part Deux

I believe I mentioned a while back that Epicurious has an iPhone app. I have insomnia and there are nights when I can't sleep that I will page through their application looking for recipes to try.

I love fruit and cheese together. Give me a really tart apple like a granny smith, and a really sharp non-moldy cheese, and I am one happy camper. I grew up in New England, where it is not out of the question to have a big chunk of cheddar with your apple pie.

My sweetie wasn't brought up with this food combination. He does, however, enjoy wine and cheese, and when he lived in Chicago, we went to a lovely place called The Tasting Room a couple of times. Their cheese platters came with nuts and fruit as well as crackers and when I read this recipe, I said, "A-ha! Pears with manchego! He's eaten that at the tasting room, I bet he'll eat it in the salad."

Not only did he eat it, bless his heart, he wrangled the pears when we expanded the recipe to feed twenty. Here goes:

1/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas; not toasted) I switched out the pumpkin seeds for sliced almonds. I definitely wanted the texture, but I don't like pumpkin seeds very much. I was very pleased with the flavor.
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar I usually get this at Whole Paycheck or Trader Joe's or through Amazon, who has a nice assortment
1 teaspoon mild honey
1 teaspoon grainy mustard There's lots of good grainy mustards out there. Your average grocery store should have some Inglehoffer
4 cups packed spicy salad greens, such as radish greens, watercress, and/or arugula, tough stems discarded
4 cups packed frisée (French curly endive), torn into bite-size pieces The type of greens is especially important in this mix, the cheese is pretty strong, but you don't want it overpowered
1 (1/2-pound) piece Manchego cheese, rind removed and cheese shaved into 32 thin slices (preferably with a cheese plane) if you're not making individual plates, then go ahead and grate it.
8 small red or yellow Bartlett pears (preferably with stems)

Cook seeds in 1 tablespoon oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until puffed and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels and reserve oil. Season seeds with salt and pepper.

I skipped this part, since I skipped the pumpkin seeds.

Whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and reserved oil from skillet in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Divide greens and cheese among salad plates. Cut off 2 opposite sides of each pear (reserve for another use), leaving a 1/2-inch-thick lengthwise center slice with stem and core. Arrange a pear slice on each plate and drizzle dressing over salads. Sprinkle with seeds.

If muliplying this recipe for more people, then I recommend simply cubing the pears and grating the cheese. This combination is delicous, unique and will get you a second glance if you bring it to a group gathering.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Salad Days part one

It's July, and there is barbequing. While I have some great grilling recipes coming up this summer, I thought it might be fun to toss around some salads.

I am cheerfully omnivorous. I love both meats and vegetables. There are a lot of times when I go to cookouts that I am poking around the pot luck offerings wondering where the hell are the vegetables? My solution? Start providing my own. Sometimes, I put spiced veggies on kabobs, but other times, I bring one of my salads, which has made me the "go-to" person in my social group for salads.

How to make a fun, interesting salad that people will eat? The first thing I suggest is throw away the iceberg lettuce. I did this several years ago because I was sharing space with a small furry rabbit named Blackavar, and later his little brother Nimbus.   

One of the first things the vet told me about being owned by a rabbit is to never feed them iceberg lettuce. The fibers are too tough for their digestive system. A friend of mine refers to iceberg as "crunchy water: and finds it only suitable for topping burgers or sandwiches. Regardless, this led me to explore a variety of greens, and while I don't love them all, I've come up with a few fun combinations.

This week's entry is a few salads I've created on my own, most of them around seven ingredients. They're all of the "toss ingredients together until it looks right" variety. I hope you try them, maybe improve on them. If you do, be sure to let me know!

Arugula and Goat Cheese with fig vinegar

This combination came from three sources. One was a Greek dish in a restaurant in Atlanta--a lovely roast pork loin served with goat cheese and fig jam. The second was a pizzeria in Danbury, CT that made an arugula and goat cheese pizza, which they served with balsamic. The piece d' resistance came from my friend Scott who gifted me with a bottle of fig vinegar on my birthday.

Goat Cheese
Chopped Walnuts
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Fig Vinegar.

Caprese Pasta Salad
I love fresh mozzarella and fresh basil together. Pasta makes it hearty. I use rotini because it holds dressing  and herbs better than say, penne.

One 16 oz box rotini pasta
fresh mozzarella
grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half (so the dressing will soak in)
fresh basil
dried oregano
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Turkey Avocado Club Salad
This works with bacon and swiss instead of the smoked gouda. It also makes a great main dish on a really hot day, or can be stuffed in a pita.

Spring Mix  or your favorite lettuce blend
1/2 pound of sliced turkey (I like Trader Joe's) chopped
Smoked gouda, cut into cubes
One avocado, cubed (about twice as big as diced)
Olive Oil and red wine vinegar or your favorite mild creamy dressing

Mediterranean Herbed Salad
leafy romaine or your favorite lettuce blend
provolone or feta cheese
toasted pine nuts
fresh oregano
fresh flat-leaf parsely chopped
OPTIONAL:  sundried tomatoes in oil, cut into strips
lemon-infused oil
white wine vinegar

Got a favorite salad? I'd love to see it. Ditto if you have a recipe you'd like to try, or comments on any of the above.  Have a great long weekend!