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lentil salad

I highly recommend having cooked beans or lentils on hand whenever possible. Here’s why. I made lentil burgers the other night, and ended up with more lentils than I needed. Those little puppies came in handy today while I was roaming around my apartment, starving, wondering what on earth to eat for lunch. (I do a lot of roaming around now that I work from home, mostly so I don’t become permanently affixed to the couch, a withered shell of myself, fingertips glued to the keyboard).

What resulted was a quite tasty, very healthy salad, composed entirely of “stuff I had lying around,” including but not limited to, carrots, onion, kale, cilantro, pine nuts, and labneh (though greek yogurt would do). I threw some salt, pepper, cayenne and coriander for seasoning, plus a splash of red wine vinegar for some tang. Took about 10 minutes start to finish, and I have no complaints!

I have been so remiss, what with catering a giant birthday party (more on that later), suffering through a summer cold, and getting sunburned in Southern California. But I have news! I am teaching a class (with Mark doing cocktails of course) on the basics of a vegetarian pantry and how to build not-boring salads. We’ll finish with a no-cook meal that highlights a ton of amazing seasonal produce and I am so excited.

The awesome folks at Kitchensurfing are hosting at the Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Center, a totally amazing teaching kitchen space in Gowanus. So basically what I’m saying is, take my class! Click here!

These salads are both a kind of preview and explanation for the theme of the class…they were both satisfying, hearty salads that I made with stuff I had laying around. Very summery and vegetarian. You could of course make these on purpose, but in my case they were a fridge clean-out kind of situation.

In the first, I made rice and mixed it with a chunky pesto / chimichurri / herb concoction. If you ever have multiple bunches of herbs laying around and no clue what to do with them, I highly recommend this solution. This particular version was mint + parsley + cilantro in generous amounts, blended with lots of lemon juice, olive oil, jalapeño for kick, and pistachios. I mean, I wanted to eat this stuff with a spoon it was so piquant. It literally justified using the word piquant. Imagine! It would be so good on grilled corn, or grilled fish, or really anything at all. In this case I mixed it with rice and topped the whole thing with a raw veggie salad, mixed with some extra lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The second salad is a kind of healthy taco salad I suppose. Romaine hearts topped with a veggie tofu scramble — zucchini, corn, crumbled tofu, and spices like cumin and cayenne. Top with crunchy tortilla chips and some cotija cheese and you’ve got yourself a salad. Love the hot + cold, soft + crunchy going on in this salad.

So in conclusion, take my class if you’re interested, and I hope it’s the first of many to come.

I’ve started to come around to this idea of being paid in trade. Walking out of the Turtle Bay CSA on Tuesday night, after a lovely evening of chatting with members and just hanging out, I was able to take a share of the produce as well. I grabbed some carrots, broccoli, lettuce, squash, purple basil, green garlic, eggs and yellow plums. Phew! What a great haul.

I hope I’m not getting redundant here but PUT AN EGG ON IT is a real thing. And I employ it frequently, as you can tell.

And there is actually a salad under that egg, using the lettuce, carrots, broccoli and green garlic from the CSA. Recipe after the jump!

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A friend of mine runs the Turtle Bay CSA, and asked me to stop by during their distribution tonight and share some recipes. I was thrilled, in part because of the reality TV-like challenge of it: I found out what was going to be in today’s share box last night, and came up with these recipes in the meantime. The stress! The pressure! OK, not really. Here’s the beautiful thing. Seasonal veggies are so easy to cook with. You know they’re going to be the ultimate tasty versions of themselves, so why mess with them too much?

Beets and carrots make a great raw salad, and what I realized was that I could make a second recipe out of the beet greens and carrot tops. So: beet & carrot salad and beet green & carrot top frittata (with zucchini). Done and done.

Recipes after the jump!

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Today was my first day officially “unemployed”. I suppose technically I’m self-employed, or a freelancer, or whatever you want to call it. But I no longer have a single, full-time job. I no longer have the obligation to be somewhere at 9 am every weekday. And it feels pretty weird.

To say I’m a planner is the understatement of the century. I don’t like leaving things to chance, and I don’t like uncertainty. I suppose an aversion to change is part of the human condition — we fear that which is different and unknown. But despite my nature, something compelled me to make this particular change. Maybe it was the idea that I’d be staring at a computer screen for 9 hours every day for the rest of my life that scared me. Or that I was building things for other people but not myself. Or that most days, I’d just be fantasizing about what I could make for dinner instead of being truly engaged in what I was being paid to do. Not because I was killing time, but because I really, really love thinking about making dinner.

Whatever the reason, I left my job, and here I am. I still exist, I didn’t die. I still have to eat lunch, which is really what this post is about I suppose. In all of this change another unfathomable thing happened to me. I learned to love quinoa. Now I really do believe in miracles.

This is my new favorite salad, hands-down. It’s not even about the specific ingredients so much as the “formula”: crunchy lettuce (in this case, romaine hearts), soft quinoa (better yet, still hot from the pan), a variety of veggies (here, cooked eggplant and raw radishes), feta cheese, and the world’s most flavorful oil to bring it all together. I based it on Heidi’s “magic sauce” from 101 Cookbooks, but with my own spin. Crushed cumin seeds toasted in olive oil, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika instead of sweet, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, and the secretest secret ingredient of all time (lest you want people to run from you) — anchovy paste. Drizzle that on top of your salad (or literally anything edible) and pinky swear you’ll be hooked. I can’t promise your salad will come with the accompanying sense of freedom and fear and excitement and anticipation as mine, but you never know.

 

I love a good niçoise salad, though they’re hard to find. Either the potatoes are too dry, or the tuna is overcooked, or the green beans are overcooked, or something. I realized that I could make my own version very easily, without the tuna altogether (or the olives, hence the no-niçoise part), and with perfectly cooked green beans. How about that!

I also made my own aioli.

Let me explain. Aioli technically does not need to be involved in a salad, niçoise or otherwise. But the idea for this green salad came a little backwards, in that it started with an idea for potato salad. I boiled some red baby potatoes until nice and tender, smashed them up a bit, and coated them generously with homemade, garlicky, lemony aioli. They needed some greenery so I thought: what about that farmer’s market spinach I bought? And some french beans? And….an egg?

So I hard boiled a few eggs, blanched the green beans until juuuust tender, and shaved some parmesan. I made a lemon-mustard vinaigrette (juice of one small lemon, a teaspoon of grainy mustard, a small grated garlic clove, 4T (ish) of olive oil, salt & pepper)  to drizzle over the whole thing. No dry potatoes here! YUM.

Garlic aioli
1 egg yolk
8 oz. light, fruity olive oil
1 clove of garlic, pummeled in a mortar & pestle (or grated on a microplane)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, add your egg yolk, garlic, and a few drops of water. Whisk well. Start adding olive oil, literally a drop at a time, and whisking vigorously. It helps to have a partner helping. Once it starts to lighten in color and thicken, you can add the oil faster. One yolk will take about a cup of oil easily (scary). Just keep going. If it’s too stiff and tight, add a few more drops of water. Finish with the lemon juice and taste for salt. And before you know it: garlic aioli!

Cabbage is an especially unsexy food. It’s sounds even less alluring than kale, though I admit to loving kale with abandon. But when I got an enormous (and I mean ENORMOUS) head of cabbage at the farmer’s market for $2, I realized maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

Braised cabbage with a bit of butter and fresh ginger is pretty darn good, which is how I used half of it. But that other half has been sitting in my fridge for nearly a week now, taunting me. Yesterday I subsisted almost entirely on cheese and cheese-related things (like bread, with melted cheese), and so I decided dinner should be light and healthy tonight, and darn it, I would use the rest of that cabbage.

And so, voila, cabbage slaw and miso-ginger cabbage soup!

The cabbage slaw inspiration came from here. I weirdly happened to have both celery and radishes (just 2 stalks & 3 radishes respectively, but the perfect amount to add to 1/4 of a head of cabbage). I modified the dressing a bit, as I did have blue cheese and did not have chives (I had a couple of scallions, which I scattered on top instead). This dressing would be good on any bowl of very crunchy things — creamy dressings only appeal to me in contrast with toothsome veggies. And, crap, I just realized I used cheese in this. SO CLOSE.

Buttermilk (Blue Cheese) Dressing

1/2 c. buttermilk, well shaken
1 T. mayonnaise or sour cream
1 t. sugar
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2-3 T. crumbled blue cheese (opt.)
healthy pinch of salt

The cabbage soup doesn’t so much deserve a recipe — basically I simmered a bunch of coins of ginger in 6 c. water, added a couple of big tablespoons of white miso paste (a brilliant pantry item, definite must-have), and then the shredded cabbage. A bit of soy sauce and scallions to finish and you’re done!

Happy Thanksgiving! This is my favorite holiday (do you wonder why?). I was literally dreaming of cooking Thanksgiving last night — although in my dream I was making Empanadas. Random. Right now I’m drinking coffee with Charlie Brown on in the background, soon I’ll put on Home for the Holidays, by far my favorite holiday movie. I think I’ve watched it approximately 50 times by now, but somehow it never gets old.

Anyway, Gemma and I are about to be cooking up a storm — here’s what’s on the menu for our (Vegetarian) Thanksgiving:

Appetizers
Baked Brie (wrapped in crescent roll dough with caramelized onions. this one’s a tradition for us.)
Rosemary Cashews
Roasted Fennel Dip with Parmesan

Main
Leek and Swiss Chard Tart

Sides (it’s all about the sides, let’s not even pretend otherwise)
Mashed Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts two ways – roasted with hazelnuts & hashed
Arugula Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Goat Cheese and Pickled Red Onions
Angel Biscuits with Cranberry Butter
Stuffing with Mushrooms, Sage and Chestnuts
Cranberry Relish

Dessert
Spiced Pumpkin Pie
I’m also debating whether to make these Cranberry Curd Bars because they sound SO GOOD.

Have a wonderful day everyone!

This half-written post has been sitting in my drafts for a very long time now. I have been struggling with how to write about this salad, or whether to even include a recipe. Here’s the problem: I have a love-hate relationship with quinoa. I keep thinking I’ll just break it off for good, never to return to that curly grain, and then I see a recipe that looks amazing and I fall for it all over again. And then I regret it when it ends up a soggy mess.

Maybe I am not good at prepping quinoa, that’s possible. Or maybe I keep convincing myself that because it’s good for me I’ll like it. It looks nice, doesn’t it? I modified and merged a couple recipes from 101 Cookbooks to get to this particular salad. When I first made my quinoa it looked promising — fluffy and dry. I dressed it with an avocado-lime dressing, made in the blender with some plain yogurt. And I think that’s when it went south. I had sauteed corn, red bell peppers, zucchini and onion to add to the mix and topped it with goat cheese and pepitas. But it was….bland. Maybe I undersalted it, I don’t know. Sometimes, no amount of goat cheese can save a recipe.

File this one under “try again” — I think it needs some spice and a tangier dressing to overcome its quinoa-ness. I’m sure I’ll be buying a bag of this grain soon enough, and trying something new. Hopefully next time, my efforts won’t be in vain.

I had this post sitting, waiting to go up before I left for vacation…so here it is! I was in a rush so the pic is crummy, but use your imagination.

Latkes are so simple and quick — the shredded veggies cook up in no time, and you can spice them up with whatever you want. I found a recipe for beet latkes and decided to combine them with the sweet potatoes. For a simple topping, you could just add a dollop of sour cream (always yummy with beets — think borscht) and if you like dill, it’d probably be great with this as well. I chose to make this tangy green apple & celery slaw instead, with greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo. The crunchy texture of the slaw goes nicely with the crisp yet soft latkes. A great weeknight meal served in this case with some Trader Joe’s chicken sausage for bulk.

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