Posts Tagged ‘salad’
Happy New Year, all! So, yes, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Mr. T and I had a wonderful time gallivanting around the snowy north with various permutations of family, which is always fun. But, helas, we’re now back to the grind and I at least am feeling the need for something cleanse-y. Of course, I have a fairly hardcore cleanse lined up and ready to go, but apparently I’m something of a hosebeast during the process, so I have to wait till Mr. T is on travel to do it. Sigh.
Meddlesome partners aside, it seems that most of you are looking for something similarly fresh and healthy after some holiday excess. I did an informal poll on the PassionFruits’ facebook page (which, obviously, you should check out if you’ve not already) and kale salad was a clear winner over the red velvet cake and pecan squares I’d lined up for the next week or so.
So, kale salad it is. In case you’ve not recently been accosted by a juicer, raw fooder, vegetarian, Prevention magazine-reader, or other holistic evangelist (lucky you), kale has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late. It is ridiculously, insanely good for you and thus is popping up in all sorts of places, both traditional and not.
Now, while I have yet to investigate kale chips up close and personal, the latest method of consuming the superfood du jour did intrigue me. Massaging the kale with oil or acid to relax it a bit–a pre-chewing, if you will–makes the whole eating endeavor less work and more pleasure. I tried it out while we were in Boston over the holiday and lo, it worked. Very cool. It was lovely tossed with a light vinaigrette, sliced green apples, fennel, and toasted pecans. So, there’s that version.
But I also wanted something a bit more substantial, a salad that could stand on its own for lunch. So, I turned eastward with a sesame-miso dressing, added some more veggies and a bit of chicken, and voila, a delicious salad that’ll keep the 3pm munchies at bay. An easy victory for healthy eating in the new year. And, having written this up, I can now get back to baked goods! (I’ll keep eating the salad though, and you should too!)
Having had some divine figs–right off a ginormous old tree–on vacation, I was debating whether or to write about the arrival of this fall’s fresh figs back here at home–totally worthwhile, yes–but necessary? And then I remembered that I’d never had a fresh fig until Mr. T brought some home one day not so many years ago. They were so novel and delicious I ate the whole pint myself… and spent the next two days in very close proximity to the potty. But the less said about that, the better.
So yes, anyway. On the off chance that anyone else is, like I was, not clued in to the manifest delights of fall’s fresh figs, let’s dish. A yielding, velvety skin surrounding lush, honeyed flesh? Yes indeed. While there are tons and tons of fig varieties, we’re most likely to see Black Mission, Brown Turkey, or green Calimyrna in markets here in DC. And, providing that you don’t eat them all at once, they’re as healthy as they are tasty; full of all sorts of needful vitamins and nutrients in addition to, *hem*, lots of fiber.
Regardless of variety, key to picking good figs–is to look for soft, yielding, fruit. If they’re a bit beat-up looking, that’s often a good indicator that they’re ripe. Also an excellent indicator is if they’re oozing a bit of sticky juice from their bottoms. This makes the best tasting figs frequently not the best LOOKING figs, particularly if you’re not plucking them, sun-warmed, from the tree yourself. Get over this, as I had to, and you will be rewarded.
Ok, so, confession time. Whilst our recent trip to the West Coast was indeed a lovely one, it was much more focused on the friends and the booze than it was on the food. The friends and the booze were all simply divine, and really the food was very good too–a lovely tri-tip, a literally garden-fresh salad, some adorable cupcakes–but what stuck with me most on the comestibles front, embarrassingly enough, was the chipotle chicken sandwich I snarfled at the (admittedly fairly posh) Santa Barbara airport while waiting for our flight home.
So. Lame. Yes, I know. And I will apologize now to all the friends that I used to go get lunch with at the Red Cross cafeteria and who swore by Miss Mable’s chicken wraps with the chipotle mayo. For the record, I was wrong, you were right; the stuff is pretty much awesome. There, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let’s talk chipotle chicken salad, which I must say is much, much better than the airport’s…
One night last week I found Mr. T wandering about the kitchen asking–with just a slightly plaintive edge–”what are we doing for dinner?”, which is code for: “are you cooking or do we need to go out?” Having been out to several very nice dinners in the days prior, it was obviously time for me to step up, so I set about rummaging around in the refrigerator for dinner. It did not look that promising: a pound of ground turkey, two sad strawberries, and some random vegetables. It was also the first hot day of summer (calendars be damned) and we were unaccountably really hungry, so I wanted something that would be substantial and tasty, yet sit lightly.
Circling back to that ground turkey and the lettuce sitting next two it, I started thinking about larb gai, the Thai ground chicken salad. Spicy and savory, with nary a heavy carb in sight, it seemed like just the thing. Excited by the prospect of tangy, pungent meat wrapped up in cool lettuce leaves, I set right to work without bothering to do any research to further my somewhat hazy conception of larb gai.
Nevertheless, I kept in mind the hot-sour-spicy-sweet balance that marks so much Southeast Asian cooking and mixed up a dressing accordingly. I also pulled out a trick from my peanut sauce recipe, hot-sauteed the shallots almost to the point of charring to coax out the burnt, caramelly notes also found in Thai cuisine. And, in truth, this really hit the spot. Warm, the turkey mixture was a pleasantly spicy, tingly contrast to the cool, crisp vegetables and made for a restorative and delicious weeknight meal.
So, because last weekend wasn’t going to be busy enough, I felt the need to have people round for brunch on Sunday. It’s a good thing I’m cute when I’m getting ready for parties or I’d be so, so dumped. It’s also a good thing half my guests bailed at the last minute; the ones that DID show up were HUNGRY.
Anyway, I planned on doing my usual brunch menu: Eggs Mornay, bacon, biscuits, asparagus vinaigrette, coffee cake, and fruit salad. But, with fall in the air, my usual fruit salad (pineapple, melon, kiwi, & strawberry layered in a glass bowl) didn’t really seem appropriate.
Instead, I turned to some slightly more seasonal fruit. The WF had some gorgeous Honeycrisp apples and Asian pears (on sale-sweet!), and I grabbed a pomegranate, some figs, and a couple of Bartlett pears as well. With a few toasted walnuts on top, I figured I’d be in business for a crunchy, sweet, seasonally-sensitive salad.
I did, however, need to address the whole oxidization issue, which kind of harshed my mellow. While it’s a fall salad, I didn’t want all my fruit to be straight-up brown and mushy. THAT’S not cool.
I figured that an acidic little dressing would help keep the fruit looking its best for at least a little while. Lemon juice was the obvious candidate, but I decided to cut it with boiled cider so all my lovely fall fruits would taste like themselves and not like… lemon. And flavor-wise, this worked out really well. The boiled cider lent autumnal nuance to everything and the lemon brightened and lightened as only it can. If you don’t have boiled cider on hand, I’m sure maple syrup–the REAL thing, if you please–would be lovely as well.
If there was a ever a time I wish I vlogged, it would be now, so I could give you all a big ol’ “HELLO!” a la My Drunk Kitchen. (MDK is totally worth the clicks, btw. Harto’s antics crack me up without fail, and that’s saying something, Frederick!) Sadly, they say the camera adds 10lbs, so my video debut is still SEVERAL Pilates sessions away.
In any case, though, I can assure you I’m back from, well… let’s see: late-summer blogger malaise, crazy work (it’s year-end for Feds, and that’s about as much fun as a barrel of bubonic monkeys), serial party-throwing, and, oh yeah, a faboo week in Costa Rica (looks tragic, right?) communing with birds and frogs and snakes and monkeys of the non-bubonic variety.
Now, while I am absolutely a-twizzle with new fun things to write , I did want go get back into the swing of doing Menu Mondays. It’s one of the few things I’ve gotten good (ok, ANY) feedback on lately, so tally ho. And, since we’ve been luxuriating in deliciously crispy fall weather here in D.C. for the past few days, I thought a tasty meal that celebrated back-to-school, the impending harvest, and the no-longer-so-far-away holidays would be just the thing.
We kick off with a crisp, juicy salad of fennel and apples with a bright cider vinaigrette, and continue in that sweet-savory vein with a toothsome combination of roasted butternut squash, kale, and raisins tossed with pasta and Parmesan cheese. Plums nestled in a almond-y batter and quickly baked off make a suitably autumnal conclusion.
These dishes’ dependence on seasonal produce links them together in a very appealling fashion. If, however, you’re like Mr. T and look slightly askance at sweet-savory pairings, you can omit the raisins from the pasta and reduce the cider in the vinaigrette. I absolutely love them as they are, however, and I’d encourage you to try them as-is first.
Sweet corn. Tangy tomato. Pungent basil. It doesn’t get more summery. Put them together, and you pretty much have the apotheosis of hot weather deliciousness. And put them together we shall, tossed together with a lightning quick vinaigrette that delivers a little extra zing that makes this easy salad compulsively nibbleable.
Given that this is the glory season of spectacular beefsteak heirloom tomatoes, I feel kind of dreadful recommending cherry tomatoes for this… but they really work better. The big tomatoes, delicious as they are, kind of break down and get all weepy while the little ones hold their shape and flavor better. I’ve made this several times since the version pictured, and it’s just better with the baby tomatoes. Keep your big fancy tomatoes for eating on their own or in a Caprese salad.
Ah, organizational skills. If mine were slightly better, this is what I would have taken to the Pride bar-be-que I went to on Saturday. But no, not quite that together. Not that anyone complained, mind you, as I showed up instead with one of WhiskedDC‘s super tasty strawberry-rhubarb pies–which got snarfled up pretty much instantaneously. Good stuff. Also good, however, is this verdant, lemony tabbouleh-esque salad… particularly now that the summer has definitively arrived in D.C., crushing everyone under its hot, sweaty fist.
Although you’d not know it based on many of the tabboulehs available in this country, it’s MEANT to be a green salad of parsley with a little bit of bulghur mixed in–not a tan salad of bulghur with a little bit of parsley mixed in. Of course, there are challenges to making a salad that’s mostly parsley. While I love its bright, grassy flavor, most of the parsley I can get my hands on is huge and tough. And, when tossed with its super lemony dressing, the parsley manages to go all wilty, yet remain tough. Tiresome.
Since I’m not about to start growing my own tender young parsley for salads–I’d need several more balconies–I thought about other greens that might also play well with the parsley I was committed to keeping for the sake of flavor (and tradition). Spinach? Nope. Too delicate. It’d just wilt down into snotty green hankies. Ech. But kale? That could work. It’s rugged enough to stand up to the dressing, but once cooked, isn’t as throat-ticklingly tough. And chic peas? Also not traditional, but a nice addition that adds some creamy heft and enhances the veggie-friendliness of your menu.