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Archive for the ‘Salad’ Category

I’ve sung the praises of salad on here before, I know.  It is a wonderful way to get lots of nutrients in a light dish, it’s endlessly adaptable to the seasons, it’s a snap to put together after a long day… is there anything bad about salad?  If there is, it’s just that salad can sometimes be a bit boring.  But that’s easily fixed – the trick is to make sure there is plenty of visual interest, different flavors and textures, and variety from night to night.  If you treat salads like a meal, making an effort to get plenty of different colors onto the plate and adding a protein, you’ll happily eat them for the rest of your life and never get bored.

I love this particular salad in the fall.  It has some of my favorite flavors – crisp apples, crunchy-sweet pecans, and creamy goat cheese – all tossed with greens and wrapped in a tangy honey mustard vinaigrette.  Best of all, it’s put together from ingredients I almost always have on hand.  It does what the best dinner salads do – provide a healthy but filling dinner on five minutes’ prep.  It’s a winner.

Apple and Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese

2 cups mixed greens
2 apples, sliced thinly
2 ounces goat cheese (I like Laura Chenel), crumbled
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (substitute walnuts if desired)
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Divide the greens evenly into two bowls.  Add half of the following to each bowl: sliced apples, toasted pecans, crumbled goat cheese.  Toss gently to combine.
  • To make the vinaigrette, simply combine the mustard, honey, vinegar and olive oil in a clean jar and shake briskly until the dressing is emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and shake again to combine.  (Nota Baker: This makes way more dressing than you will need for the salad.  I like to make mine in a tupperware container with a lid and a spout and store it in the fridge.  It will keep for quite some time – I’m not sure how long, because I’ve never been able to keep the stuff in the house long enough for it to go bad!  In the fridge, the dressing will solidify; don’t worry about that.  Just let it come up to temperature and then shake it again to recombine all of the ingredients before using it.  It’s wonderful on all types of salads, not just this one.)

Yield: Serves two

Source: Covered In Flour

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Bean and Barley Salad

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I belong to salad.  It’s year round for me.  What salad and I have together… well, it’s special.  It’s not a summer fling.  I do love salads in the summer… grilled tuna and avocado salad, for instance.  And there’s nothing like roasted fall vegetables over greens in late fall, or a tart and crisp fennel and grapefruit salad in the winter.  But one of my all-time favorite salad categories is the warm grain salad.  It’s a perfect salad for a fall dinner – hearty enough to make a meal out of it, but extremely wholesome and nourishing all the same.  And I’m not just talking about rice – although a wild rice salad with grapes is very nice.  Any whole grain can bulk up a salad, whether as an accent or as one of the basic building blocks – and you’re supposed to eat whole grains, anyway.  Bonus!  Take barley for instance – I’ve always got some in my pantry and sometimes it can be hard to know what to do with it.  But I’m telling you… give this salad a try, and you’ll never wonder what to do with that barley you bought in a fit of crunchiness.  This salad is what barley is made for.

A note on the beans, before I give you the recipe: while this salad would work with your run-of-the-mill dried pinto beans from the grocery store, it’s just better if you use heirloom beans.  The recipe was written to be made with the Yellow Indian Woman beans from Rancho Gordo… and no, I’m not being racist.  That’s really what they’re called.

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See?

Anyway, these beans are wonderful in this salad.  They hold their shape beautifully and bring a fantastic, rich flavor that goes extremely well with the barley and other ingredients – chopped preserved lemon and wilted spinach.  They really do make a difference, I promise!

Bean and Barley Salad with Spinach and Preserved Lemon

1/2 cup Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman beans
1/2 cup organic pearl barley
1/2 package spinach (or equivalent amount of another leafy green)
1/4 preserved lemon, minced fine (use more if you like)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Put dried heirloom beans in a heavy stockpot, cover with water – about an inch – and cover the pot.  Allow to soak at room temperature for at least two and up to eight hours.  (I know this is annoying, but it’s crucial.  This recipe is really better on a weekend, I realize… but canned beans would not be the same.  Trust me on this one.)
  • Bring beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, until extremely fragrant.  Test a bean occasionally to gauge doneness.  The Yellow Indian Woman beans should keep their shape but still be soft enough to eat without crunching.
  • Meanwhile, cook the barley according to the package directions.
  • When the beans are about done cooking, stir in the spinach (or other dark green – chard would be lovely here and was actually my original intention, but my grocery store was out, darn them).  Allow the greens to wilt, then drain the beans as necessary – but don’t get too precious about it.  A little pot liquor (what bean folks call the cooking liquid) is a very, very nice addition.  Stir in the minced preserved lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Finally, add the barley and stir everything together.  Serve the salad while it’s still warm and congratulate yourself for eating such a healthy dinner!

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Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Heirloom Beans, by Steve Sando

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Roasted Shrimp Salad

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I think I have a problem.  My blogging friends are welcoming September and baking with apples… and I am not ready to let go of summer.  Usually I’m the first one to hop on the autumn bandwagon.  Fall has always been my favorite season…  I love apple-picking, foliage, Hallowe’en, the crisp air and blue skies, fall hikes, pumpkins, turkey, the beginning of hockey season… but I’m just not there yet.  I’m still thinking backyard barbeques, sailing, berry picking, beach days… and salad.  I’m still very much in salad mode.

For Labor Day weekend, hubby and I went home to spend the holiday with my family up in the Adirondacks.  On Sunday my dad and I kayaked Lake Placid, just the two of us, but on Saturday the whole family was celebrating at my parents’ lake house – my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my parents’ close friends, who I’ve mentioned before.  Like I said, they are practically my second set of parents; they’ve known me since before I was born.  My mom’s friend Denise, though, is more than just a second mom to me – she is my cooking inspiration.  An incredibly talented gourmet, she is constantly whipping up fabulous treats and making it look easy.  When my parents and their friends visited for Easter a few years ago, it was her opinion that mattered to me more than any other opinion about the dinner I cooked (fortunately, she loved it).  Denise brought the hors d’ouvres to the lake this weekend, which meant we were in for some serious deliciousness.  One of her dishes was a very creative roasted shrimp cocktail with a homemade thousand-island sauce… and it was amazing.  (No surprise there.)  She inspired me to try roasting shrimp, which is something that has been on my list for awhile.  The result was this salad – cool and crisp from the greens and the cucumbers, yet warm and sweet from the shrimp, all at the same time.  It hit the spot, even on a chilly, rainy September day.  No, I’m not ready to give up on summer yet.  I’ve got a few more roasted shrimp salads in me before then.

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Roasted Shrimp Salad

1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper
2 cups (approx.) salad greens
1/3 cucumber, quartered and chopped
croutons (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lay the shrimp out on a foil-lined baking sheet, and season with extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt (I like Maldon; you could use kosher salt but I think that sea salt really does make a difference here) and black pepper.  Roast shrimp for 5-8 minutes (depending on their size), until just pink.
  • While the shrimp are roasting, assemble the rest of the salad: lay out greens on two plates and scatter cucumber slices over salads.
  • Remove shrimp from the oven and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them, making sure to hit them all.  Divide the shrimp between the salads, dress (hubby went for just olive oil, I had my favorite Green Goddess dressing) and serve.

Yield: Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by messybaker’s mom’s fabulous friend Denise.

Wine Pairing: As hubby and I continue our quest to finish all of our wines (ha!) before our trip to Napa, we drank a 2006 Finger Lakes Riesling with this dinner.  The mellow sweetness of Riesling was a good complement to the mellow sweetness of shrimp.  I’d also recommend my quintessential summer wines – Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Australia, or a French Rose – as excellent with seafood.

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Greek Tomato Salad

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I found beautiful yellow and red cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and I was planning homemade pasta with a two-color fresh tomato sauce.  But tonight, hubby and I were finishing up the lentil soup and the meal needed something else to make it complete – a salad of some sort.  I thought of the cherry tomatoes in the fridge, checked the deli drawer and saw some traditional Greek feta in brine, and Greek Tomato Salad was born.  I’ve got to say, I am so glad this salad came into my life!  The tomatoes are sweet, the feta is salty and briney, and there’s a perfect herbal bite from the scallions and oregano.  I know I’ll be making this again and again.

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Greek Tomato Salad

1/2 pint red cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 block of Greek feta in brine
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 generous pinches of fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place in a bowl.  Medium-dice the feta and add to the bowl, along with the scallion and oregano.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything together.

Source: Covered In Flour

Yield: Serves 2

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Note: If you can’t find yellow tomatoes, feel free to substitute all red, or half orange – whatever you can find.  I think this salad would be really fun with some of the more interesting-looking heirloom tomatoes as well, and you don’t even need to do cherry tomatoes; you could thinly slice regular ones, dress with the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, and lay them out on a long platter with the feta crumbled over the top.  (Just don’t buy it pre-crumbled; you really should try the traditional feta in brine.  It’s a revelation.)  Go crazy!

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Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

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When the hubby’s away, messybaker will par-tay.  And by par-tay, I mean eat beets.  You see, hubby hates beets.  Loathes them, despises them, harbors a prejudice against them… He can’t even be in the condo when a beet is cooking.  That makes things tricky for me, because you see, I adore beets.  I love them in all different preparations, but especially roasted, and especially in salad.  This salad, to be exact.  Beets, goat cheese, pecans, tender greens… it tastes like perfection on a plate to me, but I have to wait to make it until hubby’s not around.  He’s off visiting a friend for the weekend, so I have the place to myself and eating beets is at the very top of my agenda. 

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

1 bunch baby red beets, cleaned but not peeeled
1/2 bag mixed salad greens
4-ounce log of Chevre
1/2 cup spiced pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and fresh black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the greens from your beets and wrap them in alumninum foil.  Crumple the foil around the beets, but don’t seal the packets.  Place the packets on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically, until they are tender.
  • Allow the beets to cool while you assemble the rest of the salad.  Spread the greens out on 2 plates.  Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the pecans over the salads.  Set aside.
  • Make the balsamic vinigrette: mix the balsamic and honey together until they are (somewhat) combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Then whisk in the olive oil vigorously, to create an emulsion.
  • When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the skin off, then run them under warm water to clean any stubborn bits of skin.  (You have to be okay with your hands getting pink at this point.  It’s part of the process.)  Slice the beets into wedges and scatter over the salad. Pour over the vinigrette and serve. 

Yield: Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by a classic salad preparation

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Hubby’s Grilled Tuna Salad

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When you cook a lot, you learn to work around the ever-present possibility of some sort of fiasco – or at least, I have.  Cuts, burns, ruined rice or a repeat of the Great Pesto-Tastrophe of 2005 (we had pesto on the ceiling – I kid you not) are always a specter looming over my kitchen.  I’m never entirely surprised by misfortune in the kitchen and I’m not really fazed by it at this point.  My husband, however, still comes running whenever I say “ouch” and worries over the possibility of injuries that really just make me feel like a true chef.  Last week I got bitten by my bread knife (again – can’t stand that thing) and the one good thing that came of it is that hubby wouldn’t let me do anything except for sit on the couch and drink the tea that he would make for me.  All in all, it was a pretty relaxing injury!  But that evening I had planned a grilled tuna salad and we had already bought fresh tuna for it; obviously, we had to eat the tuna and we had to eat it right away.  So we did what any seafood-loving couple would do when the cooking half is grievously injured – the hubs cooked dinner while I drank wine and shouted instructions from the living room.  It turned out delicious – rich tuna, creamy avocado and a tart dressing.  What more can you ask for?  Except, of course, for the ability to do the cooking yourself.

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Grilled Tuna Salad

2 fresh tuna steaks
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
grated zest of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce
2 firm but ripe avocados, cubed
1/4 cup minced scallions
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

  • Grill the tuna steaks briefly, until just seared on the outside but still raw inside.  Remove from grill and allow to cool slightly before cutting tuna into large bite-sized cubes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the avocados in the dressing, then arrange on individual plates.  Top with tuna cubes and sprinkle with scallions and black sesame seeds.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

Wine Pairing: This is a very summery dish to me, with a lovely richness that is counterbalanced by the tart dressing – so you could choose a wine to complement either characteristic.  A nice Viognier from Virginia would stand up well.  Or you might choose to echo the tart notes from the dressing with a Vinho Verde – that would be my choice.  And, of course, you could always go with a Spanish rose – just be sure to be eating this dinner outside with candles and flowers if you go that route!

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Capery Salad

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I don’t know how many times I have flipped over this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast and not thought anything of it.  The reason, probably, is that it’s in the chapter on kids’ food – as something for Mom to eat while her children gobble slime soup and blood ‘n guts potatoes.  (You have to applaud Nigella, she’s creative; she’d be one handy lady to have around on Hallowe’en.)  At any rate, I don’t have kids and that chapter scares me a bit, for multiple reasons, so I’m usually flipping the pages pretty speedily and I never give this salad a second thought.  That all changed yesterday.  I was watching my usual weekend Food Network programming and Nigella happened to be making her Capery Salad.  Capers, pickles, crisp lettuce and a “vinagerette” made with pickle brine.  Oh, my goodness.  Suddenly I was starving, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this salad.  I didn’t have any gherkins on hand, but I did have my favorite garlic dill pickles.  Good enough for Sunday lunch!

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Capery Salad

Romaine hearts (or butter lettuce), torn roughly
1 garlic dill pickle, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon pickle brine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

  • Fill a dinner-sized bowl with torn Romaine hearts.  Add the chopped pickles and capers.
  • Mix together pickle brine and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow stream to create an emulsion.  Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

That’s it!  This is the perfect lunch for one, maybe with a small wedge of cheddar alongside.  If you’re married to someone who doesn’t make gagging noises at the sight of your garlic dill pickles, just double the recipe.  Sharing is good.

Source: Adapted from Feast, by Nigella Lawson

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