Category Archives: Salad

Emotional eating.

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My birthday is not complete without a lemon cake. My Mom made them for me when I was young. Cliff Hunter baked his lemon pound cake for my birthday in 2005, and my husband Jason bakes them each year now, often with homemade lemon curd.

Each of us has strict rules of flavor for Thanksgiving’s stuffing and mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and Acorn squash based on the dishes that came from our mothers’, grandmothers’, and aunts’ kitchens.

For some of us it’s not summer until we bite into the first ripe tomato or ear of fresh corn. Others can’t imagine New Years without braised greens and black-eyed peas. Christmas would not be complete for me without Polish pierogi filled with cabbage, potato and cheese, or prunes.

All food tastes better with emotion. Think beyond fear, pain and stress. That’s just Twinkies and pizza good. It’s joy, peace, love and hope that elevate fine foods, however simple, from delicious to memorable. And it is those foods that we enshrine in tradition.

Golden Honeycrisp Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 golden beet, cut into slivers

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tbs goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Honey vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup Arbequina olive oil*
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp mint, chopped

*Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar is a new favorite from Sapore Oil and Vinegar near Eastern Market in DC. The vinegar is actually fermented honey. You can substitute Sherry or Cider vinegar. Arbequina is a grassy, Spanish olive oil. Substitute any good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Make dressing: whisk together shallot, cheese, vinegar and cumin, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream and season to taste with honey and mint.
  • Toss together apples and beets. Toss with dressing.
  • This salad is definitely better dressed lightly.

Take a chance on me.

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I love when a new recipe directs me to an ingredient I have never heard of or worked with before. There’s that moment of fear at the market when you say the name out loud for the first time, wondering just how horribly you botched it’s pronunciation. There’s a prickly moment of anticipation when you begin to cook and again when you taste it, knowing you may have completely screwed up, rendering it nearly inedible. Finally, there’s the moment when you serve it, smiling, to your dinner guests and tell them it’s quite possibly the best thing you’ve ever tasted, hoping desperately that they’ve never heard of it before either*.

This is cooking at it’s best. This is “What I Haven’t Cooked Yet” is all about. I  love nothing more than trying new things, taking a chance, failing miserably sometimes, and getting right back on that figurative horse. It’s the only way you learn, and there is joy and fellowship in sharing these adventures with others.

So grab some soba noodles – Japanese buckwheat pasta – rich, dark, Japanese tamari soy sauce, deep, roasted sesame oil and that odd beast, fresh, unsalted peanut butter, with a skim of oil over the top, and make this wonderful cold summer salad. Feel free to get it wrong a few times, but each time you bring it to the table smile, tell them it’s magnificent, and enjoy every minute of your time together.

*This, of course, is significantly more fun if you’ve just laid down the weekly grocery budget for something like dried porcini mushrooms or a rack of lamb. Soba noodles are cheap.

Asian Peanut Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound soba noodles
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded and sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh, unsalted peanut butter*
  • 3 tbs Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar**
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Fresh cilantro

*The oil separates and rises to the top in fresh peanut butter. Just stir it into the jar before using. You can find organic brands like Teddy Bear on your grocery store shelf. If you are allergic to peanuts, try Tahini, a toasted sesame seed paste, or another nut butter.

**Brand new from Sapore. The vinegar is actually fermented honey. OMG! You can substitute 1 tsp chili oil and 3 tbs rice wine vinegar which will give you similar heat, mild acidity and sweetness.

Directions:

  • Cook noodles by adding the package to boiling, unsalted water. When al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Make the dressing: Thin the peanut butter by whisking it with 1/4 cup warm water. Whisk in tamari soy, sesame oil and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar (or chile oil and rice wine vinegar).
  • Add Sriracha to taste and dress salad. Start slow and make sure you don’t overpower the noodles.
  • Serve topped with cucumbers, fresh cilantro and sesame seeds.

High as an elephant’s eye.

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My Dad did his PhD thesis on corn. At night my Mom typed out page after page, over 100, on a typewriter. Corn expertise was highly regarded in our home. Dad taught us that all vegetables have sugars which, once harvested, convert to starch. This happens faster in some vegetables than others. Corn is one of the fastest.

As a kid, when corn was on the dinner menu, Dad and I would stop by Sapowsky’s on the way home and wait in their dirt driveway, outside the farm stand, for the next cartload of corn to come in from the fields. We would grab a dozen and head home, where Mom already had water boiling. As soon as we pulled into the driveway I would get out, shuck the corn, Mom would boil it for a couple of minutes and we would eat it, hot and fresh, usually without any butter or salt.

Today’s cultivars of corn have more stable sugars, but corn is still best picked during the cool hours of the morning, quickly refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible. These salads celebrate the light, sugary sweetness of raw corn and should be made with the freshest corn you can find.

Southwest and Herbed Goat Cheese Raw Corn Salads

This Southwest salad is just dying to be served over carnitas tacos! The Herbed Goat Cheese version is a perfect, light summer picnic salad. Serve it alongside herb and wine poached chicken and a perfect loaf of crusty country bread slathered in farm-fresh butter. Just a thought.

For Salad:

  • 2 ears fresh corn, husked
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Slice the kernels from the corn, mix with the red onion and toss with one of the following dressings.

For Southwest dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs goat cheese
  • 1 tbs finely chopped basil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced – about 2-3 tbs
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup Red Merken Chili Oil*

*Red Merken is a spicy chili oil with nice depth. Substitute another chili oil or order online from Sapore.

Directions:

  • Mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt.
  • Stir together cheese, garlic paste, basil, lime juice and cumin.
  • Whisk in Red Merken Chili Oil.
  • Lightly dress corn and onions.

For Herbed Goat Cheese dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs goat cheese
  • 1 tbs finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 tbs lemon juice.
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup Mission Olive Oil*

*The Champagne Mimosa Vinegar is light with a hint of fruit. Substitute any light white wine vinegar. Mission olive oil is light and grassy. They can both be ordered online from Sapore.

Directions:

  • Slice kernels from the corn. Toss with onion in a medium bowl.
  • Mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt.
  • Stir together cheese, garlic paste, tarragon, lemon juice and Champagne Mimosa Vinegar.
  • Whisk in Mission Olive Oil.
  • Lightly dress corn and onions.

Is our bread too big?

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With the exception of Jesus, no one ever seems to encounter the problem of having too little bread. Just look at the myriad recipes created expressly to use up leftovers: crostini and croutons, bread pudding and bread crumbs. With all due deference to good bread and skilled bakers, are we simply making our loaves of bread too big?

The simple answer, is no. Leftover bread is a gift, and its value is no more apparent than in Panzanella, and Italian salad of stale bread and tomatoes. The salad is dressed with sharp vinegar and olive oil to soften the bread. Paired with garden fresh tomatoes, the large croutons make the salad light, not heavy.

You don’t even have to wait for the bread to get stale. Grab a fresh, toothy, crusty, country loaf, cut it into large 2″ cubes and fry it up in a little olive oil. You may never encounter leftover bread again.

Tomato Panzanella

Make sure the bread has toasted through so it holds up to the dressing.

For Salad:

  • 6 cups country bread cut in 1” pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large, perfect tomatoes, cut into 1″ pieces. My favorites are the heirlooms Brandywine and Black Cherokee.
  • 1 Candy Sweet red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil

For Dressing:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup Late Harvest Zinfandel Vinegar*
  • 2/3 cups Tuscan Blend Olive Oil*

*More wonderful products from DC’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar. A good, strongly acidic red wine vinegar and a rich, buttery olive oil will fit the bill nicely here. Or you can order them right from Sapore online.

Directions:

  • Toss bread in 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast bread in a 375 degree oven or a sauté pan over medium heat until golden brown and crisp.
  • Toss together tomatoes, onion and basil.
  • Make dressing: pound garlic and a pinch of course sea salt into a paste. Whisk in vinegar and black pepper.
  • Whisk in oil in a thin stream.
  • Check the dressing with a piece of tomato. Season to taste with additional, salt oil or vinegar.
  • Add bread to the tomatoes and toss through with the dressing.

I’m bringing salad back (Part 2 of 52)

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Raw kale is a current darling of the food scene, and kale salads have appeared on hip restaurant menus across the country. Why? Well, it’s good for you. It’s also fairly inexpensive and counter-intuitive. Hey, who doesn’t love a counter-intuitive vegetable?

Here’s the problem. It’s still kale. No matter how freshly-picked those leaves are, they are still tough and still a little bitter. One solution the food hipsters have identified is to massage your kale. Now, while I love my veggies, that’s a lot of affection just to get a salad on the table.

Here’s my solution: make a fresh, bright vinaigrette with just a pinch of sugar to offset the bitterness. Chop the kale thin –  chiffonade – and let it rest for 5 minutes after you dress it to wilt the greens slightly. That’s a salad you can love.

*As some of my demo audience noted last Saturday, this vinaigrette was closely inspired by a recent tropical cucumber salad. The good news? That bottle of tropical spice vinegar can do double duty!

Kale With Tropical Cucumber Vinaigrette

This vinaigrette would also be great over a piece of grilled fish like tilapia or over mesclun greens.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup Tropical Spice Vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup seeded, minced cucumber
  • 1 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs mint, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup Lime Oil*
  • Sugar
  • 1/2 pound kale, ribbed and thinly sliced
*No lime oil tropical spice vinegar? You can order them online from DC’s Sapore or sub a good quality white vinegar and olive oil with 1/4 tsp lime zest and a splash of tabasco for heat.

Directions:

  • Mash garlic into a paste with 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt using the back of your knife or a mortar and pestle.
  • Whisk together garlic paste, vinegar, cucumber and herbs. Let dressing rest for at least 5 minutes for cucumbers to soften and flavors to blend.
  • Whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper. Correct vinegar and oil balance with kale.
  • Dress kale and let rest for 5 minutes to soften.

Eating salad should be a “want to,” not a “have to.” (Part 1 of 52)

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Remember that point when salad became something you had to choke down with dinner each night because it was good for you? That was when you fell in love with salad dressings: Ranch, Thousand Island and Italian started a habit that lead to more sophisticated dressings like jars of Marie’s Blue Cheese, Judie’s Poppyseed Dressing (and popovers!) and Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.

These dressings were all good, but it was like doctors treating the symptom while missing the disease. We were covering up for the increasingly tasteless vegetables we were bringing home from the grocery store. No more. Welcome to 52 weeks of holistic healing for your daily meal.

In my entry for a simple vinaigrette, I mention that it is the most asked for recipe I serve in my home, and the variations are without end. Starting this week I am going to blog 52 weeks of recipes that will take the salad from a must eat back to the vaunted want-to-eat status it deserves.

This is the last time you go to the grocery store, pick up a bag of tasteless Romaine hearts and slather them in thick Ranch or Blue Cheese to stop the pain. Today we start with fresh ingredients, make our own dressings and dress our ingredients lightly. Your perfectly dressed salad should glisten lightly with dressing. When you are done serving there should be almost no dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

To good taste and good health (and the occasional wedge of iceberg slathered in Marie’s rich blue cheese).

White Peach and Nectarine Salad with Mesclun Greens

The honey helps bring out the sweetness in the fruit. White peaches and nectarines taste sweeter than their yellow cousins because of lower acidity.

Ingredients:

  • 1 white nectarine, thinly sliced
  • 1 white peach, thinly sliced
  • 4 -6 cups mesclun greens – two big handfuls or so

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup peach vinegar*
  • 1 tbs chopped tarragon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 cup mild grassy olive oil like Koroneiko*

*Peach vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are now available online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar in DC. If you want some quick substitutions to toss this together tonight, use a light white wine vinegar with a good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallot and honey with a pinch of salt and crack or three of pepper.
  • Mix the fruit and greens in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the oil into the dressing in a thin stream until it gets thick and creamy.
  • Taste your dressing with leaf of the greens. Correct seasoning and lightly dress your salad.

We’re having a heatwave.

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Ah, the nostalgic cucumber.

They always remind me of my childhood. Crunching through them, wet and sun-warmed right from the garden. Cold and crisp with dill and sour cream in my Mom’s salad. Moosewood’s cold cucumber soup. Mom’s gazpacho, Mom’s salad tossed with rice wine, salt, pepper and sugar, my Babci’s pickles.

This simple salad plays of their cool sweetness with fruity sweetness and a little heat. If you are serving the salad right away, just slice them in half rounds, toss them with the dressing and eat, but if you are going to hold the salad for a bit in the fridge or freezer, then remove the seeds before slicing the cuckes into thin crescents. The seeds hold much of the moisture in the cukes and this is an easy way to keep your salad from turning to soup.

How do you seed a cucumber? Easy! First peel it, cut off the ends, and then cut it in half lengthwise. Now scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon (the one from your flatware drawer, not the measuring spoon).

Finally, if you are holding the salad, then remember that it will release some moisture, diluting your dressing. Check the seasoning again right before serving.

Tropical Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced, about 3 cups
  • 1 tbs chopped mint
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbs Tropical Spice Vinegar*
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil

*If you or your family prefer less spicy food, try a lightly acidic, sweet vinegar like Champagne Mimosa or rice wine.

Directions:

  • Combine mint, shallot, sugar, Tropical Spice Vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Whisk in peanut oil in a thin stream. Dressing will become creamy.
  • Dress cucumbers lightly, reserving extra dressing.
  • Let salad rest for 5-10 minutes for flavors to develop. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper or additional dressing as needed.

*The cucumber will release some water while you let this rest. Season to taste right before serving. For a drier salad, lightly salt the cucumbers, drain in a colander for 15 minutes and pat dry.

I didn’t used to like tomatoes.

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I feel like I should be sitting in a confessional, leaning in close, talking directly to the camera.

“I didn’t used to like tomatoes,” I would say in a hushed tone. “For years I thought raw tomatoes were gross!” Perhaps this revelation is so shocking that I should ask to be silhouetted with my voice modulated.

It’s true. As a child I hated raw tomatoes. I loved Brussels Sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Give me artichokes and onions, just about anything Mom put on the dinner table, but I grimaced each year when she asked me to try one bite of a ripe tomato, fresh picked as we stood in her garden.

Nine years ago that started to change and today I love raw tomatoes. I chalk it up to a wiser palate. This past week I decided to venerate the first of this summer’s tomatoes, picked fresh under the hot sun. Two thick slices of beefsteak-type tomatoes didn’t need anything more than salt and pepper, but I went ahead and added a simple balsamic vinaigrette made with fresh basil and garlic scape pesto, fragrant from pounding in the mortar.  I fell in love with tomatoes all over again. Then I called my Mom.

Tomato Salad With Pesto Vinaigrette

For pesto:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or 2 tbs minced garlic scapes
  • 1.5 cups thinly sliced basil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbs Arbosana Olive Oil, or other high-quality, light, grassy olive oil

For dressing:

  • 2 tbs minced shallot
  • 3 tbs pesto
  • 2-3 tbs Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 cup Arbrosana Olive Oil, or other high-quality, light, grassy olive oil

Directions:

  • Using mortar and pestle, pound garlic or scapes with 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt. Then pound in basil, followed by pine nuts, cheese and oil. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt.
  • Make dressing: whisk together shallot, pesto and vinegar.
  • Whisk in oil in a thin stream. You may not need all the oil. Start with 1/2 cup and taste as you go.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Taste the dressing with a piece of tomato and correct the balance of oil , vinegar and pesto as needed.
  • Serve over thick slices of the freshest tomatoes you can find! Top with ribbons of fresh basil.

“I’ll take the light potato salad, please.”

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With each new summer cookout, looms the threat that someone is going to show up with those clear plastic containers from the deli counter of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Now, rumor has it that these salads actually  contain potatoes, macaroni and cabbage, but the protective coating of mayonnaise obscures any possible proof.

Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole, but most summer cookouts abound with rich, grilled meats and sauces, toasted buns and baskets of chips and dip. What I want from my salad is something light and bright to balance the plate, and a gloopy heap of mayonnaise just doesn’t cut it. Enter the “French” potato salad.

Like may other American “French” delicacies like fries, toast and dressing, I’m not sure how french this is, but I think they would approve. Boiled potatoes are tossed, still warm, in a sharp, buttery vinaigrette, with garlic or shallots and fresh herbs. They soak up the dressing and releasing the flavorful oils from the greens; exactly what you want sitting next to your burger, hanger steak or chicken thighs, complete with flawless grill marks.

This is a recipe I served at Eastern Market recently, but experiment throughout the summer. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes and basil, use fresh tasting tarragon and shallots, baby arugula or minced red peppers. But please, I’ll take my potato salad without mayonnaise. and I like my burgers rare.

French Potato Salad with Mint and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups small potatoes
  • 3 tbs mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

For dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Koroneiko Olive Oil*
*More magical ingredients from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Champagne or white wine vinegar can replace the Champagne Mimosa. The Koroneiko Olive Oil is Greek. Mild and grassy. Substitute another high-quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until still firm but can be easily pierced through to the center with the tip of a knife. Drain potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash it into a paste with coarse sea salt. Whisk with Champagne Mimosa Vinegar. Season with pepper. Set aside.
  • Mix mint and garlic scapes in a salad bowl.
  • Cut warm potatoes in 1” pieces – halved or quartered – and toss with mint and garlic scapes. The heat will release oils in the mint.
  • Whisk oil into vinegar mixture in a steady stream until creamy. Toss with potatoes. Dress lightly so not to overpower the other flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional mint.

Until next year.

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Gardeners, cooks and farmers share a unique awareness of the changing of the seasons. Crocus and radishes give way to irises and asparagus. Early summers pinks, blues, English peas and sweet cherries change to late summer yellows and oranges, summer squash, sweet corn and tomatoes.

The seasons are changing right now. Farmers at the Market admonish us to enjoy the spring’s last rhubarb and asparagus, while filling the gap with the year’s first tomatoes and squash, helped along with early season cover. They taste richly of the soil they’re grown in, but not yet sweet from the summer sun.

Seasons of eating start with hunger, built over months of waiting. That first spear of asparagus or first ripe tomato is wonderful eaten raw and fresh. Over a six to eight week season your recipes progress from old favorites to new experiments. Finally, when you think you can’t eat another zucchini or ear of corn, they are gone until next year.

Here, then is a celebration of the passing of asparagus. It’s been a wonderful spring for it, although May’s heat led many farmers to end their harvest earlier than usual. Enjoy this salad, simple and fresh, elegant enough for fine dining, quick enough for a Tuesday supper. Until next year.

Asparagus Mimosa Salad

The name of this salad refers to the similarity in appearance between the grated egg and the foamy yellow/white flowers of the Mimosa tree.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2-3 radishes, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup Olive oil – the good stuff!
*Another treat from Sapore Oil and Vinegar in DC. You can substitute champagne or a tarragon,white wine vinegar.
Directions:
  • Begin vinaigrette: whisk together shallot, vinegar,mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Peel and finely grate the hardboiled eggs. Set aside. You won’t be able to get the entire egg grated. Pop the larger, leftover pieces in your mouth.
  • For a special presentation, line up your asparagus spears and cut them to fit the plates you will be serving this salad on.
  • Blanch asparagus in a large boiling pot of salted water for approximately 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Shock in an ice bath.
  • Complete vinaigrette by whisking in olive oil in a thin stream. Taste vinaigrette with an asparagus stalk and season to taste with additional salt pepper, oil or vinegar.
  • Place asparagus stalks on individual plates, drizzle with vinaigrette, top with radish and egg.

*Thomas Keller takes the tender ends of the asparagus, left over when you trim the spears to the size of your salad plates, and blanches them for about five minutes. Shock them in an ice bath, then puree them in a blender with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. That’s the green sauce you see on the bottom in the photograph.