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Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

There are some things about the West Coast that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to (to which I’ll never get used??).  For example, the other day, one of my students saw what I was eating for lunch and said, “Oooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”

Now, when I was 15, I didn’t know of the existence of either quinoa or tabbouleh.  If I had known of their existence, I would have reserved such knowledge strictly for use in games of Scrabble.  I certainly never would have imagined eating either of those two things, let alone wanting to.

Clearly, I’m older now.  It’s doubtful that I’m any wiser, but I at least have the good sense to enjoy quinoa tabbouleh.  Still, there’s part of me that’s a little disconcerted that any red-blooded American teenager would look upon a whole-grain salad as a cause for culinary excitement.  Imagine my consternation, then, when a SECOND 15-year-old student saw my lunch the next day and said, “Ooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”  (In fact, I had been eating quinoa with bok choy and tofu, but that’s neither here nor there.)  One quinoa-lovin’ teenager is a freakish aberration; two quinoa-lovin’ teenagers is a Militant Carnivore’s version of the Twilight Zone.

makes enough tabbouleh to feed a bunch of quinoa-lovin’ teenagers

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large shallots (there should be about 4 c sliced)
  • 2 bunches of green onions
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 2 bunches of parsley
  • 1 handful of mint
  • 1 1/2 c of mixed black and green olives (I like to include Kalamata olives as well as garlic-stuffed green olives)
  • juice of 6 lemons
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold running water:  Quinoa is coated with saponin, most of which is removed in processing, but it’s good to rinse it well before cooking to remove any traces.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with soapy tasting quinoa.  Put the quinoa, bay leaf and a healthy pinch of salt in a medium-sized pot and cover with water by an inch; cover and place over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water and a spiral appears in each grain of quinoa, about 20 minutes; the quinoa should be tender.  Drain the quinoa thoroughly and discard the bay leaf. Put the quinoa in the largest mixing bowl that you have.

The key to this or any tabbouleh is to season it with reckless abandon:  Add more lemon, pepper and red pepper than you think prudent.  Also, there should be at least as much non-grain stuff (onions, herbs, olives, tomatoes) as grain.  The olives, by the way, are the innovation of my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s aunt.  A master stroke:  Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you ever ate tabbouleh without them.

Peel the shallots and slice as thinly as possible (I use a mandoline).  Put the shallots in a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss with several pinches of salt and set aside.

Wash and trim the green onions; chop into 1/2-inch pieces.  Add to the quinoa.  Wash the tomatoes and cut in half (or quarters or slices—knock yourself out); add to the quinoa and green onions.

Wash and dry the parsley and mint thoroughly.  Remove and discard the stems.  Chop the herbs rather finely (but don’t kill yourself), then add to the quinoa mixture.

Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, flatten the olives with pits.  Remove and discard the pits, then chop the olives roughly.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Slice up the garlic-stuffed olives, then roughly chop.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Add the sliced shallots to the quinoa mixture.

Put the lemon juice into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until a creamy salad dressing is formed (you’ll need at least a half cup).  Add a judicious amount of salt (remember:  there are pre-salted shallots in this tabbouleh, as well as olives), lots of freshly ground black pepper and the red pepper flakes.

Toss the tabbouleh with the dressing.  You can eat it immediately, or let it ruminate for a while.  I like to make a huge batch on Sunday and eat it for lunch all week, much to the excitement of my students.

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If I accomplish nothing else through this blog than encouraging a few people to try persimmons, then I will have done my small part to make the world a better place.

Persimmons have a lot going for them:  They’re photogenically attractive fruits; they offer a bright note of summery, almost citrusy sweetness in a mellow, autumnal package; they’re portable, durable and easy to eat (no messy rind to peel off, no seeds to spit out).  Since I’m obsessed with savory salads based around fruit, the discovery of persimmons and pomegranates at a recently opened nearby produce market inspired me to create this salad for a crisp October day.

I think one thing that may discourage people from buying persimmons, though, is the existence of two distinct and very different types of persimmons:  Fuyu, which can be eaten when they’re as hard as an apple (as the sticker attached to my persimmons told me), and Hichaya, which are painfully astringent at any point of ripeness shy of custardy-soft.  (This article from NPR nicely expounds on the virtues of these two fruits.)

Use Fuyus for this salad.  If you have a mandoline, you can make quick work of both the persimmons and the fennel.  The pomegranates add enough tartness to the salad that vinegar or lemon juice is unnecessary:  Just drizzle with the best extra virgin olive oil that you have and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

  • 4 Fuyu persimmons
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 pomegranate
  • olive oil

Wash the persimmons; trim off and discard their ends.  Using a mandoline (or your kung fu knife skills), slice the persimmons to a 1/8-inch thickness and add to a large mixing bowl.

Wash the fennel.  Using scissors, snip off some of the fennel fronds (say, 1/4 c worth); set aside.  Cut off the stalks and reserve for the vegetable stock bag.   Trim off and discard the root end of the fennel.  Slice the fennel bulb crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Add to the persimmon slices.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the pomegranate in half.  Working over a separate mixing bowl, remove the red seeds from the yellow pith; add the seeds to the bowl and discard the pith (and any gray or rotten-looking seeds).  Add the pomegranate seeds to the persimmon and fennel.

Roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds.  Add to the persimmon, fennel and pomegranate.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and add a healthy amount of salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Serve.

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One of my favorite brunch dishes is salade lyonnaise.  Building off the theory that everything tastes better with bacon and a poached egg on top, it is one of the greatest salads around, but perhaps not one that is fit for weeknight dining, and certainly not one that is vegetarian-friendly.  Removing just the bacon for the non-meat-eaters or removing just the egg for the oophobes would throw the entire salad out of whack:  Bacon’s smoky saltiness complements the rich creaminess of eggs beautifully.  After all, bacon and eggs go together like, well, bacon and eggs.

I wanted a simpler, vegetarian salad that still highlighted the bracing bitterness of frisee with notes of smoke, salt, crunch and creaminess, all tied together with a tart vinaigrette.  Nuts were a no-brainer substitution for the crunch factor; blue cheese provided welcome creaminess and replaced some of bacon’s salt and savoriness.  To balance the blue cheese with some brighter notes, and to add the missing smoky element, my eyes turned to the bowl of cherries on the counter.  (I find myself making a lot of recipes with cherries and pecans, and that’s because they’re so damn good together.)  Ever since I got Seven Fires by the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, I’ve been wanting to grill, sear and char everythingCooking fruit and incorporating it into savory dishes might be my new favorite culinary trick, and it works here:  The smoky charred cherries mingle beautiful with the vinaigrette and add bright treble notes to offset the bass of the blue cheese.

Best of all, it’s a much simpler salad to make than salade lyonnaise.  The pecans and cherries can be cooked in the same skillet, and that’s the only pan to wash up.  I’m not saying this will be the featured dish at a special brunch, but it can certainly be served as a quick and fast weeknight dinner, as well as a delicious side dish to heartier fare.

  • 1 head of frisee (and/or escarole)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans
  • 1 bowl of cherries (about 2 handfuls)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil, as needed (about 1/2 c)
  • 2 oz. excellent blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, etc.)

Cut the root end off the frisee.  Wash and dry thoroughly.  Tear into pieces into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the pecans and toast carefully, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Watch them carefully:  You don’t want burned pecans.

Add the pecans to the frisee.  Return the empty skillet to the burner and set the heat to medium-high.

Tear the cherries in halve and remove their pits and stems.  (I find it easier to tear and pit the cherries with my fingers than to cut them with a knife.)  When the skillet is good and hot, add the cherries cut side down.  Don’t touch them for a good 2 minutes:  Let them get a nice sear on them.  When they have some char on them, flip them over with a spatula and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.

While the cherries are cooking, make the vinaigrette:  Mash the garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste with the mortar and pestle, then stir in the mustard and the vinegars.  (I’m just about over balsamic vinegar, but here it adds a little sweetness that rounds out the dressing and bridges the cherries with the blue cheese.)  Whisk in enough olive oil to form a creamy vinaigrette.

When the cherries are ready, add them to the frisee and pecans.  Add the vinaigrette and toss the salad.  Crumble in half of the blue cheese and toss the salad thoroughly.  Transfer the salad to a serving dish, making sure some of the pecans and cherries end up on top of the salad, then crumble on the remaining blue cheese.  Serve.

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A great picnic salad, especially pretty if you use red quinoa.  Now that asparagus season has passed, you could try this with green beans or zucchini instead.  Go ahead and toss in a little chèvre, if you’re so inclined.

makes enough quinoa salad for 2 or 3 picnics, or for a week of light lunches, mid-afternoon grazing and midnight snacks

  • 1 c red quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (quinoa must be rinsed to remove its coating of saponin, which is not something you want to eat)
  • 1 bunch pencil-thin asparagus, washed, ends trimmed (and reserved for vegetable stock)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 t coriander seeds
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 orange
  • olive oil, as needed (at least 1/2 c)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you have a large pot with a steamer that sits at the top, then you can cook the quinoa and the asparagus in the same pot:  Fill the pot halfway with water, making sure that it doesn’t come up to the level of the steamer.   Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.  Stir in a large pinch of salt and the quinoa; reduce the heat to medium-low so that the quinoa cooks at a gentle simmer.

Put the steamer basket over the simmering water and put the asparagus inside.  (If the asparagus is too long, snap it in half.)  Cover the pot and steam the asparagus until bright green and just tender, 3-5 minutes.  (Err on the side of undercooking the asparagus:  It needs some snap to have some textural contrast with the quinoa, and besides, mushy asparagus is yucky.)  Set up an ice bath (a lot of cold water and ice cubes in a large bowl).  When the asparagus is done, immediately transfer it to the ice bath and completely submerge it to stop the cooking.   Let it cool for a few minutes, then drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, start mashing up the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt.  Once the cloves are in smaller pieces, add the coriander seeds and mash them into the garlic.  (The garlic will keep the coriander seeds from flying around like miniature BBs.)  Once the garlic and coriander are pureed, stir in the mustard.  Juice the orange and stir the orange juice into the garlic-mustard mixture.  Transfer this to a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil until a creamy vinaigrette (well, citronette) is formed.

When the quinoa is done (you should see a well-developed spiral in the middle of each quinoa grain, and most of the water should be absorbed), drain the quinoa in a fine sieve or colander.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Now we’ve got the asparagus, the dressing and the quinoa:  The only thing left is the pecans.  Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, crushing them lightly as you do.  Bake for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, just to warm them up; they should start to smell toasty and incredible.  (Be careful, though:  Nuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly, and burning does nothing good for their flavor.)

Chop the asparagus into 2-inch lengths and add to the quinoa.  Add the nuts to the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add enough of the dressing to coat the salad and stir to combine thoroughly.

If you wanted to add some crumbled goat cheese or feta, or perhaps a few chopped herbs (dill?), this would be the time to do it.  Try to refrain from eating the salad immediately:  It definitely benefits from an hour or so in the fridge.  Serve a dozen of your closest friends at a springtime picnic, or enjoy having a ready-made delicious and nutritious meal in the fridge for a week.

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When late summer rolls around, one can never have enough recipes for corn, tomatoes or zucchini.  This is a nice versatile recipe:  Either make the dish ahead so you can serve it later as a room temperature (or chilled) salad, or serve it warm as a side dish.  While this vegetable medley is phenomenal with produce fresh from the farm, the sauteing and the herbs guarantee that it will be delicious even when made in the middle of winter with lackluster vegetables.

  • a couple of sage leaves, or a sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends removed, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked, silk removed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 avocados

In a large skillet, heat a couple glugs of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sage leaves and the garlic.  When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and a generous pinch of salt.  Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Holding the corn upright over a bowl, cut the kernels off the cobs (reserve the cobs for vegetable stock).  When the zucchini starts to brown, add the corn kernels to the skillet.  Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 more minutes.

Chop the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice.  Add half of the tomato to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the tomatoes are juicy, about 3-4 minutes.  Squeeze the lime juice into the skillet, stir to combine, and remove from the heat.

Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.  Add the reserved tomato.  Dice the avocado and add to the bowl.  Mix to combine and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm, or refrigerate until later.  (You can also chop and add some fresh herbs to the salad:  basil, tarragon, dill, fennel fronds…)

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I was really proud of this one.  Very summery and refreshing, this is a great topping for tacos.

  • 1 small jicama, peeled
  • 1 lb. snow peas, washed
  • 1 handful grape tomatoes, washed
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T apple cider or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c olive oil

Using the coarse holes of a box grater, grate the jicama into a mixing bowl.  Reserve.

Slice the snow peas on a bias into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.  Add to the jicama.  Slice the tomatoes crosswise into thirds, then add to the jicama and snow peas.  Toss to combine.

Roughly chop the garlic and place in a mortar with a generous pinch of salt.  Slice the ginger as thinly as possible, then cut the slices crosswise into matchsticks, then slice crosswise again to mince.  Add the minced ginger to the garlic.  Using a pestle, pound the garlic and ginger to a paste.

Put the garlic-ginger paste in an empty jam (or other) jar.  Juice the lemon and add the lemon juice, honey, vinegar and olive oil to the jar.  Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds; you should now have a nice creamy vinaigrette.

Toss the vinaigrette with the vegetables; combine thoroughly.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a day to let the flavors meld.

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We interrupt these self-indulgent ramblings to bring you an actual recipe.  Enjoy.

  • 1 small seedless watermelon
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 oz. feta
  • handful of chives
  • olive oil, the best you’ve got, as needed

Using a sharp knife, remove all of the peel from the watermelon.  Cut the watermelon into 1-inch thick disks.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Cut half of the disks into 1-inch-thick lengths, and then crosswise into 1x1x3-inch blocks.  Place a handful of watermelon blocks in the skillet and sear.  (Do this in batches; don’t overcrowd the skillet!)  When the first side gets a nice charred crust, about 1 to 2 minutes, flip the blocks and sear the second side, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and place in a large mixing bowl.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the unsliced watermelon and the red onion into thin slices.  Add to the mixing bowl with the seared watermelon.  Crumble the feta into the bowl.  Mince the chives and add half of them to the salad.  Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the salad and toss to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining chives on top.  Enjoy!

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