Five Summer Salads

June 25th, 2013 · 16 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I think once a week since the Atkins craze seized us in the 90s, I’ve told myself that I’m going to try to limit the carbs — and at dinner have two vegetable sides instead of one vegetable and one bready-ricey-potatoey thing. Problem is, I like those bready-ricey-potatoey things a lot. And so do the kids. So I barely make it through one meal before I’ve fallen off the strach wagon. But if ever there was a time of year that I had a shot of making this happen, it’s summer, when our farmer’s market opens for the season and the fridge is overflowing with fresh vegetables. We’ve been rockin’ the summer salads for the past few weeks and thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

1. Market Greens with Beets, Sugar Snaps, Candied Walnuts, and Toasted Quinoa (Above) Wrap beets in foil and cook at 400°F for 40 minutes until a knife slips easily through them. Let cool, then peel and chop. Toss into market greens with chopped sugar snap peas, candied walnuts, scallions, and toasted quinoa. (See bottom of post for instructions.) Toss with your favorite vinaigrette, but nothing too overwhelming. (I’d stay away from one that’s balsamic-based.)

2. Sugar Snaps with Cilantro, Pickled Cabbage. Trim peas and chop into bite size pieces. Add handful of cilantro, finely diced red onion, few tablespoons pickled cabbage (here’s a quick pickle recipe if you want; just replace carrots with red cabbage). Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Chilled Napa Cabbage with Cilantro and Shallots I know you’re going to think this is overstating things, but I dreamed of this salad all night long after making it last week. I had a head of Napa cabbage and wasn’t in the mood for a mayo-heavy slaw, so I did what any self-respecting farmer’s market-frequenter would do: I referred to Alice Waters’ bible, Vegetables. (You’ll be hearing more from me about this book very soon.) Waters suggested macerating (i.e. soaking) shallots in white wine vinegar for 15 minutes then tossing with shredded cabbage, cilantro, and really good olive oil, salt, and pepper. I’m telling you — it sounds boring, but when the cabbage is fresh, you won’t believe how perfectly the whole thing cuts the char of a grilled steak.

4. Market Greens with Homemade Ranch Dressing The thing is, when the greens are this good, you don’t need to do a lot. A simple homemade ranch dressing does the job just fine. See recipe at the bottom of this post.

5. Mustardy Potato Salad See what I mean! I can’t ever resist the potato-starchy component. We’ve been making some version of this classic for years now — originally a Mark Bittman recipe. Basically, you peel then boil red or Yukon gold potatoes (about as many as you see above) for 15 minutes — until a knife slips through potatoes with no resistance whatsoever. You don’t want to undercook potatoes, but they also need a little structure. While potatoes are cooking, to a large bowl add a heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard, a heaping tablespoon Dijon, then whisk in about 1/3 cup of olive oil and a splash of a mild vinegar (champagne or white wine or red wine). If you have time to fry a few red onion slices or shallots in bacon fat (from one slice bacon) go for it, otherwise just add a handful of them chopped to the dressing. (Crumble cooked bacon in there, too.) Toss in potatoes while still warm and add fresh herbs, like fresh oregano which we had in our CSA box.

I stole both the toasted-quinoa technique and the buttermilk-ranch recipe from my friend Shaina at Stone Barns, who you might have gathered, is a genius.

Toasted Quinoa:

Add a handful of uncooked quinoa to a pan set over medium-high heat and toast until aromatic and nutty smelling, about 3 mintues. Shake pan so the quinoa rotates and doesn’t burn.

Homemade Ranch dressing:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk

Add lemon juice, mustard, garlic salt, salt, pepper, onions and herbs to a jar. Cover and shake until ingredients come together. Add olive oil and buttermilk and shake again. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

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Six Summer Salads

July 23rd, 2012 · 17 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Sick of corn and tomatoes accessorizing your burgers and dogs? Of course you aren’t! But I thought I’d give some options for summery side dishes anyway. Be sure to stock up on your olive oil, lemons, salt, and pepper because this time of year, that’s pretty much all you need to lift your side acts to show-stealers.

Wheat Berry Salad with Feta, Cherries, Walnuts and Onions
I’m sick of quinoa. I know Andy has outed me before about this, and it’s not necessarily that I’m sick of eating it. It’s just that there are so many other grains worthy of the rock star status that we have bestowed upon quinoa that I feel it’s my duty to ignite a new grain frenzy going forward. Let’s start with the humble wheat berry: Firm, flavorful, nutty, hard to overcook, a delicious vehicle for any greens or summer vegetables you might want to mix in with it. For now, try tossing in lots of chopped mint, dried cherries (be generous here; you want one in every bite), chopped walnuts, squeeze of lemon, olive oil and red onions that have been sauteed in olive oil and finished with balsamic vinegar. (I set aside a small bowl without feta for a guest at our table who was pregnant and not eating feta) Basic wheat berries instructions: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside.

Arugula with Radishes and Mint As always, I discover some of my most favorite things when I’m challenged to cook for someone with dietary limiations. In this case I was charged with bringing a salad to my neighbor’s backyard barbecue, which shouldn’t seem like too much of a challenge, given that this time of year greens are about as good as they ever get so don’t need much by way of creative adornment. But no matter how fresh, I usually like just a little feta or Parm -(scratch that…neighbor is dairy free ) or barring that, maybe a splash of  rice vinegar or soy sauce (abort: neighbor is also gluten-free) or, since I can’t use soy sauce, at least a little bit of my new favorite ingredient, fish sauce….woops, you guessed it: he’s also vegan. So instead I tossed arugula, fresh snow peas, scallions, radishes, tons of mint and cilantro then just tossed with a vinaigrette made of equal parts rice vinegar and grapeseed oil with a squeeze of lime and a dash of hot pepper flakes. And guess what? I found myself making it last night for a decidedly more omnivorous crowd: my kids. So insanely fresh tasting and flavorful.

Tomatoes White Beans & Rosemary Phoebe’s camp incorporates cooking again this year, which means that every few days she hops in the car and tells me what we need to have for dinner. This was the inspired idea last week. So easy! So satisfying! So fast! If a bunch of ten-year-olds can make it, you can, too. We used one 15-ounce can of white beans (such as cannelini, rinsed and drained), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved), 3 scallions (chopped), 1 tablespoon or so of rosemary (chopped), olive oil, squeeze of lemon (+ a bit of lemon zest), salt, pepper.

Shredded Kale Salad Cannot. Get. Enough Kale. I don’t know what it is. When I pick up my stash at the farmer’s market and other people on line inevitably ask what I do with it, I bestow upon them these simple words: Shred, my friend, Shred! I don’t know why it makes such a difference but when it’s presented like confetti, it has a tenderizing effect so the kids are more likely to eat it, it’s summery, easy, and with every bite, you feel like you’ve added a year onto your life. On this particular night, we tossed the kale (I like lacinato or Tuscan) with avocado, pecorino, scallions, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, then salt and freshly ground pepper.

Oldie but Goodie Our friends Todd and Anne were having friends over for dinner and being the neighborly person I am I decide to stop by unannounced to drop off a few albums that Andy has been meaning to give them. Well of course I interrupted the whole beautiful dinner — everyone stopped eating and got up to say hello and I felt terrible. But not terrible enough to not notice what they were eating: some delicious looking homemade vegetarian pizzas with eggplant plus Matt & Ted Lee’s soybean and cherry tomato salad with buttermilk dressing that I made all the time two summers ago and had completely forgotten about. Well, guess what I made the very next night?

Yogurt-Dressed Salads I am so loving the yogurt dressing trend. (Or has it been a trend for a while and I just didn’t notice and now everyone’s on to tahini or something?) Anyway, this cole slaw with apple-yogurt dressing caught my eye as did David Tanis’s beet salad with yogurt-dill dressing. Haven’t made either yet, but plan to remedy this very soon. (Photo by Marcus Nilsson)

Related: Julia Moskin interviewed me and a bunch of parent cookbook authors for her New York Times story called “Raw Panic,” i.e. dealing with the summer bounty that “comes with a deadline.” Some delicious looking solutions in there.

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My New Obession

August 18th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

This recipe for Potato Salad “Buttered” and Lemoned, comes from the Canal House cookbook series, volume 1, and when I first flipped through the pages and landed on the recipe, I thought something along the lines of: Holy Freaking Cow. I need to make this NOW. Who cares if it calls for preserved lemons, the recipe for which is in the section called “Why Buy it When You Can Make it,” and which, upon further inspection, would take 30 days to actually make. Who cares if, for me, NOW roughly translates to “someday when kids are bigger and I have more time, about a zillion years from now.” Well, finally, in the beginning of this summer I motivated to preserve a huge batch of lemons. Now it’s “harvest” time and I’ve been using the tart-sweet-briny bits in just about every salad that has graced the dinner table. Totally worth the wait.

And it goes without saying, that if preserved lemons are my new obsession, Canal House is my ongoing obsession. If you are not a subscriber, please remedy this immediately! (more…)

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Two Bowls

July 21st, 2011 · 9 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Picky Eating, Sides, Salads, Soup

I wish I could say that the inspiration for this meal came from a stroll through my farmer’s market — from those gorgeous bunches of lacinato kale and bushels of Romano beans; from the juicy blackberries and rosy, plump apricots and white nectarines; from the summer spinach that seems to coo: Come hither! Slather me in olive oil and toss me around a little! (more…)

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A Rich Man’s Salad Bar

August 10th, 2010 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

If you’re like me, during these peak weeks at the market, the bounty comes with a side of panic. Did I pick up enough tomatoes? Enough corn? Enough peaches? Enough apricots? Too many apricots? Will they turn to mush before the girls can finish them? Will that ginormous bushel of summer spinach go sad and wilty before I figure out a way to use it? In other words: Am I making the most of the season? Because in a few weeks, when the tomatoes return to styrofoam and the plums always come with a sticker affixed to their skins, the image of me passing over that Mr. Stripey heirloom will haunt me. A partial solution to this problem has been to turn my kitchen counter into a Rich Man’s Salad Bar for dinner. You can really pack in the veggies that way. These are seven of my recent favorites (you can mix and match as few or as many as you like) and while I’m not going to stop you from serving them alongside a piece of grilled meat or fish, they are all special enough to be the main event…so all you really need is a nice loaf of crusty bread.

White Beans and Kale (above) I soaked dry white beans overnight then boiled them the next day to make this, but you could just as easily use canned cannellini or Great Northerns. To make: Saute a small bunch of washed, chopped kale with garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat until slightly wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Toss kale with beans, 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion (or to taste), a generous shaving of Parmesan, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt, and pepper.

Beets and Goat Cheese Lucky for us, this one falls in the Pink Food Category. Phoebe likes beets without the cheese. Abby likes beets for painting bright pink lines across her plate. To make: Remove stems from beets. Roast them at 350°F  for 35 minutes. While they are cooking, add a drizzle of heavy cream or half-and-half to a small log of plain goat cheese and stir/mash together until cheese is slightly fluffy instead of crumbly. Once beets are cool, peel and chop them into a fine dice as shown. Top them with goat cheese “fluff,” fresh thyme (or tarragon), freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil before serving. (more…)

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Chicken and Arugula Epiphany

July 12th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner

I have been trying to make this dinner since July 1993. I know that sounds ridiculous — chicken with arugula and tomatoes seems almost too basic to be named something let alone to have been stuck in my brain for that long, especially since my brain has seen stickier days. (I forgot to photocopy the immunization forms for camp, again!…Again!) The thing about this dish is that the first and only time I had ever eaten it happened to have been in Florence on my first and only trip to Italy. I shared it with Andy, who was studying art there for the (very hot) summer, and it was seminal in its simplicity. Not a single extraneous anything — just the highest quality chicken, arugula, and tomatoes and some sort of bright dressing that enhanced instead of distracted from the main event. Even though I was (am) half Italian, it was probably the first time the most fundamental rule of cooking hit me: The best shortcut in the kitchen is to start with ingredients that need no help from the cook.

Of course, I was 22 in 1993 — I had no real use for shortcuts in the kitchen. Fast forward seventeen Julys — it’s 93° at 6:30, I have two hungry kids and no plan for dinner. What I do have is a bag of beautiful, fresh arugula that instantly pulls up my Florentine epiphany. And 20 minutes later, I have dinner.

Warm Chicken and Arugula Salad

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute 1/2 medium onion (chopped) and 1 clove garlic (minced) in olive oil about 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, add 2 boneless chicken breasts (cut into 1-inch pieces as shown) and cook through about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, clean one large bunch arugula and the freshest tomatoes (chopped) you can find, and toss with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and freshly ground pepper. Add chicken to salad and toss allowing arugula to wilt slightly.

Serve warm with freshly grated Parmesan. Deconstruct it for the kids and add a dollop of ketchup if you think it will make it an easier sell. (The Italians may not approve, but this Half-Italian one certainly does.)

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