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It’s about that time again. I have a bad case of summer brain. It’s serious. I can’t focus. I find myself daydreaming about beaches and coastal drives and a house in the woods. Midday cocktails. Ice cream for dinner. Fireworks.
Nothing is getting done around here. Except for this salad. This salad is happening.
Earlier this year, I woke up one morning and decided I must have preserved lemons in my life. I proceeded to salt-pack a couple pounds of Meyer lemons; I had a feeling they would come in handy in the months ahead. I’ve waited very patiently for the magic to happen, the transformation from their natural, fresh-off-the-tree state to that salty, tender, essence of lemon entity. After four months, they’re finally ready.
This salad has been on my to-do list for over a year. I knew I would get to it as soon as those lemons were ready. I think of it as a reconstructed potato salad. It involves fingerling potatoes, a smear of mayonnaise, and chopped preserved lemon. It’s finished off with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chives. The preserved lemon really takes it to another level – I love that salty-lemony element; I want to put it on everything. I’m so happy I had the foresight to take care of that lemon situation back in March.
Because of the simplicity of this dish, the ingredients are key. Naturally, you can buy preserved lemons and mayo, but as the ladies at the Canal House say, why buy it when you can make it? I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Plus, as you know, starting with the best ingredients is really important when preparing something so minimal. In this dish, it makes all the difference.
reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon
from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 1: Summer by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer
2-3 pounds small potatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped
chopped fresh chives or parsley
Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold water generously seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until they are tender. Drain.
When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a serving platter, spreading mayonnaise on one side of each potato as you work. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the preserved lemon and chives.
lemons, preferably organic and unsprayed, washed
sterilized wide mouth container with an airtight lid
Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in the brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after one month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they will become; taste them first before using. Preserved lemons will last up to one year in the fridge.
Stop what you’re doing. Head out to the market. Pick out a few fuyu persimmons. A pomegranate. Some good looking chicory greens – a curly endive, a radicchio perhaps. Let’s have a salad.
Persimmons are fantastic in salads. I might be biased because they’re definitely a favorite of mine; this entire site was pretty much born out of my love for persimmons, particularly the fuyu variety. Persimmons are what make the transition from fall to winter bearable. I’ve been eating at least one a day or the past few weeks.
I digress. Let’s get back to this salad.
Whisk together a light vinaigrette, preferably something citrus based. Add a few crumbles of blue cheese. Pour yourself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
What you’ll end up with is a lovely autumnal salad with a variety of textures and flavors – crunchy, sweet persimmons, slightly tart and juicy pomegranate seeds, salty, creamy blue cheese, hearty chicories. If you’re not a persimmon fan, try it with pears. Not into blue cheese? How about a little feta instead? Use your imagination and make it your own. It is a perfect first course. A very nice light lunch. A snack. You can’t go wrong.
chicory salad with persimmon and pomegranate
8 cups chicory greens, torn into medium pieces ( I like a combination of curly endive and radicchio)
2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
1 large pomegranate, seeds reserved
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
In a large bowl, combine greens, persimmons and pomegranate seeds. Pour enough vinaigrette into the bowl to lightly coat your salad and toss gently. Add more if necessary. Add blue cheese and serve. Voila!
3 tablespoons lemon or grapefruit juice or a citrus flavored vinegar
6 tablespoons oil (I like grapeseed or walnut oil)
kosher or coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
Pour juice or vinegar in a small bowl. Add a large pinch of salt and a small pinch of pepper and whisk. Continue whisking, and slowly pour oil into the bowl in a thin stream. Whisk until emulsified. Taste vinagrette and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.
There has been a bit of a quiet countdown happening over here. On an almost daily basis, I’ve been reminding myself to make the most of these days, the end of summer, the end of my twenties. Stop. Take a few deep breaths. Be grateful. They’re going fast, these days.
Maybe you and I are alike in our efforts to savor these last weeks of summer. If so, I have something for you.
First, get yourself some summer squash, pick a few lemons from the neighbors tree (or the market), start up the grill and pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a beer, make your favorite cocktail – you get the picture. After a quick marinate in lemon, olive oil and minced garlic, grill up that gorgeous summer bounty and then throw it into a salad of Israeli couscous (not to be confused with traditional small grain couscous), feta and dill. Season with more lemon juice and zest, flaky salt and ground black pepper.
This little salad was born on a hot August evening in the mountains. I liked it so much that I had to make it again just a few weeks later. It’s bright. It’s savory. It’s summery. It’s one of my new favorites. It will be the perfect side dish for the end of summer shindig you’ll be attending this Labor Day weekend. It also makes a great mid-afternoon snack. Hold on to summer, grill everything in sight, dine outdoors, leave the windows open, pretend like it’s just beginning.
israeli couscous with grilled summer squash
2 cups dry Israeli couscous
8-10 small zucchini
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 lemons, zest and juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dill, roughly chopped
4 ounces feta, crumbled
fresh ground pepper
Prepare your grill outdoors. Alternately, you can use a stove-top grill pan or roast zucchini in the oven for about 8 minutes at 425F.
Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise from stem to base. Place in a shallow casserole dish or baking pan. Sprinkle the zest of one lemon and minced garlic over the zucchini. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lemon over the sliced zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until all zucchini is well coated. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add the Israeli couscous and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the couscous and then spread on a baking sheet in a even layer to cool.
After the zucchini have been marinating for 15-20 minutes, place them on the grill cut-side down. Leave them on the grill until they have nice charred markings and are tender but not limp, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside to cool. When the zucchini is cool enough to handle, slice into 1-inch pieces.
Transfer the cooled couscous to a large mixing bowl. Toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, juice of half a lemon, remaining zest, salt and pepper. Add the feta, dill and sliced zucchini. Toss until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add more lemon juice or salt to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked for recommendations for summer side dishes and salads. The first thing that came to mind was panzanella. Why panzanella? Because it is an excellent way to show off gorgeous, summer tomatoes. And it’s hearty but still very fresh and light – just the sort of thing I like to eat on a hot day. I had panzanella on the brain for the entire week that followed. Something had to be done.
If you ask me, the key to a good panzanella is great bread. And if you ask me where to get great bread in these parts, I would have to say Tartine.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love me some Tartine. One of my favorite things to do after work is hit the bakery and pick up a loaf of bread right as it comes out of the oven. And since I wanted panzanella, I popped in on my way home one evening and picked up one of their famous country loaves (and a slice of coconut passion fruit Bavarian).
There is nothing like fresh Tartine bread, still warm from the oven. The aroma will fill your car and you will be forced to savagely break into the crusty loaf with your bare hands as you make your way down I-80 because the 25 minute drive home is just too long. It happens every time.
Luckily, for all of us, the Tartine Bread book was released into the universe last year. Along with recipes and techniques for making their bread at home, it features a chapter devoted to dishes that give day old bread a second life, including this tomato panzanella.
If you like bread and you like salad, this is a perfect union of the two. Imagine really fantastic homemade croutons after they’ve absorbed the vinaigrette and tomato drippings at the bottom of a salad dish. It’s the best part of the salad, right? Now imagine a big bowl of those croutons, tossed with heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, and basil. It cannot be beat. No joke.
adapted from Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger
serves 4 to 6
red wine vinegar
2 pounds baby artichokes
1 cup + 6 tablespoons olive oil
4 thick slices day old rustic, country style bread, torn into large pieces
4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 English cucumber
1 bunch basil, stems removed
Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a large bowl with water and add a generous splash of vinegar. Remove the tough outer leaves from each artichoke until you reach the tender leaves surrounding the heart. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and place the halves in the water.
Drain the artichokes, place in a bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange the artichoke halves cut-side down in a large ovenproof skillet. In the same bowl, toss the bread pieces with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. spread the bread over the artichokes, grate Parmesan all over, and put the pan in the oven. Roast until the artichokes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and the bread is a deep golden brown, 15-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each tomato in half crosswise. Holding each half over a small bowl, gently squeeze it (as if juicing an orange) to release the seeds. Reserve the tomatoes. Add the onion, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and salt to the seeds, and stir to combine. Stir in the olive oil.
Cut the reserved tomato halves into 1-inch chunks. Peel the cucmber. using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave the cucumber into thin strips.
In a serving bowl, combine the artichokes, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
With the long holiday weekend ahead, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘What am I going to bring to that barbecue?’ I have an answer for you.
This chickpea salad has been one of my favorites for a while now. I find myself making it at least once a month, if not more. Here’s what I like about it:
It’s full of chickpeas, which I love. They remind me of the salad bars of my youth. The chickpeas were always at the end of the salad bar next to the croutons and bacon bits. It turns out that they are an excellent source of fiber – definitely a plus in my book. You can use canned chickpeas for this salad, but I really like soaking and cooking dried beans.
It’s herbaceous, which makes it really fresh. A generous amount of chopped cilantro, scallion and flat leaf parsley provide a lot of flavor and great texture.
It’s terrific served alongside grilled meat and/or veggies. But it also stands well on its own.
It’s the perfect dish for non-meat eaters. It has a good amount of feta, which gives it a nice salty finish and makes it a bit more substantial than just a plain bean salad. Your vegetarian friends will love you.
It’s incredibly easy to throw together, especially considering that there are so many layers of flavor. Because we’re expecting gorgeous weather, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in my kitchen cooking or baking; this salad will allow me to get out and enjoy this glorious July 4th weekend. I hope you do the same.
chickpea, feta and cilantro salad
adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros
1-1/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water or 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans
1 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 red chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1-2/3 cups crumbled feta
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 scallions, green part only, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
If you’re using canned chickpeas, rinse and set aside. Otherwise, rinse the soaked chickpeas, put them in a saucepan, cover generously with water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until they are soft but not falling apart, adding salt toward the end of cooking time. When cooled, drain and put the chickpeas in a large bowl, removing any loose skins.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and gently saute the red onion until it is cooked through and lightly golden. Add the garlic and chile and cook for a few more seconds, until you can smell the garlic (take care not to brown the garlic). Let cool completely.
Add the feta, scallion, cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice to the chickpeas and season with pepper and salt to taste. Add the cooled onion mixture and remaining olive oil and mix until well combined.
While I was at the farmer’s market this past weekend, all I wanted was fruit. I felt like I was being taunted by all of the gold nugget oranges I passed on the way in. And strawberries. There were strawberries that were practically begging to be made into pie. Or ice cream. Or a shortcake. I’m totally not struggling with sugar deprivation, cant you tell?
Amazingly, I remained focused and came home with a half-dozen avocados and a few bunches of asparagus. And long-stemmed tulips, because I needed them. That’s how I roll these days. Not that I mind terribly. I’ve been enjoying my handfuls of pistachios and sharp cheddar cheese and chicken sausage and lots of veggies and greens.
One night last week I came home and made this asparagus salad. It was the highlight of my week. It’s a salad made of raw asparagus shaved into thin ribbons and tossed in a super-flavorful lemon-anchovy vinaigrette. The recipe comes from Canal House Cooking. I’ve been obsessed with the series since last year, when I first got my hands on Volume 1. Christopher Hirsheimer, one half of the duo behind the Canal House, is my idol. Seriously. She is a phenomenal food photographer and has photographed countless cookbooks. She co-founded this little publication. And now she and Melissa Hamilton are self-publishing these Canal House cookbooks. I love their laid back approach to food, and their gorgeous, no-fuss aesthetic.
And now I love this salad. It’s the easiest thing to throw together, like so easy that you can come home after a long day and snap your fingers and it’s done. Because I’d never had raw asparagus, I was a tad nervous at first. But now I am definitely a fan. As a matter of fact, it’s my new favorite way to prepare asparagus. The raw asparagus is crunchy and has a very fresh, almost grassy flavor when shaved thin. I couldn’t stop eating it. I’m not going to lie, I actually ate just about an entire bunch of asparagus all by myself throughout the evening. My brother looked at me in horror; you know what they say about the effects of asparagus. Oh well. It was worth it.
asparagus salad with lemon-anchovy vinaigrette
adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume 1 by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
4-6 anchovy fillets
1 small clove garlic
coarse salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon (I used a whole lemon)
1/4 cup really good extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
With a heavy knife, chop and mash the anchovies and garlic together with kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper on a cutting board. Transfer the paste into a small bowl and add the lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus, bending the spears with two hands to find the natural snapping point. Using a mandoline or very sharp vegetable peel, carefully slice the asparagus lengthwise into long thin ribbons. Place the ribbons in a large salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette until thoroughly coated . Serve immediately.
I ate really well last week. By well, I wish I meant sensibly. In this case, well means dinner at Zuni with Lee followed by dinner at Zero Zero with the ladies. There was wine and cocktails and kumamoto oysters and roasted chicken and pork belly and striped bass and pizza and soft serve. You get the idea. It was serious.
After all that scrumptiousness, I was ready for a salad. I couldn’t stop thinking about this orange and fennel salad that I passed up the other night. So I knew what I had to do.
Oranges, actually, have been on my mind quite a bit these days. I thought I got them out of my system with the marmalade mission. But lately I’ve been really into cara caras, a red navel orange with a little bit of complexity. And now that blood oranges are finally in season, I really can’t stop. I love blood oranges. I love their gorgeous color and cherry flavor. Plus, they’re full of antioxidants. I love those, too.
I also love fennel, which is fantastic paired with oranges. Shaved fennel becomes slaw-like when tossed with a little sea salt and vinaigrette. And the sugar from the oranges brings out the fennels natural sweetness. I liked it topped with a little bit of grana, which was a nice contrast in flavor. This is one of the easiest salads to throw together and so satisfying. I love the brightness of this salad, both in color and flavor – it almost makes you forget that it’s winter.
orange and fennel salad
4 oranges ( I used a combination of blood and cara cara oranges)
2 medium fennel bulbs
1/2 small red onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
grana padano (for shaving)
With a paring knife, cut the tops and bottoms from oranges. Starting from the top, cut the peel and membrane from the fruit, making sure to expose the flesh completely. Cut oranges into slices. Set aside.
Remove the tops and bottoms from the fennel. Cut the fennel in half. Slice thin and place in a bowl. Cut the onion into paper-thin slices and add to the bowl with the fennel.
In a small bowl, add the lemon juice and honey and whisk until combined. Season with salt and white pepper. Slowly whisk olive oil into the juice until slighty emulsified and well combined. Adjust salt as needed.
Pour the vinaigrette over the fennel and onions. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange the orange slices on a serving plate and then place fennel on top in a mound. Pour the excess vinaigrette over the oranges. Shave the grana over the fennel. Garnish with a few fennel fronds.
When I was a teenager, I discovered Caesar salad. I’m not talking about a salad with bottled dressing and boxed croutons. What I’m talking about is the kind of salad that starts with cloves of garlic and anchovy fillets mashed together in the bottom of a bowl. The kind of salad that involves egg yolks and Worcestershire sauce and freshly grated Parmesan. Those salads were amazing. They were incredibly flavorful and light and not at all like any Caesar salad I had eaten in a restaurant as a child. For a heartbeat I was making Caesar salad for dinner a couple times a week. It was serious. It has actually been years since I’ve made a Caesar at home, but every now and then I crave it, and when I do, I make my way to Zuni Cafe, because just like everything else on their menu, their Caesar is pretty much perfect.
Recently, while flipping through the pages of the Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern, I got an overwhelming craving when I laid my eyes on their Caesar salad with catfish “croutons”. I think it was actually the catfish croutons that really caught my attention. What a clever way of replacing typical bread croutons, while incorporating an extra bit of protein in the salad. Those Lee Bros. are so innovative. I love their approach to Southern cooking. I love the way they write their books. And they’re just adorable. I might have a tiny crush on the Lee Bros., but can you blame a girl?
I typically don’t do much frying at home. In a way, it feels too indulgent. And messy. But the salad and those catfish croutons seemed too good to pass up. I was ready to make an exception.
This salad has many of the elements of a classic Caesar, but with a cool Southern twist. The buttermilk dressing has just the right amount of tang; it is superb. And the catfish croutons are to. die. for. I could have easily eaten a whole plate of these catfish nuggets alone. The cornmeal-dredged fish is tender and juicy on the inside, with a wonderfully crunchy and salty crust. The creamy dressing, the crisp romaine, and the crunchy “croutons” are a perfect marriage. It was everything I hoped it would be – a successful makeover of a classic dish. And ideal for lunch or a light dinner.
caesar salad with catfish “croutons”
adapated from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
1 pound catfish fillets (about 3 fillets), cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
1/2 sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white or yellow fine stone-ground cornmeal
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups peanut oil
1 large head romaine lettuce, sliced crosswise into 3/4-inch wide strips (I used two heads of romaine as I prefer a higher ratio of lettuce-to-dressing)
1/3 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons high-quality store-bought mayonnaise, such as Hellman’s or Duke’s
2 anchovy fillets, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Put the catfish pieces in a medium bowl, pour the buttermilk over them, and toss to coat. Pour the flour, cornmeal, salt and black pepper into a gallon-size locking food storage bag, and shake it around to combine. Lift the catfish pieces from the buttermilk, place them in the bag, and turn the bag gently in your hands until the pieces are covered in the dredge.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet until it reads 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Using a wide slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer a batch of the catfish pieces to the hot oil. Fry the fish in batches, taking care not to crowd the skillet, turning the pieces once as they become golden-brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the fried catfish to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon juice, garlic and salt together. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss with tongs to coat evenly.
Divide the salad among 4 luncheon plates or salad bowls, and then scatter the catfish croutons on top of the greens. Garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.
**Note: If you happen not to be a catfish fancier, any firm, sweet white-fleshed fish that holds up to frying- whiting, tilapia, and cod are others-works perfectly in this recipe.