Roasted and Raw Citrus Fennel Salad

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot of since returning to work full time is roasting vegetables at night, after dinner, while I’m on my evening stroll. Read More

Shapes & Colors Potato Salad

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Colors make me happy.  They represent abundance and variety to me, and conjure up feelings of awe and cheeriness.  I love bright and saturated hues, in textiles, ceramics, glass; in food, in clothing, in shoes.  Unpatterned though . . . I like solids and not patterns.  I favor a neutral palette with pops of wild color.

When I was a teenager I went through a stage where I stuck to a monochromatic wardrobe of black, much to my parents’ chagrin.  They didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I do remember my Dad mentioning it to me one time, so I knew they were paying attention.  It sounds silly to me now, but I think it was my way of living within the imagined confines of my clothing choices, as I was attending a pretty exclusive private all-girls school where I felt that I was the poorest kid on the block and could not compete with the fancy pants (literally) of my peers.  If I just wore black all the time I wouldn’t have to think about buying matching pants and shirts and shoes . . . and therefore wouldn’t be forever wanting to buy more clothes.  I sort of laugh at myself and then feel compassion for my parents, who God knows were not poor, but also were not movie stars or moguls, when I think back on these days. I had transferred to this school from public school in order to get a superior education, which I did, and I actually did love the school part, and am forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to go there.  It was not cheap, that’s for sure, but my parents wanted me to have a good education and felt that if I wanted to and could get into the school, that they wanted to make the financial sacrifice.  I’ve always loved school, campuses, just the whole experience of being in an academic community.  But the friends and clothing part?  I was miserable!

These days I wear a lot more color.  Also, one of the kicks of cooking and shopping for food, for me, is seeing what looks vibrant, colorful and fresh.  I created this potato salad, which is very roughly based (at least the potato part) on a version of German Potato Salad my paternal grandmother used to make of potatoes dressed in a bacon/mustard/vinegar dressing and then tossed with bacon, to celebrate the diversity of color I recently spotted at our Saturday’s Farmer’s Market.  I used lemon basil, amaranth leaf, jicama and all kinds of other odds and ends!

 

Slice up about a pound of fingerling potatoes, boil for 5 minutes, drain and toss with 2 Tbsp cooked bacon drippings/grease and 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper

Slice up about a pound of fingerling potatoes, boil for 5 minutes, drain and toss with 2 Tbsp cooked bacon drippings/grease, 1 minced shallot, and 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper

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Cut up some a few pieces of jicama and a red beet. As you can see I was feeling playful with the shapes.  Boil the small pieces of beet for about 5 minutes.

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Grab a handful of edible flowers.  These were from the back yard.

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Toss everything together with a clove of smashed garlic (leave out the beets until the last minute) and add some capers.

Blister a few shishito peppers by tossing with olive oil and salt; broil for 5 minutes.

Blister a few shishito peppers by tossing with olive oil and salt; broil for 5 minutes.

Slice up 1 small (preferably japanese, seedless) cucumber

Slice up 1 small (preferably japanese, seedless) cucumber

Add some leafy greens -- this is amaranth, also known as chinese spinach

Add some leafy greens — this is amaranth, also known as chinese spinach

Add a handful of herbs; this is lemon basil.

Add a handful of herbs; this is lemon basil.

Add beets and a dressing made with 1 Tbsp. mustard, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbps greek yogurt (or you can use mayonnaise or sour cream if you like), toss together and serve!

I also added a chopped preserved lemon, but you can easily omit.  Add beets and a dressing made with 1 Tbsp. mustard, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, juice of half a lemon, 1 Tbps greek yogurt (or you can use mayonnaise or sour cream if you like), toss together and serve!

Tossed and ready to eat

Tossed and ready to eat

Do you have a favorite color that comes up in your food preparations again and again?  How important is presentation to you when you are entertaining, dining with family, or dining alone?  What do you do when you’re feeling playful in your cooking?  Let me know in your comments!

The Art of Supper: Avocado Walnut Tartine

Big Colorful Bowl

Big Colorful Bowl

I like the word “supper.”  It just has a homey, civilized vibe.  Supper was traditionally known as a midday meal, the main meal of the day.  Now that the standard main meal of the day is at nighttime, supper became dinner.  My best childhood grade-school friend, Annette, was German and when I would go to her house after school (almost every day) to watch cartoons and play outside, her mother would be preparing supper, to be eaten at around 3 p.m.  The house always smelled so good!  Usually some type of stew or braised meat or hearty soup, some potatoes, maybe sauerkraut or a hot green vegetable, rye bread and a green salad were served.  Sadly, when I heard the clank of the plates as the supper table was set, that was my cue to journey home.

At my own home, if I came directly from school, my mother always served up a snack, but it was a snack and not a meal . . . usually orange sections with a little sugar on them, a glass of milk with date bread, or some pretzels with lebanon bologna (a tart, salami-type, but not hard, bologna with origins in Lebanon, Pennsylvania) and hard cheese.

My preference has always been to eat my main meal at midday, even though I either feel pressured or have some sort of filing deadline right around lunchtime so that at work half an hour, and a “snack” seems more acceptable.  I like to skip breakfast and be truly hungry when I eat . . . and I prefer a light dinner of some broth and a few noodles, and a vegetable, maybe a roasted beet with salt, or half a sweet potato.  If I eat a proper breakfast, at home or out, I don’t eat lunch and will have my default dinner of burger on top of greens.  I like to give my tummy some long hours to rest and digest between feedings, rather than snacking and eating little meals often throughout the day.

So my habit has become to work through the lunch hour and then around 2:30 or 3 p.m. disappear for an hour and enjoy a real meal, usually a meal I have packed for myself.  My default lunch is a couple of hard boiled eggs or a can of tuna, an avocado, a bag of leafy greens, and a couple tablespoons of fermented vegetable.  I usually mix everything together, throw a dollop of yoghurt and squeeze half a lemon in to moisten, crack some pepper on top, and eat with a spoon.  If I am really hungry and/or have worked out vigorously in the morning, I will lay a base of cooked grain on the bottom.  Often I will have a little thermos of broth too.

This week I wanted to make a salad based on the wonderful creation from Farmshop with arugula, big fat fresh walnuts, walnut oil, sherry vinegar, poached beets, avocado, shaved fennel and quinoa that I’ve eaten many times.  In place of quinoa I used wheat berries; in place of arugula I used purple mizuna; I added purple asparagus and asparagus “coins” (they remind me of lentils) I found at this week’s Farmer’s Market; and, I added yoghurt so the salad would “stick together” and I could place it on toast.  It. Was. Delicious.

Here’s a very rough narrative recipe:

First slice off 2″ of the tops of the asparagus, and then slice thinly about 2″ of the remaining (non-woody part) of the stalks.

Asparagus "Coins"

Asparagus “Coins”

Then roast your asparagus heads for about 5 minutes with olive oil and salt, poach a large beet and cut into sections, and assemble the rest of your ingredients: the asparagus “coins,” some leafy greens, an avocado, walnuts, wheat berries or another chewy grain, shaved fennel and some torn fennel fronds.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Place in a bowl with salt and pepper, toss with walnut oil and some sherry or other delicious vinegar.  The walnut oil is very important and I encourage you to find a good quality one and use it.  It adds such a wonderful flavor to the salad. Add a dollup of yoghurt (greek).

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Toss well.  I had to transfer to a bigger bowl so as to not spill all over my living room (photo studio) floor.

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What I like to do next is mound the mixture onto a piece of toast.

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In Tartine Form — I like to spoon up my salad with torn pieces of bread, but tartines look better!

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It’s a little wooley beast of a tartine!

 

Juicy Red Salad, Buttermilk Dressing; and, May I Rant?

 

Without Avo

Without Avo

Here’s a fresh and beautiful springtime salad inspired by the early Brooks Cherry appearance in our farmer’s markets this week.  It’s crunchy, creamy & juicy, and sweet, tart & peppery, all in one bite.

The sweet and juicy fruit pairs well with the crunch and grassyness of the black eyed pea and english pea sprouts; and the avo and creamy dressing, tangled with the shock of peppery arugula, rounds everything out in balance.

That's Better

That’s Better

This Friday at my favorite farmer’s market, I was so excited about these cherries, harbinger of summer, that I literally just threw together a salad idea in my head, made a few more purchases with the cash I had left, and biked all the ingredients to work in my backpack.  I figured I could snap some pretty good photographs in our office kitchen, which encompasses one quarter of one entire building floor, and has 2 floor-to-ceiling windows as its 2 out of 3 walls.  Great light, juicy cherries, some sprouts, my iphone camera, and all of a sudden I have a chance at making it to Fiesta Friday after all!

I artfully assembled my salad, moved it around to scout lighting, and then it happened.  That person, you know the one . . . the one that every office has who is miserable . . . she snarked me!  She rained on my sunny disposition.  Really staring deeply into my salad (and getting into my personal space) I believe what she said was, “That looks so disgustingly healthy,” with a tinge of sincere scorn and mockery. Plus maneuvering around me with a step-ladder and crowding me big time.  I mean, can you give a girl a little happy privacy . . . or wait 2 minutes until the space is free?  I know I’m a little weird with my food but . . . can’t we all just get along? 🙂

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On that note, I would like to wish all of my fellow “food obsessed” or “food interested” bloggers and Fiesta Friday #13 co-guests a very happy weekend filled with lots of good food, companionship, gratitude and love!!!!!!!

Here’s the Salad Recipe:

*Please note that the dressing recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe published on the foodnetwork.com, and it will make much more dressing than you need for this salad, but it is a WONDERFUL salad dressing to have on hand.  I use Thai basil instead of regular basil because I like it better! I keep a jar in my refrigerator at work and at home.

Ingredients:

3 cups wild arugula

1 cup mixed sprouts (I used black eyed pea and english pea found at my farmer’s market, but please feel free to use bean sprouts, radish sprouts, whatever you can)

1/2 cup fresh cherries, pitted

1/2 cup strawberries, halved

1/2 avocado, sliced

Arrange all ingredients in a nice big bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and let sit while you make the dressing.

Ingredients for the Dressing:

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup yoghurt, drained for half an hour

1/4 cup olive oil

2 scallions

1/2 bunch Thai basil

1 Tbsp mustard

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 Tbps lemon juice

1 tsp honey

pinch salt

Place the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to develop.

For one gigantic salad as listed above, I use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup dressing and mix really well with my hands, then eat with a spoon!  Don’t forget to top with freshly cracked black pepper.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/buttermilk-ranch-dressing-with-bibb-lettuce-recipe.html?oc=linkback