And this, friends, would be an example of an AHubb meal. Or, an AHubb meal following a couple of weeks of BHubb meals, multiple food-centered editorial assignments, and a day-long photoshoot involving roughly 800oz of potato chips. Which, yes, we kept and distributed [mostly] to friends and family. With the fast approach of the holiday season and even heavier meals for impending Winter days, I've decided to challenge myself to create an interesting salad each week. To keep me on track, grounded, and hopefully in my current jeans. Not that I'll share each of them here. I know...you all really enjoy recipes more closely aligned with orecchiette carbonara and peach cakes. Who doesn't? But I thought, maybe, some of you might appreciate a few healthier options sprinkled here and there.
We all have those days when our jeans fit just a little tighter than the last, when we are craving something complex and hearty and cheesy for lunch but know we should choose the green salad instead. This recipe is my compromise. With a healthy dose of greens and apples, and a modest sprinkling of blue cheese and candied walnuts, it satisfies without the guilt. Make it lighter by omitting the candied walnuts and just sprinkling them on raw...but gosh, they sure are tasty.
Never fear...I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe for apple torte. :)
The combination of apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts is well-loved and known for salads. Sometimes you just need a little reminder about an old favorite.
Autumn Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese, + Candied Walnuts
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups fresh arugula
1 tart apple, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Candied Walnut Ingredients
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
large pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups halved walnuts
Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette Ingredients
2 tbsp grain mustard
4 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar (or champagne vinegar if you can't find golden balsamic)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
First, candy the walnuts. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy skillet. Bring to a boil, whisking, and allow to boil for 1 minute. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Continue tossing until the syrup forms a glaze on the nuts, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to sheet of foil and quickly separate them with forks.
Second, make the vinaigrette. Combine the mustard, vinegar, and honey in the small bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil to emulsify, processing for about 1 minute.
Toss together the spinach and arugula. Place in a shallow serving dish. Add the apples and walnuts evenly across the top of the greens, then the crumbled blue cheese. Dress the salad on individual plates.
I have big, big plans for picnics in 2011. Last summer, I think, Brian and I were cheated...busy lives kept us from really taking the time to relax on weekends and enjoy each other's company on weekday evenings. Life is still moving quickly, but this year we've adjusted our priorities. And picnics are close to the top of my new list. Nothing quite says summer like packing a basket of simple foods, folding up your favorite quilt, and driving out to the country. Or, if you really want to get your picnic quota up, simply walking out to the backyard and plopping down on a patch of shady grass. That can happen any old day, and this year I plan to make it happen quite often.
A few weeks ago I started a list. My 'foods fit for a picnic' list, as I call it. On this piece of gridded paper I placed edibles such as 'not-too-crumbly biscuits' and 'pulled pork' and 'spicy coleslaw'. Also, there were 'buttermilk cookies' and 'dill pickles' and 'egg salad'. These were all recipes that I wished to research and experiment with, to really nail down so that I would be prepared for outdoor eating at any point between April and October. As of this week, I've crossed one off.
For some reason I've always had a thing for egg salad. Most versions I've ever had have been very bland, and I am never fully satisfied after choosing it for a sandwich over deli meat or roasted veggies. Regardless, for all these years, I've told myself and others "I really love egg salad!" And so when it made an appearance on my 'foods fit for a picnic' list (because of course, egg salad belongs at a picnic) I immediately started thinking about creating a fantastic herbed pesto that I could drizzle over top. You know, to make the egg salad more interesting.
Armed with this Alice Waters recipe recommended by a friend, I set about preparing what was to be the ultimate picnic sandwich...egg salad drizzled with chive pesto served on artisan bread. I smeared one slice of bread with the pesto, piled a heap of egg salad on another slice, and debated how to photograph my creation. While debating, I sampled the salad...and kept eating. This salad is so delicious, the exact opposite of bland, that the beautiful, emerald-toned pesto was immediately packed up and stashed away. Chopped eggs tossed with mayonnaise mixed with fresh chives, dijon mustard, and capers requires no accompaniment aside from a thick slice of good bread. Its the capers that make the salad, truly. I'll never eat egg salad without capers again. That would be like having a whole summer go by without a picnic, and that just won't do.
The mosquitoes are out in full force, covering my skin with pink welts each time I venture into our overgrown garden. My hair frizzes to twice its volume as soon as I consider stepping outside. I can’t walk down the block without tiny beads of sweat popping up on the back of my neck, yet my office is frigid enough to require a sweater. Spring seems to have moved on early this year, leaving in her wake an abrasive and demanding Summer.
But, despite all of this personal discomfort, I love this time of year. Truly, I do.
I love the thunderstorms that sweep in like clockwork each afternoon, lending the sky an ominous tone and the air an electric buzz. I love the booths at the farmer’s market, the tables full of greens and berries and cucumbers and beets. I love that the water is warm enough to take the dogs swimming at the reservoir, and that those trips are the perfect opportunity for a picnic. I love drinking Moscow Mules on the back deck while watching fireflies glow in the trees, and the smell of sun screen and citronella and bug spray made sweeter by the intoxicating aroma of freshly-mown grass and trampled mint.
Those are all compelling arguments, I know, but what I love most about this Almost-Summer time of year is the local Virginia fruit. Those few days where I find myself wandering between tidy rows of strawberries, or ducking under tree branches dripping with both rainwater and cherries, are worth every welt on my itchy legs. Filling our basket with blueberries and melons at Charlottesville's City Market makes the sweltering heat just bearable as we make our way between stalls. And folding homegrown raspberries into whipped buttercream...oh my. There aren't many discomforts that fresh raspberry buttercream can't fix.
But today, let's focus on those cherries. Ten-year-old Andrea would probably tell you that they are her favorite fruit...ever...for their appearance at the grocery store was always perfectly timed with the end of school and the beginning of Summer vacation. My momma, a teacher and just as excited for the break, would plan day trips to Florida’s fresh water springs for my friends and me. A bag full of sweet cherries was always packed as part of our lunch. After a few hours of swimming and snorkeling and sharks’ tooth hunting the dark-skinned globes would come out of the cooler, icy cold and immediately covered in tiny beads of condensation.
We’d find a spot in the grass, out of the shade of our claimed pavilion. The spring water was frigid, and the sun felt good on our skin as we spread a blanket and chose our places for the competition that was sure to follow. Small hands reached into the Ziplock bag, pulling out handfuls of tangled fruit to place in cross-legged laps. One-by-one, plucked from the mass by rubbery stems, the cherries were popped into eager mouths. Rolled around and around the tongue, the pit was picked clean before being spat from juice-stained lips across the sun-soaked lawn.
I won't deny that my adult days have seen the occasional cherry-pit-spitting contest. Yes, I do that. But 28-year-old Andrea has also learned how to bake and how to make jam, and that cherries pair well with savory partners as well as sweet. Take this dish, for instance, a variation on the classic tomato and basil bread salad. In it, sweet cherries are paired with the tang of balsamic vinegar and spicy arugula, all held together by a base of crisped bread and a topping of creamy chevre. It is a very adult meal, a lovely, rustic dinner for two on the back deck that is complimented nicely by an effervescent vinho verde.
Just be sure to save some of those whole cherries for dessert...you never know when your inner child will demand a little friendly competition.
Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula and Goat Cheese
from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenbergmakes 4 first-course servings, or a meal for 2
6 oz rustic bread, preferably a day old (I used a whole wheat baguette)
1/2 pound cherries, halved and pitted (I used sweet cherries, and a cherry pitter was SO handy)
1/8 tsp pressed or crushed garlic
fresh chevre, coarsely crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim crust from bread, and discard the crust. Tear the bread into rough, bite-size pieces (you should have about 4 cups, total). Dump the bread onto a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle it with olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake until crispy and golden in spots, shaking the pan once, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put about one-third of the cherries in a small bowl and mash them lightly with a fork to release their juices.
When the bread is nicely toasted, turn it into a large bowl. While it is still hot, add the crushed garlic and toss well. Set the bowl aside to cool for a minute or two, then add all of the cherries, both mashed and halved, and toss. Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and toss again. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch or two of salt and toss again.
Taste, and adjust the vinegar, oil and salt as needed. The bread and cherries should taste good on their own. When you're satisfied with the flavor, add about 2 handfuls of arugula and toss one last time. Finish with a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese and a few grinds of the pepper mill, and serve.
Winter and I have had a rocky go of it this year. We’ve waffled back and forth in a love / hate relationship that rivals the one I’ve currently got going on with my gym membership. On one hand, I’ve loved the quiet beauty a good snowstorm lays gently across my world and the resulting desire to cozy up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a season of Entourage. On the other, I am tired of feeling stuck indoors, the outside ice, mud and frigid air enough to keep me hibernating under a quilt with the lights turned low. The result has been a bit too much cozying, and my motivation to cook, write, or log miles on the treadmill seems to be hiding in the same dark place as the sun. I am lost in the monotony of February, floating through scenes of white and gray, desperately seeking a reprieve in the form of a warm day, tiny chartreuse buds on the backyard Maple tree, fresh produce from local farmers that isn’t squash or cabbage.
There have been some brighter moments lately, a few shrieks of excitement released from my heart after witnessing the sun pierce a hazy layer of clouds, revealing a small patch of brilliant blue sky. I was thrilled to notice last week that two copper-toned birds have chosen to make a nest in the cold, drab ally outside my office window, and just this morning heard a woman excitedly discussing the yellow crocuses popping out from under a blanket of snow in her yard. All are sure signs of Spring’s impending arrival and moments I am desperate to capture permanently. Should snow fall again in the coming weeks I’d like to have a photograph stashed away in my back pocket to remind me that the end is near, that productivity will return with a sunshine-filled sky and baby birds chirping on the sill.
In the meantime, the meals I am managing to cook seem to have several similar qualities. They are simple. They are hearty and warm and filling. They incorporate some ingredient that brightens the dish at multiple levels; to the eyes, to the nose, to the tongue. Whether it be golden citrus tossed in a salmon salad, vibrant leeks bobbing amongst emerald isles of kale, the scent of fresh lime wafting from my oven, each recipe is very carefully chosen to lift our spirits and carry us through these last (25!) days of Winter.
This salad is no exception to my new rules. Hearty grains are joined by warm, earth-scented mushrooms to create a salad base as warm and satisfying as a family quilt enveloping shivering shoulders. Jewel-toned grape tomatoes and bright flecks of fresh parsley are the harbingers of this dish, reminders that Spring, followed closely by Summer, will be joining us soon. Served over a bed of spicy arugula and layered with shavings of Pecorino Toscano, this salad makes for a lovely, filling, early dinner, and is best enjoyed beside a window in the rays of Winter's setting sun.
Warm Barley Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mushrooms
4 oz Pecorino Toscano, feta or goat cheese, diced or crumbled (I used a hard pecorino, shaved over the top of the salad)
Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 425*.
Toss the mushrooms, tomatoes, shallots and 2 tbsp of the oil together on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toast the veggies, stirring once, until the mushrooms and shallots are browned nicely, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, bring water, barley and pinch of salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy, about 30 minutes. Drain the barley well in a strainer and transfer to a large bowl.
Toss the barley with the remaining 3 tbsp oil until coated evenly. Add the roasted vegetables and parsley and toss to combine. Cool slightly and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the arugula or spinach among four large plates. Spoon warm barley salad over each plate, sprinkle with cheese, and serve.
Store barley salad separately from arugula or spinach and reheat for lunch the next day, if desired.
Let me start by saying that I am completely smitten with the city in which Brian and I live. Charlottesville wooed us from afar with her top-notch university, her small-town feel just two hours from Washington D.C., her close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and dozens of Virginia wineries. We were drawn in by the qualities of a city that look good on paper: the quaint downtown district, public parks, academic culture, good hospitals. What we received in addition to those important qualities was greater than we could have ever imagined: a strong local food movement, an impressive number of independently-owned restaurants that have kept us out of Chili's, Friday's and the like for the last five years, a health-concious population that promotes dozens of foot races year-round, like-minded classmates, co-workers and farmers who have become incredible friends. And, especially exciting for two Floridians who lived without them for the first 22 years of our lives, four distinct seasons.
Nobody could have prepared me for the magic that is October in Charlottesville, the golden light that flares through the brightly-colored leaves and the festivals that occur every weekend. And then there's April, with her daffodils and tulips and cherry trees that resemble cotton candy attached to smooth, silvery bark. Late June brings the first of the summer vegetables to the farmer's market and the intoxicating, oh-so-sweet scent of wild multiflora rose to the air. For eleven months of the year I sing the praises of this place, this gem of a city nestled into the shadow of the Blue Ridge, and am pleased to call Charlottesville my home.
But there are those other four weeks, the weeks that span the end of January and beginning of February, when the first snow of the year has melted and left the yard a muddy mess, when the cuteness of the six sweaters in my closet has worn off and I stare longingly at the bright, sleeveless tops meant for warmer months. These are the days that I resent pulling socks on instead of strappy sandals, when I crave a glass of white wine while sitting in a sunbeam on the back deck, when I'd give anything to not have skin flaking from my too-dry face. These are the days that I wish I were still a Floridian, with 70* winter days and a year-round farmer's market.
These are the days when citrus plays a prominent role in my diet, producing little sparks of Florida warmth with each juicy bite. Citrus fruit will get me through the worst days of winter, when the sky is gray and the air is moist and my boots make suction noises as I walk across my saturated front yard. There will be lemon cakes and orange juice-glazed tofu, citrus-flavored martinis and key lime pies. Clementines are tossed in my bag daily to be eaten as an afternoon snack, the draft leaking through my office window hardly noticeable as I savor each sunshine-filled wedge.
Also, there is this salad. So light, so fresh, so summer, yet made with mostly seasonal ingredients. It is a bright spot on the dreariest of winter days, sure to bring cheer and warmth to the coldest of winter nights.
The fennel provides a delightful crunch, similar to a slaw, that serves as a nice contrast to the soft oranges and the salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. Poaching the fish creates a mild flavor that is enhanced by the juice from the oranges and a hint of mint.
4 cups very thinly sliced fennel (from 2 medium bulbs)
1 cup small fresh mint leaves (I only used 1/4 cup, and it was plenty for us...)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cups of arugula salad mix
In a large, deep skillet, combine water, sugar, vinegar and star anise. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add salmon filet, skin side up, to skillet. Cover skillet and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, turn salmon over. Cover and let stand until salmon is just opaque in center, 5 to 6 minutes longer.
Remove salmon from liquid and cool. Coarsely flake salmon into bowl, removing any bones and skin, and set aside.
Cut top and bottom 1/4-inch off each orange. Stand 1 orange on 1 flat end. Using small sharp knife, cut off peel and white pith. Working over large bowl, cut between membranes, releasing segments into bowl. Repeat with remaining orange.
Add salmon, fennel, mint and olive oil to bowl with oranges. Gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over bed of arugula.
Speaking of Florida, my good friend Jenn has started a new blog about fitness and running. She's a doll, so energetic and positive, and is sure to bring an infectious spark to the healthy living blog world. Check her out at Reason 2 Run, and take note of the helpful fitness facts that accompany each post. She's a fitness professional, runner and balanced living enthusiast, and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us all. Welcome, Jenn!
I feel like I am so behind on bella terra posts that I've got to give you another immediately following my last. Its the time of year, I suppose - even the farmer's market has exploded with dozens of options for fresh local produce. So many things are happening in the garden that I am having a very hard time keeping up. In fact, as I write this, the very last cucumber that we will get this year is ripening on the vine, and I haven't even shared a recipe with you yet! The rest of the cucumber plants have started browning from the ground up, wilting away in the high-80* heat we've had these last few weeks. Soon their place will be taken with new plantings of fall crops...once I figure out what those will be.
We enjoyed an abundance of cukes this year, many more than we've been able to handle gracefully. I've shamelessly offered them to anybody who will take them, and am usually met with a pleased-yet-baffled look as I hand over an armload of huge cucumbers and am asked "any suggestions"? Salads, of course. Lots and lots of salads.
Maybe this one - even though cucumbers aren't listed in the ingredients I think they would make a fine addition. Same goes for this one, which you're probably already making what with all the beets showing up in farmer's market booths and grocery stores this time of year. Throw some cucumbers in, they'd be great mixed with those golden globes, purple cabbage and just-off-the-vine tomatoes. But if you're looking for something new, something with a fresh California-inspired, deconstructed guacamole flavor, I've got just the salad for you.
It screams summer, with its refreshing bites of cucumber and juicy tomato. The red onion adds just the right amount of bite that is tempered slightly by the creamy avocado. Take it to a picnic, a backyard fiesta or an evening dinner on a friend's front porch. Margarita not required, but definitely recommended.
Mid-Summer Cucumber Salad with Champagne Vinaigrettevinaigrette from emeril via food network
3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 small red onion, diced finely
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, chopped to 1/2-inch dice
finely chopped cilantro, to taste (I find that everybody's tolerance for cilantro is a little different, so use as much or as little as you'd like)
1/4-cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp minced shallot
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper
Peel cucumbers and slice them in half length-wise. Scoop seeds out with a spoon and cut cukes into 1/2-inch slices. Place cukes in colander in sink and sprinkle with kosher salt. Toss to coat and let sit for 30 minutes before rinsing very well.
Combine vinegar, honey, shallot, mustard and garlic in food processor. Slowly add olive oil and process until smooth. Salt + pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, toss rinsed cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro together. Add dressing to taste. You will have dressing leftover, and it should be used within 1 week.
I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of leafy greens. Big, big fan. A taste for greens kind of comes with the territory when you grow up in the south, along with a decent addiction to fried okra and sweet tea. But unlike those two childhood favorites, greens can be an incredibly healthy addition to your diet - full of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, iron and calcium - as long as you leave out the bacon that is standard in most southern dishes. And when you eat greens as often as Brian and I do you really should leave out the bacon. Or run a few extra miles a day which, lets be honest, could be worth it.
We planted kale our first year with the garden but had very little luck with it. We were late getting the seeds in the ground that spring and wound up having very hot weather very early in the season so the poor little shoots never really had a chance. The next year we tried collard greens, having heard that they were a bit heartier than kale. Wow. Heartier was right. We had more collards than Brian and I plus the handful of friends that also like greens could handle. They were enjoyed immensely through most of the summer, but at the end of the season Brian not-so-subtly hinted that he’d had enough collards to last him for quite some time, and could we maybe try kale again next year?
We chose lacinato kale this spring, also known as black or dinosaur kale, because we love its deep earthy flavor and feel that it is a tad less bitter than other kale varieties. The seeds went into the ground in mid-march, and because we’ve had a relatively cool and wet summer we've been enjoying a steady harvest of fresh garden kale for the last two months. The weather is getting warmer now though, and the greens are fading fast. I’m suddenly feeling the pressure to increase our intake before they all wilt away and we have to wait for the cooler fall air for our next crop.
Luckily, this increase in consumption corresponded with a couple of key events that led to the creation of a new favorite salad. The first was an email I received a few weeks ago asking if I would like to participate in a Barhyte Foodsrecipe contest featuring their line of condiments - Saucy Mama. The second was my discovery that young, raw lacinato kale leaves make for quite the tasty salad.
Accompanied by sweet roasted vegetables, tangy goat cheese and a delightful raspberry vinaigrette, the slight bitterness of the greens (which is typically tempered by blanching) was balanced perfectly. And because kale is more firm than lettuce it holds its own quite well even after being coated with the dressing, adding a nice crunch to a bite filled with soft beets and creamy cheese. Add some toasted walnuts to the top and you have a lovely dinner salad in front of you. You won’t even miss the bacon.
It is best to use young kale leaves, just 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. They will be more tender, and less bitter, than their older siblings. I also tossed in some beet greens, which have a wonderful spicy bite to them and are best if used within one day of being pulled from the ground.
For the dressing I used Saucy Mama’s Raspberry Vinaigrette. In full disclosure, Barhyte Foods has sent me samples of their most popular condiments to develop recipes for a contest they are holding. Also, to be completely honest, I must tell you that this dressing is delicious. Really, really delicious.
Summer Greens Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Raspberry Vinaigretteserves 4 for a light dinner
about 1 pound of fresh greens - rinsed, dried, removed from stems and chopped (I used lacinato kale and beet greens) - should equal about 6 cups
3 medium-size beets - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
2 medium-size carrots - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
Preheat oven to 350*. Place chopped beets and carrots into medium-size glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to coat. Roast vegetables for 30-40 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
Wash and dry greens as best you can. Remove leaves from stems and chop to bite-size pieces. Place in large bowl and toss with raspberry vinaigrette to coat well.
Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. While they cool, toast your walnuts.
Place a heap of greens in the center of your plate. Top with roasted vegetables, crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
Summer is upon us, and I have a confession to make. I don't cook much from June thru September. I blame the longer days and the evening activities that come with them. Cocktails after work with friends on the downtown mall, a few hours weeding and picking and training in the garden, fetch with the dogs and wine on the deck. By the time I start to think about dinner the sun has fallen in the sky and its past 8pm.
The fresh produce this time of year holds some of the blame as well. When you're picking sugar snaps straight from the vine outside your kitchen door and have an abundance of fresh lettuce at your feet its hard to imagine doing anything but going straight inside, dumping it all into a bowl and drizzling it with a simple vinaigrette. Or, when you've just pulled perfect little beets from the ground and realize that you still have some carrots from the farmer's market in your fridge, images of simply roasted root vegetables sprinkled with salt + pepper laid across a bed of lettuce start dancing in your head and eventually wind up on your plate (pictured above). It can't be helped, really. And how about brown rice pasta with quickly-sauteed squash from the market? The quick and simple possibilities are endless.
And then there is my attempt to follow Mark Bittman'sVegan Before 6 diet, although I hate to call it that. The d-word has such negative connotations and forces thoughts of deprivation into my head, when this new way of eating doesn't make me feel deprived in the least. I've simply been reducing my intake of processed foods and animal products by following a Vegan diet from the time I wake up until dinner time, when anything goes. If you've read about me, you'll know that Brian and I are very conscious of what we eat and where it comes from, and strive to eat as sustainably as possible. I've found that switching to a Vegan diet for two out of three meals a day (and many days for all three!) has been a very easy transition because of the way we've thought about food for some time now. And its especially easy in the summer when my appetite leans towards light salads rather than stick-to-your ribs casseroles.
So, that was a lot of excuses to say that, basically, I like to eat simply in the summertime. I love salads that I can make on Sunday and eat for lunch the rest of the week, and simple breads that become the star of the meal with very little effort put forth. The plate above was assembled on an evening when we had a few of those salads in the fridge, fresh lettuce from the garden on the counter and 30 minutes to spend making flatbread. The roasted red pepper, chickpea and quinoa salad is simple, delicious and filling...just my kind of meal. And trust me, even on a low-effort dinner night the extra 30 minutes is worth it, because this flatbread is incredible.
I haven't shared the curried tomato salad because I screwed it up the first time we made it and wasn't completely happy with the results. The concept is a good one though and I assure you that as soon as local tomatoes grace the booths at the market I'll be trying it again.
The lentil + brown rice salad can be found here.
Whole Grain Flatbreadslightly modified from Mark Bittman
1 cup whole wheat flour (I also tried this with 1/2 cornmeal and 1/2 white whole wheat and didn't like it nearly as much)
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups water
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Slowly add the water and whisk to eliminate lumps, the batter will resemble thing pancake batter. Cover with a towel and let sit while your oven preheats, or up to 12 hours.
When ready to bake, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Put the oil in a 12" skillet (if you use a smaller skillet use less oil and give the bread more time to cook), along with the onion and garlic. Put the skillet in the heated oven and let the oil get hot, but not smoking. It should just take a few minutes - you'll know when the oil starts to get fragrant.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, give the onions and garlic a stir and then pour the batter and return the pan to the oven.
Bake 30-40 minutes (I took mine out at 30 and will probably give it just a few more minutes next time) until the flatbread is well browned, firm and crisp around the edges. Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then slide it from the pan onto a cutting board to cut into wedges.
6 oz drained jarred roasted red peppers, diced (about 1 cup) - I didn't have any so just roasted a fresh red bell pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
First, if you don't have jarred roasted red peppers, roast your own. I sliced 1 bell pepper thinly, placed it in a small baking dish, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and roasted it for about 30 minutes.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and bring back to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover pan and let cook for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is tender but not mushy. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid and place quinoa in a medium-sized heat-tolerant bowl.
Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne and 1/2 tsp salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until the dressing is smooth.
Add the chickpeas, roasted red peppers and parsley to the bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine.
My goodness. I have really been slacking on the bellaterraposts. And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden. And now, looking at all of the pictures I've uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about.
Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor. Oh, and that lettuce and spinach? Fresh from our garden as well. All the rain we've had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn't have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we've had this summer.
And I can't forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I'll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder.
And what about the blackberries? They've multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow.
Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate. For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red. In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams. I can't wait. I really can't.
But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season. In years past we've started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen. This year though, we've got more peas than we know what to do with. Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking. They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry. The less you cook them the better - you don't want them to lose their wonderful crunch.
My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing. I loved the textures as well - the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes. Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long.
I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge. And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful. The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm. The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation. I won't make the mistake again.
Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peasfrom Bon Appetit, June 2009
1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices
8oz trimmed sugar snap peas
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.
Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended. Whisk in parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The last few days of May were spent in Florida celebrating the 10th Anniversary of my Momma and Stepfather. There was a lot of family time, spent mostly in the kitchen either preparing food for festivities or gathered around the table eating and chatting. That's how it works in my family - vacations, visits, events all revolve around our meals. If we're traveling to New Orleans we plan our entire stay around the restaurants we simply MUST dine at while there. When planning a visit to one of our houses my mom and I are on the phone no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled date of arrival planning out the daily menus.
This visit was no exception. On the drive from the airport we discussed what lunch would be the next day, a trip to my favorite Vietnamese Pho restaurant of course, since Charlottesville is lacking in Pho. Saturday's festivities menu was also discussed and last minute grocery lists were made. On Friday afternoon we got to work in the kitchen, each of the four of us with our own list of tasks and stack of recipes, all delegated at the family meeting around the kitchen table 10 minutes before. We moved around each other as if having been choreographed, the evening nearly flawless aside from my lack of preparedness with eclair ingredients - the pate a choux dough comes together rather quickly, for future reference. Saturday was spent enjoying the results of our hard work with more family and close friends, and celebrating the marriage of two incredible people. It was a lovely, lovely weekend.
Since our return I've been unusually sleepy, most likely because of the ridiculous stress of flight delays on our way there and the busyness of the weekend from the moment we stepped foot in the sunshine state. I still can't help but wonder, however, if the copious amounts of sweets consumed has anything to do with my desire to take a nap at my desk by around 3pm each day this week. I wonder how long the effects of a sugar high and the resulting crash can stay in your system... I'm kidding of course. Maybe.
I've intended to write this post each evening after work these last few days, but every time I opened my iPhoto account and glimpsed the 500+ photos taken during our stay in Florida I became overwhelmed, and even more tired. Its been a struggle to decide which recipe to share with you first, the stuffed french toast filled with sliced bananas and homemade strawberry jam, the tangy creole mustard sauce that graced the perfectly poached fillet of grouper, the unbelievably delicious amaretto chocolate chip cookies and their accompanying amaretto buttercream frosting, or the beautiful mini eclairs with their vanilla custard filling and chocolate ganache topping.
In the end I've decided on this simple salad. It will probably seem bland and boring after the list of possibilities I gave above, but it really should not be ignored. Perhaps that's why I decided to feature it first, to emphasize that although a lentil + brown rice salad may not have been the star at our festivities in Florida, it was certainly a nominee for best supporting side dish. The ingredients are simple - after returning home to a nearly empty fridge and pantry I still had everything I needed to make this salad Sunday night. It was the first thing I did after loving on our dogs and making a quick dinner. Subtle and earthy with a lemony kick and a firm crunch, it has become the star of my lunches each day this week and will continue to make appearances at our table in the future.
Lentil + Brown Rice Saladmodified slightly from this recipeI realized after just reading Giada's recipe again that I forgot to add the kalamata olives (sorry Joe!). I bet they would be a delicious addition...
1 large carrot, peeled and diced finely
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1/4 cups lentils (we used green in Florida, and I used French lentils at home)
Saute' carrot, onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add lentils to pot and stir to mix. Add 2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover, simmering for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender but still firm. Remove from heat, drain. Pour lentils into heat-proof bowl and allow to cool.
Cook brown rice according to instructions, using broth instead of water.
When lentils have cooled, stir in the herbs and zest. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Salt + pepper to taste.
Top with crumbled feta when serving, if desired.
Congratulations Momma + Joe. We love you very much!
I’ve been holding out on you. Not because I’ve wanted to, in fact I knew as soon as I made this salad that I would be sharing it with you as soon as possible. I was just hoping to get some additional photographs for the presentation because it is such a beautiful salad and so absolutely delicious. Even though it is incredibly simple (or maybe because it is incredibly simple?) it deserves fanfare. And a lot of photos. The task shouldn’t have been so difficult - I make this dish all the time. But each time since the first I’ve either been in a rush, or made it at a friend’s house without my camera present (gasp!) or its been too late and too dark to shoot anything decent. So, I’ve caved and am giving it to you now, just a few photos short.One of my favorite restaurants in Charlottesville is Bizou. The atmosphere is dark and quirky - perfectly cozy on a blustery winter day or a welcome retreat from the blinding summer sun. They have a great daily menu and a variety of specials that never disappoint, along with a nice selection of wine. Every single dish I’ve tried has been very good, but I am always disappointed if I don’t get my tried and true favorite - Golden Beet Salad. So simple, such a perfect combination of flavors, so so so delicious.A couple of months ago I was at the grocery store and noticed that they had golden beets. I rarely see them so jumped at the opportunity to replicate my favorite salad. And I’ve jumped each time I’ve seen the sunny globes in the produce department since, because you just don’t know when they’ll be present again.
My salad isn’t exactly like Bizou’s, but its close. I haven't given quantities of anything because its not necessary to be that precise. Just keep tossing ingredients together until you've got a good variety of textures and colors in your bowl. The picture above is missing walnuts, a key ingredient and one not to leave out. I did on this one occasion because we were sharing it with a friend who is allergic, but it is definitely best with them. The honey mustard dressing is an Alton Brown recipe that is delicious as it is and I’ve never taken the time to play with it. However, Bizou’s dressing had mustard seeds and I love the crunch they provide - its worth experimenting with. Also, buy good quality chevre to crumble on top. You won’t be sorry.
Golden Beet Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
golden beets, peeled, chopped and roasted with 1 tbsp olive oil for 25 minutes at 425*.
grape tomatoes, halved
cucumber, sliced thinly
red cabbage, sliced thinly
spinach or a mesclun mix
walnuts, chopped and toasted at 425* until fragrant, 8-10 minutes
5 tbsp honey
3 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Roast beets. Toast walnuts
Toss spinach, tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage together.
Sprinkle chevre and toasted walnuts on top.
Whisk dressing ingredients together and drizzle over salad.
Do you ever have nights when you just don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen? I know you do. I can usually tell early in the afternoon when it is going to be one of those nights because I am either dreading the process of preparing what we’ve got on the menu or I have no interest in thinking about something to cook. Leftovers come in handy on such nights as do Amy’s pizzas stashed in the freezer. Sometimes a quick batch of guacamole won’t seem too daunting and Brian and I will spend the evening snacking on seven-layer dip, other times we resort to picking up the phone and ordering various tofu dishes from our favorite Chinese take-out place. But my favorite no-effort meal is, by far, of the crusty loaf of bread, hard cheese and simple salad variety.
I was in one of these moods on Sunday after arriving home from the cabin. We’d spent the weekend cooking in a foreign kitchen for extra people - which was a blast - but by the time we got back to our own house and unloaded the car and the coolers of leftover food I knew that there would be no cooking happening that evening. Even so, a grocery trip was on the afternoon agenda so that I could pick up necessary ingredients to eventually make this and these for Meghann'sblogger bake sale [during which she made an incredible amount of money and exceeded her fundraiser goal by over $1000!!!]. I hadn't made a menu for the week so spent the first 10 minutes or so wandering through the produce department looking for inspiration. And I saw these:
Radishes and I don't have much of a history. In fact, until Sunday, I didn't think that I even liked radishes. But as I stood in front of the deep scarlet globes in the middle of a very busy produce department and racked my brain trying to think of why I didn't like them I could not come up with one recollection of ever actually eating a radish. Maybe once or twice, shaved over baby greens on a salad, but never on their own or displayed proudly and prominently as a key ingredient in a dish. And, since I'd been reading Molly's book while in West Virginia and had come across this recipe, I decided it was time to give the bright red beauties a fair review.
I even, coincidentally, picked up Plugra. The same salted European butter that Molly recommends on Orangette for this very treat, although I didn't know it at the time. Armed with a French baguette I arrived home and happily announced to Brian and our last lingering house guest that we would be having sliced, salted radishes on fresh bread for dinner, along with a salad. Though they weren't convinced at first (and we did add a hunk of fresh sheep's milk cheese from the local farmer's market to the mix, separate from the radish ensemble) they came around after the first bite. For thinly sliced radishes with delicately shaved butter and sea salt on a fresh baguette is a delicious combination. Truly.
So impressed was I with my first official radish experience that I came home from the office today to make a salad with radishes for lunch, stopping first at the local market for an avocado. I made this soup [scroll to bottom] for dinner last night and knew that it was destined to be my mid-day meal, but couldn't resist the urge for fresh Spring greens to accompany it. A quick search on epicurious for a good radish salad [remember, I'm new to them] yielded this recipe. The avocado and fresh cilantro seemed to be the perfect compliment for the radishes and ultimately my spicy tomato-based soup, and I wasn't disappointed. Oh radish, I'm your newest fan.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be lovely if you have the time.
Radish and Avocado Salad with Fresh Cilantromodified from epicuriousserves 2
leafy green lettuce, such as butter or bibb
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 medium radishes, halved and sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp minced shallot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cabernet vinegar (I'm out of champagne vinegar, which the recipe calls for)
2 tsp dijon mustard
Whisk last 4 ingredients together to make dressing. Divide first 4 ingredients into 2 bowls and drizzle dressing on top.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be nice if you have the time.