Category: Salad Dressing

Julie’s Salad

August 1, 2011

Let me ask you this – do you think about salad?  Do you crave it?  When you serve yourself from the salad bowl, does a small mountain of greens appear on your salad plate?

If your answer is no, then this post will probably not make much sense to you.  No judgment; I understand if you say no.  Bad salad runs the gamut from agonizingly boring to downright disgusting.  In restaurants, especially in un-veg-friendly restaurants, salad is often my only choice.  I feel like I have had them all and most of them are bad.

I have always thought of myself as a good salad maker.  We eat one with our dinner several nights a week (or more) and I made endless varieties in the three years I worked as a personal chef.  But I have now met my salad match.  This recipe which, as you will see below, is one I am obsessed with.  I can’t get enough.  My dear friend and former neighbor Julie brought this over for an impromptu dinner this past spring and I have asked her to make it several times since then.  I have also started making it on my own although I never like it as much as when Julie makes it.  You might not know Julie but you probably know Ashley and this salad is originally her creation.

Each post I write suffers through several edits.  In an early version of this one, I totally geeked out.  I detailed out what Julie and I agree upon and what we do differently and where we both stray from Ashley’s original vision.  It was not, ahem, interesting reading.  So let me just streamline it for you and then offer you the recipe for how I make The Salad, which is how Julie and I refer to it.

Some musts:  Good lettuce – Julie is partial to the butter lettuce mix at Trader Joe’s, I am obsessed with the basketball size heads I find at my farmers’ market.  I buy two of those babies and they last me all week.  A high proportion of herbs to lettuce is necessary – I say 1 part herbs to 3 parts lettuce and Julie uses even more.  Dill must be in there as well as tarragon – otherwise use whatever you have growing in your garden or whatever bits and pieces are lying in your crisper drawer.  Radishes lend a wonderful bite here but if you want them to be on the mellower side, do as Julie does and slice them with a mandoline.  If you prefer more crunch and more bitterness, thinly slice them with a knife.  Yes, it makes a difference.  Yes, I am a salad geek.  Finally, once everything is in the bowl but before you dress the salad, sprinkle a healthy pinch of kosher salt over the leaves.  Lettuce is a vegetable and vegetables need salt – this step will make this or any salad taste loads better and will require less dressing.

Some options:  On our Lopez trip last weekend, I found the sweetest English peas I have ever tasted and couldn’t resist buying a huge bag of them.  I added them raw to the salad and they fit in perfectly with the mix.  I have since started adding thawed frozen peas and am kind of on the fence about whether I want them in there or not.  Since fresh peas are probably long gone from your markets, keep this step in mind for next spring.  Julie adds nubs of goat cheese to the greens and while I do love the cheese in there, I think it is equally delicious without.  Use about 2-3 ounces of the soft stuff for salad for 4.  (She also made it once with a log of herb studded goat cheese on the side so that people could serve up however much cheese they wanted onto their plate.  Genius.)  Ashley makes her dressing with a bit of crème fraîche, Julie doesn’t, I’ve tried it both ways and also with an egg yolk instead of the crème fraîche.  All good.  Just make sure your proportion of vinegar is higher than a traditional vinaigrette.  You want a lot of bite here.

So yes, I have written 692 words about salad.  You probably think I am crazy, obsessed, or just downright weird.  Try it and then decide.  You can find Ashley’s original post about this salad and much better photos here.

One Year Ago:  Grilled Summer Vegetable Soft Tacos
Two Years Ago:  Muhummara Dip

Soft Lettuces with Herbs and Avocado
Inspired by Ashley Rodriguez and Julie Hubert
Serves 4

You might spy a couple of sliced olives on my salad plate.  I had a handful left over from making the kids pizza and thought I would throw them in.  Mistake.  With the possible exception of the peas, this salad needs no embellishment from other “stuff”.  The amounts here are obviously fluid – Randy and I polish off this amount between the two of us.  Finally – finally! – Julie chops her lettuce so that the overall feel is more like a chopped salad, but I can’t bring myself to take a knife to those beautiful leaves so I tear them into big pieces.

For the salad
1 head soft butter lettuce, leaves washed and torn, spun dry
One cup roughly chopped herbs, such as tarragon, mint, dill, basil, chives, etc.
4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium avocado, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small handful fresh peas, optional
Kosher salt

For the dressing
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced

Make the dressing
Place the egg yolk, water, mustard, vinegar, honey, a large pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Whir to combine.  Open the feed tube and slowly add the olive oil and process until the dressing thickens.  Stop and taste adjust seasoning to your taste with more honey, salt, pepper, or vinegar.  Pour the dressing into a bowl and stir in the shallots.  (This recipe will make more dressing than you need for one salad.  Cover and store in the refrigerator I keep my dressing in recycled salsa or jam jar with a lid.  Good for shaking.)

Make the salad
Place the lettuce, herbs, radishes, avocado, and peas in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the whole mix with a pinch of kosher salt.  Pour on the dressing carefully (you probably won’t need much) and toss gently to combine.  Serve right away.

Double Quinoa Salad

June 23, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Scottsdale to learn about Thermador and the amazing range they are unveiling in August.  I expected, with about 20 food bloggers coming, that they would feed us well.  And then I remembered the lunch I was served at BlogHer Food a couple of years ago.  If you were reading this or any blog around that time, you might recall that lunch was a three course meal put together by Bertolli’s Pasta.  Yes, they served food bloggers frozen pasta.  So, while I hoped Thermador would have planned a bit better, I was cautious.

It turns out there was no need for worry.  Our dinners out and the breakfast and lunch they served us on site were nothing short of amazing.  In addition to incredibly delicious and well-prepared food, there was plenty on hand for the two vegetarians in the group and also for our vegan.  I was very impressed.

One of the salads that the group prepared for lunch starred perfectly plump edamame and red quinoa, things that I would never have put together.  I took some on my plate with about 10 other things and truly enjoyed each thing I tasted.  I came home with that salad in my head and determined to recreate it.  But, seeing as I only had a few bites, I had to rely on my insufficient memory which put pine nuts in there as well as feta cheese.  (It seems neither of which were in the original.)  I found fresh fava beans in my market so opted to use those instead of edamame and I also decided to make the salad more focussed around the quinoa than the beans.  I also put in very little in the way of the dressing and added tomatoes for color and acid.

The result?  Basically nothing like what I had in Scottsdale but incredibly tasty.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to create something delicious.

One Year Ago: Flo’s Chocolate Snaps
Two Years Ago: Feta Radish Spread
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Quinoa Salad with Fava Beans, Pine Nuts, and Feta Cheese
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8 as a side

I always toast my pine nuts in the toaster oven.  Regardless of how you do it, you will need to watch them very carefully because they burn in an instant.

1 pound fava beans
½ cup black quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbps. fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Using a paring knife, split open the fava bean pods and extract the beans.  Discard the pods.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the fava beans.  Boil for 2 minutes, then drain.  When cool enough to handle, pop open the skin and take out the bright green bean.  Place in a large bowl.

Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add both of the quinoas, give a quick stir, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes, then check the pan.  If there is still liquid in the pan, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then add to the bowl with the fava beans.

Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, and mint along with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Gently stir in the pine nuts and the feta cheese, followed by the tomatoes.  Mix just to combine.  Adjust the seasoning by adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper to taste.

(Will keep for at least 3 days, covered in the refrigerator.  The mint will lose its color but the flavor will improve.)

The Salad That Got Away From Me

June 12, 2011

This is the salad that got away from me.  I mean that in a good way.  It started out as a riff on Heidi Swanson’s Mostly Not Potato Salad.  I love potato salad.  Any potato salad.  I know some people have strong feelings about mayo, as in they hate it, but I am an equal opportunity potato salad lover.  If I’m going to make a more traditional one myself, I feature mustard strongly and mix the mayo with Greek yogurt so there is more tang and bite than glop.  But whatever you want to make for me, I will eat.

Having said that, I liked the idea of a potato salad in which the potatoes were just a part of the ensemble and not the star.  I also like the idea of some things cooked and some things raw and so off I went to make it one Sunday night.  And then, two dinner guests came over and so I started adding things to it.  Having just gotten some terrific whole grain tips during my trip to the Thermador kitchen, I added some black quinoa to the mix.  (Two tips to share, add while grains in unexpected places, like potato salad, and cook up a big pot of your favorite grain, store it in the refrigerator, and use it all week.)  To bulk up my salad to feed four, I also added a bit of farmers’ market lettuce and a perfectly ripe avocado.  I had a favorite dressing already in my refrigerator and dinner was served.  I liked this so much I made it again the next night.

One Year Ago: Brown Rice with Tempeh and Tahini Sauce
Two Years Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies

My Mostly Not Potato Salad
Inspired by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4-6

You can use regular quinoa instead of the black called for here, but it won’t look as striking.  Tossing the warm vegetables with a bit of the salad dressing first will allow them to absorb more of the dressing.

For the dressing
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
2 large red potatoes
1 large leek, cut in half and thinly sliced
½ bunch of very thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ English cucumber, seeded, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
6 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
5 large lettuce leaves, washed and torn into bite size pieces
½ cup cooked black quinoa
1 large avocado, cut into small pieces

Make the dressing
Place the shallot, mustard, vinegar, a large pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a wide mouth jar.  Cover and give a vigorous shake.  Uncover and add the olive oil and cover and shake again.  Adjust the dressing to your taste with more oil, salt or pepper.

Make the salad
Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover them with cold water.  Salt the water and bring to a rapid boil, then lower the heat to a gentle boil.  Cook until a knife can be inserted easily into the center of each potato, about 15 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add in the leeks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften but do not allow them to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the asparagus and sauté for another minute.  Scrape the vegetables into a large salad bowl.

Cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl.  Toss the warm vegetables with just a bit of the dressing, then layer on the cucumber, herbs, tofu, lettuce, quinoa, and avocado.  Drizzle on more dressing and toss carefully.

Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad

May 31, 2011

If you are one of those people who plan their vacations around food, I would bookmark my most recent giveaway post.  People!  You live in places with incredible bounty and I look forward to each and every one of your packages.  Just kidding.  I really did love reading where you are from and what is delicious from your part of the world.  I think we are lucky here with the amazing produce and access to great wine, not to mention many different world markets.  But clearly, I need to get out more.

Our lovely winner, picked by a random generator is comment #81.  Melissa, in your own words, where do you live and what would you include?

I love this question! I’m a reader from Plymouth, Michigan, so I would have to include some Traverse City cherries along with cherry jam and cherry coffee, Olga bread, Macainac Island fudge, Sanders Hot Fudge and Bumpy Cake, Vernors, and some custard filled baklava from my favorite downtown bakery. And, while it is a Michigan original, I would probably leave the coney dog and out of the package :)

Melissa, send me an email and I will send you the goods!

Onward.  Salad.  A couple of weeks ago, I took a class from a local celebrity – Ethan Stowell.  Mr. Stowell has four well-regarded restaurants in our fair city – three of which I have had the pleasure of dining.  He also has a new cookbook and has just started selling his pasta in gourmet markets around town.  The class I took was all about gnocchi, something I have made before without great success.  Seeing as it is one of Randy’s all-time favorite things to eat, I thought learning from a master would be great.

I can tell you, it is wonderful to take a cooking class now and then, especially if you are a teacher.  Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and be a student.  I enjoy watching someone else’s style and there always seem to be terrific tidbits that I take home.  Like watching Ethan prepare this salad and noticing that he peeled a fennel bulb.  You know, you get a fennel bulb and the outside is all bruised and, if you are me, you take off off that outer layer, but then you are left with a much diminished bulb.   I learned, just from watching – nothing that he said – that you just take a vegetable peeler to that bruised outer layer and just make it right.  That right there was worth the price of admission.

Ethan made a version of this salad after we had already sampled ricotta and semolina gnocchi and while potato gnocchi was on the way.  In other words, something bright, fresh, and green was most welcome.  He shared that he makes salad dressing in the blender or food processor and that they use canola oil rather than olive oil at his restaurants because it is more mild.  He also said that the key to emulsifying when using an egg yolk (like in a creamy salad dressing or mayonnaise), is to add a couple of tablespoons of water.  I came right home and made this salad, inspired.  (I was inspired by the gnocchi too but just did not have the time to make any of them.  Soon Randy, I promise!)

Inexplicably I was out of canola oil so I substituted with some bright green grapeseed oil.  I’ve made salad dressing with grapeseed oil, Suzanne Goin’s amazing Green Goddess Dressing to be exact, and have been pleased.  I’m not so sure I loved it here.  We are very much a vinaigrette family and I make my dressing with a lot of bite.  Maybe the creaminess was just too much for us here – although there is no cream.  But we both loved the vegetables, such a nice departure from my old standby salad.

One Year Ago: Spicy Peanut Noodles
Two Years Ago: Individual Vegetable Tarts

Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad
Inspired by Ethan Stowell
Serves 3-4

For the dressing
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup champagne vinegar
1 cup canola oil

For the salad
10 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 head frisée, any brown ends discarded, cut or torn into bite size pieces
1 head endive, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, bruised parts peeled, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium avocado, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup herbs, such as mint, tarragon, chives, and dill
Chive blossoms as a garnish, optional

For the dressing
Put the egg yolk, water, mustard, salt, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Turn on to blend, then pour the oil in through the feed tube.  Process until the dressing is emulsified.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

For the salad
Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.  Toss with just a bit of dressing, adding more as necessary.

Broccoli and Sweet Sesame Salad

March 24, 2011

Even though I fight against the stereotype of vegetarians eating salad all the time, I eat salad all the time.  At almost every dinner and sometimes for lunch too.  Not just because it is “healthy” – I really like salad.  I forget how many vegetables the food pyramid tells us we should eat these days, but I’m sure I eat double the suggestion each day.

When I was working as a personal chef, I got very creative with salads.  I am happy to eat the same one over and over at my dinner table but I assumed my clients needed a little more variety.  So, I made all different kinds with all different dressings.  Recently, I was reading on the Kitchn about things to throw in a salad.  All were good suggestions but I stopped at broccoli.  I love broccoli, why do I never put it in salad?  And then, as I was looking for a side dish to serve with the brussels sprouts dish, this lovely ensemble spoke to me.

Now I have to be honest.  There are days when I can sit and wait for words to come to me.  Words that would potentially describe how delicious this was, how I wanted to drink the dressing, how clean (and yet satisfying!) it felt to eat this salad, but this is not one of those days.  Rather than delay and stall, I figured that I would just offer the recipe up to all of you and tell you simply that if you love broccoli and if snap peas are starting to make an appearance in your markets, get right on this.

One Year Ago: Zucchini, Tomato, and Swiss Cheese Pie
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Broccoli and Sweet Sesame Salad
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 4

Ottolenghi calls for string beans in this salad as well, but I left them out.  You can bulk this salad up by adding a couple of handfuls of spinach.  I had a seed mixture called Gomasio in my spice cabinet which I used here.  It is a mixture of white and black sesame seeds mixed with Japanese sea salt and it was extra delicious in this recipe.  You can find it here.

1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets
½ pound snap peas, strings removed
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. nigella seeds

4 tbsp. tahini paste
¼ cup water
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp. tamari
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. hazelnut or other nut oil

Make the dressing
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  The dressing should be smooth and thick but with a pourable consistency, adjust the water as necessary.  Taste and add more salt if you like.  (This will most likely be more dressing than you need for the salad.  Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the broccoli and snap peas and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and immediately rinse with very cold water.  Drain again and then dry with a kitchen towel.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl.  Scatter the cilantro leaves and the seeds over top.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

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