Category: Salad

Sometimes Tastes Change

February 21, 2012

I have heard, and maybe you have too, that your tastes can change every few years.  Something that you once hated can, miraculously, become something that you love.  I witnessed this phenomenon happen with my middle brother.  Alex was a very picky eater as a child.  My mom tells of him eating only applesauce, yogurt, and toast.  Slowly but surely he grew into an amazing eater who not only loved food but loved huge quantities of it.  Except for three things.  Mushrooms, olives, and artichoke hearts.  Three things, it just so happens, that I love dearly and cannot imagine my life without.  His mother, sister, and wife are all vegetarian so he will taste the things on his NO! list periodically to make sure his tastes haven’t changed.  One day he tasted an olive, after not having tried one in a long time, and fell in love.  So now, his NO! list only consists of mushrooms and artichoke hearts.  Progress.  It is for this reason that I force Randy to try beets at least once a year.  I am every hopeful that he will see the light and fall in love with beets.  So far, not so much.

All of this was on my mind when I found this salad recipe.  I don’t consider myself a picky eater.  There are very few things, besides meat, that I won’t eat.  But figs are on my NO! list.  I don’t mind the flavor but the texture is tricky for me.  Perhaps it is the fourth grade mean girl who told me that the crunchy bits in my Fig Newton were actually bug bodies.  Or perhaps it is the way that figs grow, but I just can’t eat them. I can do fig jam but can’t do figs themselves, especially if they are fresh.  But I found the idea of this salad intriguing.  The figs are marinated in a balsamic/sugar/thyme/garlic mixture and then a dressing is made from that mixture along with a healthy dose of walnut oil.  The figs are seared in a hot pan and the bitter greens (watercress and arugula) are tossed with toasted walnuts and the whole thing is garnished with, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on it, a Brie like cheese from Vashon Island called Dinah’s which is named after a cow.

I taught this salad at my February Seasonal Feast classes.  People raved.  I always test a recipe multiple times before I teach it and the first time I tried the figs.  Nope.  Still can’t go there.  I loved the dressing and the greens and the walnuts and the cheese.  And everyone else loved the figs.  They particularly loved the contrast of the warm fig with the cool salad, so if you make this lovely salad, sear off the figs right before you serve it.

One Year Ago:  Asparagus Risotto with Orange Pepper and Orange
Two Years Ago:  Paparadelle with Herbs, Lemon, and Ricotta Salata
Three Years Ago:  Palmiers

Watercress Salad with Marinated Figs and Walnut Dressing

Adapted from Vegetarian
Serves 4

½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, bruised
6 thyme sprigs
6 plump figs, halved
4 tbsp. walnut oil
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch watercress, leaves trimmed, stems discarded
2-3 ounces baby arugula
8 slices Brie or Camembert
Small handful of walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Place the vinegar, sugar, garlic and 4 of the thyme sprigs in a saucepan and add ½ cup of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute to dissolve the sugar.  Cook for another 3 minutes then set aside to cool for 5 minutes.  Pour over the halved figs and leave to marinate for an hour or two.

Discard the thyme sprigs and garlic from the marinade and spoon about 5 tablespoons into a small lidded jar.  Strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add to the jar with the walnut oil, olive oil, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Screw on the lid and shake well to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and sear the drained figs, cut sides down, for a minute or so until they caramelize.  Remove the pan from the heat, turn the figs over and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the watercress, arugula, and walnuts.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Drizzle the dressing over top, you will not need all of it, and toss well.  Serve onto salad plates and tuck the figs and cheese among the leaves.



Sweet Winter Slaw

January 31, 2012

There are certain things you can count on in life.  The sun will rise, the sun will set.  You will pay taxes.  Unless you have the stomach flu, you will be hungry at some point today.  You know how it goes.  There are also certain things you can count on here on the Dana Treat site.  There will be vegetarian food, there will be chocolate, and about every three months, there will be talk of a Bainbridge yoga retreat.

It is hard for both Jen and me to believe, but May will be our three year anniversary of doing these retreats together.  If you are new here, Bainbridge Island is a magical haven just across Puget Sound from Seattle.  There is a ferry that takes you from our downtown waterfront to the island in about 35 minutes.  My friend Jen, who I have known since 7th grade, lives there and teaches yoga in a studio on her property.  Over three years ago, she told me about her dream of quarterly day-long retreats.  She asked if I would want to partner with her four times a year.  She would provide the space, the yoga instruction, someone to guide meditation or other exercise, and I would make lunch for everyone.  I love Jen.  She is one of my closest friends.  I wanted to help and I also wanted to participate.

So in May of 2009, we launched.  It took me a few retreats to figure out how to get everything done the day before so I could actually participate in the morning yoga session.  Now it goes a little something like this.  I take a 7:55am ferry to the island, drive to Jen’s house, and then spend the time before the 9:30am start unloading my car and getting the kitchen set up.  I find a spot for my mat and towel in the studio and after a short intro of the retreat’s theme (this time it was nourishment), the hot yoga portion starts.  I don’t practice hot yoga at home but I really love doing it on occasion.  Jen is a dear friend of mine but believe me when I tell you that she is a most incredible instructor.  Her own practice is so strong and such a part of her that she teaches from a place of curiosity, experience, and joy.  She talks like a normal person and wherever she takes you, you want to go.  One of my favorite things she said this time was, “Starve the negativity.  If you don’t feed it, it can’t survive”.  Another, while we were in a challenging pose, “If you are talking to yourself in your head right now, make sure you are saying something nice”.

At the end of the hot yoga portion, people take a bathroom and water break before a meditation portion, and I book it up to the house for a quick shower and to set up the lunch.  People are starving by the time they get to me, so I have learned to have nibbles out and at the ready in case I am still putting the finishing touches on the food.  I’ve made a completely different lunch every retreat.  I’m proud of that.  People are incredibly grateful for the food and I love spending the time getting to know this amazing community better.

There is always a little downtime after lunch, so I usually chat or start on the clean up.  Some people take a walk, some find a nook and read a book.  Before we all know it, it’s time for the second yoga class of the day.  Our tummies are gurgling a bit and we are all sleepy so it is to Jen’s immense credit that she can get us back in the studio and back in downward dog.  Before we know it, we are back in the flow – just hard enough to make it exciting but not so hard that we regret taking a second cookie.  It is an invigorating end to an amazing day.  I have cried at almost every one of these retreats and I am not a crier.  It is so incredible to take a day to yourself, to spend it with a dear friend, to do the work in yoga, to immerse yourself in an amazing community, to be surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, and to eat wonderful and healthy food (if I do say so myself).  At the end of it all, you wait for a ferry, book and flashlight in hand, and commute back home on the water.  Even the coming and going is magical.

Now that most of these people know me and many read my blog, they always want to know which dishes I’ve made are either on my blog or will be posted there soon.  I got many questions about the chocolate chip cookies of course.  People were also crazy for this winter slaw.  I’m not surprised.  I taught this slaw twice last week in classes.  It comes from our good friend Plenty and it totally changed my opinion about slaws.  Like many, I’m not a coleslaw fan because mayo is not my friend, but I haven’t ever really liked any slaw I have made or tried.  I’m in love with this one.  Two different types of cabbage, some buttery sweet nuts, sweet mango, and a bit of kick from a red chiles make this an intoxicating slaw.  There are also lots of herbs and a dressing you will want to make a double batch of and use for many different things.  I tweaked.  Cashews instead of macadamia nuts, no papaya (those things freak me out), more green cabbage, more herbs.  My recipe below reflects those changes.

As if the flavors and the color were not enough to recommend this slaw, I will tell you this.  It keeps well.  I can’t think of another salad or salad type thing that I would want to eat a day after, or even an hour after, it has been dressed.  But we munched on this one happily two days after I made it.  Even the nuts were still crunchy!  Finally, this is not a slaw you want to underdress.  I am usually very sensitive about too much dressing on my salads or salad type things, but if you don’t use enough dressing on this one, it’s a little hard to choke down.  That red cabbage needs a good soaking.

One Year Ago:  Simply Sweet Diamints and Spicy Pasta with Broccoli and Cauliflower
Two Years Ago:  White Bean Dip and Caramel Cake
Three Years Ago:  Guacamole

Sweet Winter Slaw
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 6-8

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. roasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 tbsp. canola oil

1 tbsp. butter
¾ cup raw cashews
2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
½ a head Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
½ a head red cabbage, finely shredded
2 medium mangoes, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 fresh red chile, deseeded and finely chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

First, make the dressing.  Place all the ingredients, except the sesame oil and canola oil, in a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy.  Remove from the heat.  Once cooled down, strain the sauce into a bowl and whisk in the oils.  Set aside.  (Dressing can be made up to one week in advance.  Store in the refrigerator.)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the cashews and toast them, shaking the pan frequently until they start to brown.  Sprinkle on the sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is melted and starting to turn brown.  Scrape the mixture out onto a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool and harden.  Chop coarsely.

Place the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients, including the nuts.  Add the dressing and toss together.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

A Spinach Salad

January 18, 2012

I’ve been cooking regularly since I was 23 years old.  And, at the risk of sounding old, I will tell you that was 18 years ago.  Because my mom always made salad and therefore dinner to me means “accompanied by salad”, I have made a lot of salad in my life.  I have a lot of salad recipes here on this blog.  Not to toot my own horn, but I make a pretty darn good salad.  Over the years, I have learned things that have added to my salad expertise – always make your own dressing (tastes better and no nasty chemicals), always salt your lettuce before you dress the salad (lettuce is a vegetable and it needs to be seasoned), sliced hearts of palm are an exceptional addition to any salad, etc.  For the three years I was a personal chef, I made probably upwards of 100 different salads – I wanted to keep things interesting.  Still, when left to my own devices, I make more or less the same salad night after night.

When I made the Vindaloo the other night, my regular salad just didn’t seem right.  So I bought some spinach and decided I would just figure it out.  That night’s dinner came, I pulled open the refrigerator and created something that I’m in love with.  This is saying something because, previous to this creation, spinach salad was something I tolerated rather than embraced.  When I make Mexican food, I  make a spinach salad with thinly sliced red onion, mushrooms, avocado, and Mandarin orange segments (from a can) because Randy loves spinach salad and canned Mandarin orange segments.  Me?  Not so much.

But this.  Oh my.  Baby spinach, bean sprouts (nice and crunchy and a bit nutty), thinly sliced mushrooms, black olives, slow-roasted tomatoes, hard boiled egg.  This salad could be a meal.  A meal I would be happy to find in any of the restaurants where I dine on sub-par salads for lunch.  Hearty, tasty, well-balanced.  I give this to you not because it’s so innovative or will change your life.  I give it to you because it’s good and good for you.

A few notes.  Baby spinach is key here.  The big stuff will be too tough.  I like to tear the larger stems off but you don’t have to.  The slow-roasted tomatoes are probably the most important part of the salad flavor-wise.  Especially in winter when fresh tomatoes are tasteless red orbs.  I’m suggesting you roast two pounds of them which is way more than you will need for the salad.  You will put them in everything, trust me.  I have an egg slicer, a seemingly silly tool, except that I use it all the time.  I like being able to get super thin slices but you can, of course, just cut the egg in quarters.  Hearts of palm are found on the canned vegetable aisle, usually right near the canned artichoke hearts.  They can be expensive so if you live near a Trader Joe’s, buy them there.  In addition to being less expensive, they often come in a jar instead of a can so you can easily store what you don’t use.  Costco sometimes has them too.  I often use these vegetable sprouts in my salads called Three Bean Munchies – they are nutty and crunchy.  They are not alfalfa sprouts.  Grocery stores around here carry them in little plastic packs and they feature  Chinese red bean, pea, and lentil sprouts.  You can always just use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds if you want some crunch (and protein).  Finally, you might be surprised by my choice of canned black olives instead of the more flavorful kalamata.  Sometimes I find their subtle flavor and firm texture really welcome in salad and I like that they didn’t compete with the tomatoes.  But use what you like.  That is more than a few notes.  Have I mentioned I am a salad geek?

One Year Ago:  Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago:  Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Three Years Ago:  Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese

Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Champagne Vinaigrette
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

When slow roasting tomatoes, I usually use Roma tomatoes but they are so disgusting right now, I can’t bring myself to buy them.  I found some smaller round ones on the vine and those turned out well.

2 pounds tomatoes, cored and seeded
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 hearts of palm, thinly sliced
¼ cup bean sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced or quartered
Small handful black olives, halved
4 white mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
7 ounces baby spinach
Champagne vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 250ºF.  Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the sugar, oregano, a teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Use your hands to mix.  Put in the oven and roast for 1 hour.  Take out and, using tongs, turn the tomatoes over.  Put back in the oven to roast for another 30 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  (These tomatoes will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.  Place a single layer of them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then lay down another layer, drizzle with more oil, and repeat.)

Place all the ingredients, including about 10 of the tomato halves (or more), in a large salad bowl.  Top with the spinach.  Sprinkle the spinach with a large pinch of salt.  Drizzle on a bit of dressing – use a light hand to begin with – and toss gently.  Add more dressing to taste.

Champagne Vinaigrette

This is my house dressing.  I make a batch almost every week.  Any leftover dressing will keep at least a week in the refrigerator.

1 small shallot, minced
2 tbsp. Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. honey
Large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil

Place shallot and vinegar into a wide mouth jar.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.  Then add the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Put the lid on the jar and give it a vigorous shake.  Remove the lid and add the oil.  Give another vigorous shake and taste for balance, adjusting as necessary.

Bulgur Salad Stuffed Peppers

November 9, 2011

First, pears.  The winner of the Harry and David pear six-pack is commenter #74 – DVS – who tells us:

love love love H&D pears, though I haven’t had one in years. My favorite gift are the hand-decorated tiny gingerbread cookies my 92 year-old grandmother-in-law sends us every year.

Congratulations!  Send me an email so we can get you those pears!

A question that I get on a semi-frequent basis is whether or not I went to culinary school.  I did not.  I am a self-taught cook.  I learned by reading cookbooks, cooking a lot, and taking an occasional class here and there.  I love taking classes and always walk away with something that makes the cost and the time worth it.  I have two dear friends who attend all my cooking classes and they call all the little things they learn the “worth the price of admission tips”.  My friends have offered to write a guest post with their top ten of my tips.  Hopefully we’ll have that within the next month or so.

Anyway, we had a vegetarian cookbook author named Lukas Volger come to Book Larder recently.  He has a book called Vegetarian Entrées That Won’t Leave You Hungry.  The book is great.  I pick up a  lot of vegetarian cookbooks and 90% of the time, I put them back down because they contain the same old recipes that I have many versions of already.  Not this book.  The food is different  but not “out there”.  Hearty but not heavy.  Food I want to cook.  And eat.

Lukas is young and wiry and adorable.  He was effortless in the kitchen but not cocky.  He made three delicious dishes.  (Full disclosure, I did the prep work.)  When making this super tasty bulgur salad, he turned the heat up higher than I would have and got a nice char on the red onions.  The onions became not just a barely noticeable background flavor and texture but a full fledged lusty ingredient in their own right.  I always sauté my onions the same way, so it was nice to watch something different and then get to taste it.

Lukas allowed us to all taste the salad and then we stuffed it into bell peppers that had been steamed.  I thought it was a lovely entrée and one day, when I spied bags of little bell peppers in the produce section, I knew bite-size versions were going on my next catering menu.

The recipe for the bulgur salad makes quite a bit so you can be confident that, even it if you use it to stuff peppers, you will get some delicious lunches out of it.  Just as an added note, you can steam peppers, large or small, by cutting them in half and scraping out the seeds and veins.  Place them in a large skillet (one with a lid) and pour in a bit of water.  Bring to a simmer and cover for 3 minutes, turn over and steam for another 3 minutes.  When Lukas made the larger peppers in the store, he placed them, filled, in a baking dish and covered it with foil.  They went into a 400º oven for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t bake my small ones.

One Year Ago:  Roasted Mushroom with Shallots and Fresh Herbs
Two Years Ago:  Creamy Artichoke Dip
Three Years Ago:  Spinach and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta
Vegetarian Entrées That Won’t Leave You Hungry
Serves 4-6

If you are going to stuff small peppers, I recommend you dice the onions and cut the kale into smaller pieces so that you don’t have any bits that are too large.

1 cup bulgur
2 cups water
1 tbsp. canola oil or other neutral oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 small red onion, sliced into strips
2 jalapeño peppers, minced (seeded for a milder heat level)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup dry white wine or water
½ bunch kale, cut into thin strips
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp. olive oil

Combine the bulgur and water in a small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender.  Strain off any water that hasn’t been absorbed.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin seeds and let sizzle until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the onion and cook until it’s browned around the edges, about 6 minutes.  Stir in the jalapeños, garlic, and salt.  Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add the kale and cook, tossing from time to time, until wilted, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in the scallions, cilantro, feta, cooked bulgur, and olive oil.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.  (Stored in an airtight container, this salad will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)

It Was Bound to Happen

October 11, 2011

Here was my Monday.  Up, showered, me dressed, boys dressed, me fed, boys fed, Graham’s lunch box packed.  8:45 drove Spencer to preschool, and 9:10 got Graham on the bus to his first grade class.  Sent a few emails and then 10:00 headed to Book Larder for a staff meeting.  Then worked for a few hours doing book related things.  3:30 went home to wait for Graham to get off the bus, gave him a snack, and then 4:15 drove him to an art class he recently started taking.  4:30 went to pick up Spencer at school and took him home for a snack and a few minutes of play for him and a few minutes of cooking prep for me.  5:45 got him in the car and we went to get Graham.  6:10 back to the house and started cooking.

I made bean and cheese tacos for the boys which means making guacamole for Graham to put on his.  I envisioned a miso soup with lots of vegetables for Randy and me, and also roasted some tofu because I was craving it.  And a salad – we have salad almost every night.  I had pulled a stick of butter out of the fridge early in the morning with a plan to make cookies and I resisted the urge to give up on that plan and got them going and in the oven.  So, simultaneously, I was making soup, cookies, tacos, guacamole, salad dressing, roasted onions, and roasted tofu.  After a busy day, one of these things was bound to not go right.

Fortunately, it was just the soup.  Everyone got dropped off and picked up at the right times and in the right places and we had other things to eat, so I tried to be philosophical about the soup.  It tasted fine but I did not cook the vegetables enough and crunchy is not the right adjective I like to use when describing soup.  Having something not turn out made me realize how infrequent it is in my house to have a cooking fail.  I’m not patting myself on the back here, I’m just observing.  I cook a lot.  All that practice comes in handy.

The highlight of our meal was the salad.  Last week, when I was working at Book Larder, Tara stopped in.  She mentioned that she was the lucky recipient of 20 pounds of Asian pears and did I have any ideas of how to use them.  Immediately I thought of a salad that I used to make years ago, back when Asian pears were harder to find.  I got the recipe from some magazine and, rather than trying to remember where, or even looking online, I decided to re-create it.  I’m kind of in love with this dressing.  The whole salad really.  The only downside is I only used one Asian pear so I don’t think I helped Tara with her problem.

One Year Ago:  Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie
Two Years Ago:  Holly B’s Praline Almond Scones
Three Years Ago:  Quick Olive and Cheese Bread

Arugula Salad with Asian Pear and Roasted Onions
Dana Treat Original
Serves 2 (generously)

You will have dressing left over which is a great thing.  Toss it with soba noodles, use it as a dip for vegetables or satay, or just drink it.  :)

For the Dressing and Marinade
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup tahini
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. chile paste
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. sugar

For the salad
1 medium red onion, halved, peeled and cut into thick slices
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
½ an avocado, cut into bite size chunks
1 Asian pear, cored, and cut into matchsticks
4 ounces arugula
Sea salt

Place all the ingredients for the dressing/marinade in a blender.  Blend until very smooth.

Place the onions in an oven proof baking dish, pour a couple tablespoons of the marinade over top and toss well to coat.  Set aside and allow to marinate for 30-60 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425ºF.  Place onions in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, tossing once, or onions are soft and browned in spots.

Place the grated carrot, avocado, and pear in a salad bowl then place the arugula on top.  Sprinkle the leaves with a pinch of sea salt.  Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of dressing over top (you won’t need much).  Toss and add more dressing to taste.  Serve the onions along side the salad.

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