Category: Salad

I’ve Heard a Chef Say

August 2, 2013

I’ve heard a chef say that if he was reincarnated as a vegetable, he’d like to be a fava bean.  Imagine being able to just rest in one of those silky pods.

I’ve heard a chef say that if you really really want to buy fresh peas, wait until they are at the ultimate peak of the season…and then buy frozen.

I myself agree with the first.  Every time I work with fava beans I do envy their little green fleecy little sleeping bags a bit.

I myself disagree with the second.  When English peas are at their peak, they take over for broccoli as my favorite vegetable.  I have many memories of popping them straight out of the pod and into my mouth.  I actually like them best raw but a very quick cook in boiling water is nice too.

Why am I talking about these spring vegetables when we are in the heat of summer?  I don’t know about you, but spring blew by for me.  I don’t think I was able to take full advantage of the green springy things because they arrived so much earlier than I am used to.  I think July is when I expect to see these vegetables because that is when I saw them in the Northwest farmers’ markets.  I’m seeing pictures of favas on Instagram and questions about how to use them on Facebook, so I’m assuming that my Northwest sensibilities are still right.  If you live elsewhere, you can probably find these two vegetables in a well-stocked produce market.  And if you really can’t find the peas, frozen will work fine.

If you know the term Cacio e Pepe, you probably know it from pasta.  It is one of the glories of Italian cooking.  Super simple using only the very best ingredients.  Anthony Bourdain featured the dish in one of his No Reservations episodes.  Here, instead of pasta, we get a dressing for a lovely salad and while I’m a tried and true vinaigrette girl, this dressing was a creamy savory delicious change from the usual.

One Year AgoBittersweet Brownie Drops
Two Years Ago:  Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Julie’s Salad
Three Years Ago:  Grilled Summer Vegetable Soft Tacos, Holly B’s Fruit Scones,
Four Years Ago:  Indian Spiced Chickpea Salad, Muhummara Dip, Zesty Tofu Wraps
Five Years Ago:  Raspberry Cake with Marsala and Crème Fraîche (I make this every summer)

Spring Peas and Greens with Cacio e Pepe Dressing
Food & Wine
Serves 4

I use butter lettuce as my greens here but arugula would be nice too.

1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for garnish
¾ teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
Kosher salt
2 pounds fava beans, shelled (2 cups)
2 cups fresh or frozen peas, thawed
4 cups spring greens, such as pea tendrils or baby arugula (2 ounces)
1 Hass avocado, peeled and cut into thin wedge

In a food processor, pulse the egg yolk with the buttermilk and garlic. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Add the 3 tablespoons of cheese and the peppercorns and puree until smooth. Season the dressing with salt.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Boil the favas until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the ice bath. Add the peas to the pot and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes for fresh and 1 minute for frozen. Drain and transfer to the ice bath. Drain the favas and peas. Pinch the fava beans out of their skins.

In a bowl, toss the favas, peas and greens. Add some dressing, season with salt and toss. Arrange the avocado on plates and top with the salad. Garnish with grated cheese and serve.

Stocking Up

June 17, 2013

I know.  A few more salads and I’m going to have to change the name of this site to Dana Salad.  I can’t help it.  I love salad and it is salad season.  Actually, in California it is always salad season.  I’m making a name for myself as a good cook and baker in my community and some people have even called me a salad master.  This is serious stuff.  It is all because of inspiring produce and my experience – years of making lots of salads.

This beauty grew out of having a well-stocked refrigerator.  Most cooks will tell you that having a well stocked pantry is the key to cooking on fly but in my life, I need produce in the fridge too.  I shop for specific meals I am making but I also just kind of buy what I like.  This goes for cheeses too.  I regularly go to the Cheeseboard Collective, an incredible cheese shop in Berkeley, and just buy chunks of things that speak to me.  Having a couple of good cheeses can make something decent into something special.

I needed a salad to bring to a kindergarten end-of-the-year potluck.  In my head I had a couscous dish that my mom used to make.  It is entirely too boring for me to recount the ways in which I changed this dish, so much so that my version only resembles the original in the dressing, but I think it is important to note that it was so very good because I had bits of pieces of some of my favorite things on hand.  Why did I buy three ears of corn at the market?  Because they looked good and we love corn.  I had no dish containing corn on the menu that week, but we like corn and I figured I would use it somehow.  Just that one decision added deliciously to my salad.  I cook so much and always seem to be making food to share, that even impulse purchases almost always get used up.

So what is going on here?  Israeli couscous, chunks of carrot, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and the kicker – haloumi cheese.  In my mind I was going to use feta but it turned out that I used the last of it in this salad.  Because I love haloumi, I always have some in my cheese drawer.  I like to be able to fall back on this appetizer, especially now that I have a lemon tree to draw from.  I used to stockpile it a bit because it was not always that easy to find but that is changing.  Whole Foods is a pretty reliable source as is any well-stocked cheese shop and just today, I found it at Trader Joe’s, pre-sliced and about $5.  I’ve never paid less than $10 so that is a huge deal.

Two Years Ago:  Mandelbrot, My Mostly Not Potato Salad, Gnocchi with Morels and Spring Peas
Three Years Ago:  Brown Rice with Tempeh and Tahini Sauce, Pasta with Chickpeas, Chili-Cheese Gratin Sandwiches
Four Years Ago:  Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger and Kale, Chilled Avocado Soup, Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas
Five Years Ago:  Barefoot Contessa’s Brownies, Curried Red Lentil Stew, Feta and Ricotta Cheese Pie

Israeli Couscous Salad with Haloumi and Mint Vinaigrette
Dana Treat Original
Serves 8 or more

The corn is not cooked in this recipe.  I like the crunch of raw corn but if you have leftover cooked (or grilled!) ears of corn, by all mean use them.  I would never normally rinse Israeli couscous but doing so keeps it from clumping.

For the Mint Vinaigrette:
¾ cup mint leaves, plus a few more for garnish
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup olive oil

For the salad:
1½ cups Israeli couscous
1 package haloumi cheese, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into very small chunks
2 ears of corn, shucked, kernels stripped off the cobs
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Make the vinaigrette:
Place everything except the olive oil in a blender jar.  Blend to a paste.  You might have to scrape down the sides of the jar.  Through hole in the top, slowly pour in the olive oil, allowing it to emulsify.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  (This can also be made in a food processor.)

Make the salad:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Pour in the Israeli couscous and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 6 minutes.  (Taste to make sure.)  Drain and rinse, then drain again.

Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully lay the haloumi slices in the pan.  Cook until lightly browned in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes, then turn over and cook the other side.  Remove and allow to cool enough to handle, then cut into roughly chickpea sized pieces.

Place the couscous and all the other salad ingredients, including the cheese, in a large bowl.  Drizzle lightly with the dressing (you won’t need all of it).  Toss carefully and taste to make sure there is enough dressing and there is enough salt.  Adjust as necessary.  Just before serving, toss in some slivered mint leaves.


June 6, 2013

Most of us have food idiosyncrasies.  (I just spelled that word without spell check.  Did you know I won the 4th grade spelling bee?)  I am grateful that my husband doesn’t really have any.  He is pretty black and white.  There are a few things he does not like (beets the hardest one for me to accept) and otherwise he is happy to eat whatever I make for dinner.

All in all, I consider myself to be a good and not picky eater.  I don’t eat meat and I don’t like okra or papaya.  Even my idiosyncrasies are things that don’t prevent me from enjoying a meal at your house.  Curious?  Here they are.

I don’t like nuts in my sweets.  I’ve mentioned this many times here.  I would never put nuts in my brownies and I only tolerate them in cookies like this one.  I like nuts by themselves and in savory food but please keep them out of my treats.

I don’t like my food to touch each other.  I’m fine with soups and stews where things are all mixed together but if I have a dinner plate with three different things on it, I will eat those things one at a time, and I would prefer that they not actually touch.  Weird?  Thanksgiving is tough for me.

I don’t like fruit in my salads.  I like fruit salad.  I just don’t like fruit in my salad.

But I think it is good to challenge idiosyncrasies or dislikes, which is why I make Randy try a beet at least once a year.  And it is why I made a salad with cherries.  Guess what?  It was great!  The key for me was creating a good balance for the sweetness of the cherries.  I used peppery arugula as my lettuce and a salty tangy feta.  I threw in some scallions for a bit of heat, a very rare addition salad addition for me since I don’t really like raw members of the onion family (idiosyncrasy?)  I always make my vinaigrettes with a lot of bite but this one was downright assertive and it went perfectly with the rest of the salad.

A few notes.  Arugula has a lot of personality in the taste department but it is a soft lettuce and wilts quickly.  Dress the salad right before you are going to eat it.  I will always encourage you to buy great cheese and feta is no exception.  Bad feta, usually the kind that is pre-crumbled, is dry and tastes a bit like sawdust.  You want either a French or Greek cheese that is sold in a brick, not a tub.  This recipe will make more dressing than you need for this salad but it will keep for a week or more in your refrigerator (this is true of most salad dressing you make).  Finally, I would say this salad serves four normal salad eaters but Randy and I ate the whole thing.

One Year Ago:  Roasted Pickled Cauliflower Salad
Two Years Ago:  Puff Pastry Squares with Pea and Tarragon Purée,
Three Years Ago:  Radishes with Sweet Butter and Chive-Sage Salt, Asparagus and Grilled Shiitake with Soy Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago:  Oven-Fried Rice Balls with Gruyère, Mexican Pizza, Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Five Years Ago:  Gazpacho

Arugula Salad with Cherries and Feta

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4 as a first course

For the dressing:
1 large garlic cloved, pressed or minced
1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
4 tbsp. sherry vinegar
¼ tsp. each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil

For the salad:
2 scallions, white and pale green part only, thinly sliced
12 cherries, pitted and halved
1 small avocado, pitted, and cut into small chunks
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
3 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes
5 ounces arugula
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds

Make the dressing:
Place the first five ingredients in a clean wide-mouth jar or a bowl.  Use a whisk to blend.  (This helps the honey get incorporated.)  Add the olive oil and whisk if you are using a bowl, or cover and shake vigorously if you are using a jar.  Taste.  If the dressing is too strong for you, add a bit more honey and a bit more olive oil to taste.  (Store the unused portion of the dressing in the refrigerator.  The olive oil will solidify in the cold so remember to allow the dressing about minutes at room temperature before using it for the next salad.)

Make the salad:
Place all the ingredients except the sunflower seeds in a large bowl.  Drizzle with a bit of dressing and toss carefully so the cheese doesn’t fall apart.  Scatter the sunflower seeds over top and toss again.

Homemade with Love, Indeed

May 25, 2013

If you came into my house right now, you would find homemade cookies in the cookie jar, homemade ice cream in the freezer (and some non-homemade flavors), about ten different kinds of baking chocolate, half of a homemade ginger pound cake, half a homemade chocolate pound cake, and remnants of Easter candy.  Some people might wonder how I can live with all of these things surrounding me and not eat them.  The reason is because I am a savory person.  Not that I don’t like sweet, believe me, the chocolate tempts me sometimes.  But it is not all that difficult for me to ignore the fact that I have a mini bakery going on in my house.  My problem area is the shelf that houses the chips, pretzels, crackers, and don’t even get me started on popcorn.

Something I truly can not stop eating is homemade croutons.  Therefore I do not make them all that often and when I do, I double the amount I need so that there will be some left, you know, for the dish they were intended.  I have always baked my croutons in the oven.  And they have always been great.  What is better than great?  Awesome?  Stupendous?  When you cook them in a pan on the stove, croutons become stupendous.

Homemade croutons figure very prominently in Panzanella, the Italian bread salad.  It is a very simple dish with few ingredients.  It is the epitome of rustic Italian food.  Take the very best quality things and put them together in a simple and beautiful way.  I’ve made many Panzanella recipes in my cooking life but have either made more complicated versions (see this Heirloom Tomato Salad  and Panzanella with Artichokes, Olives, and Manchego) or I have half heartedly thrown halved (pretty flavorless) cherry tomatoes, those mini balls of mozzarella, a few basil leaves, and croutons in a bowl.  It sad to me now that I could have been so overambitious or so careless with something that can be so simple to make and so incredibly tasty.

You know what they say about pizza, right?  Even when it is bad it is still good.  I’ve eaten plenty of Panzanella in addition to the ones I have made and I always like it.  A few weeks ago, when I went to a lunch party thrown by Jennie to celebrate her new book, Homemade with Love, I got to taste the Panzanella that helped me see the light.  Jennie did all the cooking for the party and I was delighted to see that everything was vegetarian.  I took a bit of everything on my plate with an extra healthy helping of her Panzanella.  All the food was beautifully presented and incredibly tasty, no small feat when you are cooking out of a hotel room kitchen, but this salad stole the show for me.  What had always been really just an excuse for me to eat dressing soaked croutons has become a thing of beauty where each ingredient shines and together there is magic.  Cherry tomatoes are better than romas but slow-roasted cherry tomatoes are glouriously sweet and jammy.  Any crouton is a good crouton, as I think I have made clear, but tossing them with just a bit of Parmesan and parsley and then cooking them in a pan on the stove, gave them charming browned bits and that perfect texture of crunch but with a little squish.  (Technical terms.)  It became clear that this would become my Panzanella forever more.

I have now made this several times and I have just a few tips.  I like using a loaf of bread with a dense crumb.  Too many air pockets means croutons that are too crispy and potentially burned in spots.  I have had luck with Pugliese bread.  I cut off each end and then shave a bit of the crustiest parts off.  More or less equal sized pieces are my preference and I like them big.  As much as I am absolutely smitten with the stovetop method, the second time I made the salad I had a lot going on in the kitchen and didn’t feel like I could successfully manage to keep turning the croutons in the manner they deserved.  So I put them in a 375º oven and they were great.  Not stupendous, but still great.  Because there are so few ingredients here, do use the very best.  Be sure to grate your own Parmesan for the croutons and buy a really good fresh mozzarella, preferably an Italian one made with buffalo milk.

Two Years Ago:  No Knead Olive Bread
Three Years Ago:  Spicy Peanut Noodles, Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread (sooooo good)
Four Years Ago:  Greek Pasta Casserole, Green Bean and Fennel Salad

Slow-Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella
Homemade with Love
Serves 2

Please note, this recipe as written serves only 2.  Both times I have made it, I have scaled it up by using a the whole pint of cherry tomatoes, more croutons, and about 8 ounces of mozzarella.

1½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. honey
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups Parmesan Skillet Croutons (recipe follows)
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
½ cup Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (recipe follows)
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

To  make the dressing, whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together in a deep bowl.  Adjust the seasonings to taste.  Add the croutons, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil to the bowl, tossing well to combine.  Let the salad sit for at least 5 minutes so the croutons can absorb the flavors, but mo more then 15 minutes or they will get too soggy and lose their crunch.  To serve, spoon the salad onto a platter or individual plates.

Parmesan Skillet Croutons
Makes 2 cups

2 cups cubed day-old bread
1 tsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl until the bread cubes are well coated

Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the seasoned bread cubes to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 5 to 7 minutes.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Makes about 1½ cups

1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, copped

Preheat the oven to 250ºF.  Add all the ingredients to an 8-inch square baking dish and toss well to coat.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Bake until the tomatoes are slightly collapsed and tender, about 1 hour.  Let cool completely, and store in a tightly covered mason jar or container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


Crushing on Salad

January 24, 2013

I have always liked boys.  When I was in first grade, I was head of the “kisser girls”, the club whose duty it was to run after boys on the playground, catch them, and kiss them.  With all the boys to choose from, some of whom slowed down noticeably so we could catch them, it was hard to settle on one for a “boyfriend”.  Once I started second grade, I fell for a sweet boy who was taller than me and lived in a blue house with an eagle over the door.  He was my crush in third grade too and again in sixth grade after I spent fourth and fifth pining over a boy who wouldn’t give me the time of day.  I had my first serious boyfriend in seventh grade and from there things got a little more complicated. But throughout my single life, I always had crushes.  Some of them turned into relationships, others didn’t.

These days, I am happily married and crushes on guys are a thing of the past. So now I crush on salads. Sometimes the crushes turn into full blown love affairs as in the case of this salad (my spring stand-by) and this one (my fall stand-by).

Meet my new crush. Or, seeing as I have made it countless times in the past month, my new love. There are so many things to fall for here. Even though the dressing has vaguely Asian flavors, it goes with any meal you want to serve from soba noodles to linguine. I should know because I’ve served it with just about everything. It is the rare salad that can actually be dressed ahead of time and does not get wilty. The core ingredients are things that keep well in your refrigerator so you could theoretically make it at a moment’s notice. The dressing keeps well too. You can scale it up easily to feed a crowd, it is crunchy and light but satisfying with lots of umami (thank you miso paste) and all in all, it would make a great boyfriend if it was, you know, a person.

As written, this is a terrific recipe. I’ve changed a few things in the way I make it to reflect personal taste. (I’ll give you the recipe the way Deb wrote it.) I prefer to make it with raw snap peas rather than blanched. It saves a step and I like the crunch and intense sweetness of those pods when they are raw. Blanching gives them a bit of a funky flavor in my opinion. Also, I cut back on the amount of scallions because I don’t enjoy the taste of raw onion, especially in salad. For the dressing, I do use the sesame oil but not the vegetable oil. Instead, I use water for the liquid, 2 – 4 tablespoons depending on how it is coming together. I’ve made the dressing in both my mini food processor and my blender and it came out great both ways. I would recommend doubling it.

One Year Ago:  Celery Root Soup, Apple Cheddar Quick Bread
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Tomato Salad with Croutons, Meyer Lemon Risotto Cakes
Three Years Ago:  Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks, Chickpea , Chard, and Couscous Soup, Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu
Four Years Ago:  Sliced Eggplant Spread with Crostini, Lemon Bars

Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4-6

I made this dressing with peanut butter when I was out of tahini and it tasted great.  Please don’t skip the step of toasting the sesame seeds.  Like most nuts and seeds, their flavor really comes out when they are given some heat.  Just keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Table salt for the pot
½ pound sugar snap peas, untrimmed
½ pound Napa cabbage, in thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
4 ounces radishes (4 medium-large) julienned, or quartered and thinly sliced
3 large scallions (about ½ bundle), white and green parts only, thinly sliced on bias
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, well toasted (300-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes)

Sesame-Miso Dressing
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. mild yellow or white miso, plus up to 1 tbsp. more
2 tbsp. sesame seed paste or tahini
1 tbsp. honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil

Blanch sugar snap peas:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare a small ice-water bath.  Boil the sugar snaps for about 2 minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp.  Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon, and drop them in the ice-water bath.  Once they’re cool, drain and pat dry.  Tim ends and cut sugar snaps on bias into thin slices.  Toss in large bowl with cabbage radishes, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Make the dressing:
Whirl all ingredients, using the smaller amount of miso, in a blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust the ingredients – use the extra tablespoon of miso if desired.  Don’t fret if it is a tad salty, and try to resist the urge to compensate with extra honey.  The sugar snaps have a mellow sweetness to them that balances well with a saltier-than-normal dressign.

Assemble the salad:
Toss salad with half of dressing, and taste.  Use more if you desire.  Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds.

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